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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Stony Brook hockey’s long weekend kicks off versus Drexel

Left defenseman Joey Trazzera (2) takes the puck away from Liberty left winger D.J. Schwenke (11) on Jan. 27. Trazzera and his fellow defensemen will be tasked with locking down Drexel’s hot offense tomorrow night. MACKENZIE YADDAW/THE STATESMAN

After upsetting the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League’s (ESCHL) best, the Stony Brook hockey team will look to go streaking before the regular season ends.

The Seawolves (6-14-4, 5-4-2 ESCHL) will return to The Rinx on Thursday to butt heads with the Drexel Dragons (12-14-2, 4-7-0 ESCHL). The game is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. and will count towards the ESCHL standings.

The contest was originally scheduled for Friday, Jan. 19 as part of a home-and-home series but was postponed due to weather conditions. The teams met in Philadelphia the next day with Drexel winning 5-4 in overtime.

Since their last game against Stony Brook, the Dragons have hit their offensive stride. Going into the last meeting, Drexel was averaging just 3.10 goals per game. That number has ascended to 3.21 on the season, as it is averaging 3.57 goals per game over the last seven.

The brain behind the operation is left winger Nick Castura. Through 25 games this season, Castura is tied for seventh in the ESCHL in points (33) and ranks sixth in assists (21), both of which lead his team. His 12 goals are the second most on his team.

Castura’s partner in crime is right winger Matt Harris, who leads their team in goals. Harris has found the back of the net 20 times so far this season, which is tied for the second most in the ESCHL. Harris has also tallied nine assists.

Along with its dynamic duo, the Dragons have a plethora of depth scoring options in its forward group. Right winger Jimmy Jacobs has been a solid scoring option, netting 10 goals and adding eight assists. Center Anton Kozitskiy has also accumulated 18 points in the opposite fashion, tallying eight goals and 10 helpers.

Sitting just behind Jacobs and Kozitskiy is left winger Ryan Sambuco, who has racked up 16 points divided evenly between eight goals and eight assists. Though he has just one goal, center Pat McGinley has been a key playmaker with 12 assists.

Drexel’s defensive unit also mixes it up in the offensive zone. Right defenseman Ben Birkhahn is third on the team with 21 points, tallying 16 assists and five goals through 27 games this season. Fellow right defenseman Ian Huver is second chair to Birkhahn on offense but has still produced 14 points (three goals and 11 assists) this season.

Defensively, the Seawolves will have to tighten up if they want to compete with the Dragons’ offense. During its most recent series against No. 10 Niagara, Stony Brook allowed 85 shots on goal — nine of which snuck through — in just two games. Through 24 contests this season, they have averaged 39 shots and four goals allowed per game in American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) play. Against ESCHL competition, the team is allowing 3.59 goals per game.

The left side of the Seawolves’ blue line is composed of left defensemen Andrew Mancini, Joey Trazzera and Dylan Kowalsky. Balancing them out on the right side are right defensemen Owen Larson, Brendan Fess and Teddy Valenti. It is yet to be seen if right defenseman Nolan Towne — who co-leads all defensemen on the team with nine points — will play, as he has missed the past three games due to injury. If Towne is unable to go again, left defenseman Garth Swanson or right defenseman Jon Critelli will likely draw into the lineup.

Perhaps the biggest reason for Stony Brook’s victory over Niagara this past Sunday was its goaltending. Goaltender Matvei Kazakov looked like his old self, stopping 43 of the 46 shots he faced for a .935 save percentage. Goaltender Scott Barnikow has outplayed Kazakov for most of the season, as he has posted a .904 season save percentage and 3.68 goals against average compared to Kazakov’s .899 and 3.74. After being a world-beater in his last outing, the Seawolves may turn to Kazakov against the Dragons in hopes of an encore.

Manning the Dragons’ crease will most likely be goaltender Ryan Nocerino. He has played in 21 of their 28 games this season and has been stellar, as he owns a 9-7-1 record, 3.38 goals and a .917 save percentage, which is the sixth-best mark in the ESCHL. Drexel’s backup goaltenders — Luca Bruns and Shane O’Brien — have not been nearly as effective. The duo possesses a combined 2-6-1 record, .868 save percentage and 5.74 goals against average.

Similar to Stony Brook, the Dragons’ defense has not helped out their netminders very much, as they have allowed 4.39 goals per game this season.

In addition to Birkhahn and Huver, Drexel right defenseman Tyler Black and Mike Urbani will round out the right side. Pairing up with them will be left defensemen Adam Lizine, Erik Eisler and Sean Carver.

Luckily for the Dragons, they will be facing off against a light-scoring Seawolves’ offense. They are averaging just 2.92 goals per game overall and three per contest against ESCHL teams.

Stony Brook’s hottest forward has been left winger Kristian Malec, who netted a hat trick in Sunday’s 6-3 win. After failing to secure a regular spot in the lineup and being held without a point through his first eight games of the season, Malec has knocked in four goals and added three assists over his last seven.

The team’s most prolific goalscorer has been left winger Matt Minerva, who leads it in both goals (13) and points (22). He has also been distributing the puck more recently and picked up a pair of assists last weekend.

The Seawolves’ deepest offensive position is its center group. Center James Kozicki returned from an injury last weekend and made an immediate impact, tallying three assists. Through 18 appearances, Kozicki has totaled eight assists and 12 points. Center Matteo Daita has firmly established himself as a top player in their lineup, as he has totaled 13 points (six goals and seven assists) through 23 games. Center Jesse Edwards has picked up 10 points with five goals and five assists.

One Stony Brook player looking to break out is right winger Justin Nakagawa. Nakagawa had a great start to the season, producing five goals, nine assists and 14 points through his first 13 games. However, Nakagawa went his next 10 games without a point before finally recording an assist on Sunday. Despite the slump, Nakagawa is still second on the team with 15 points and his 10 assists lead the squad.

From the point, Mancini and Larson have produced on the offensive end. Mancini has totaled seven points (four goals and three assists) across 18 games while Larson co-leads all defensemen on the team with nine points (two goals and seven assists).

If penalties mount up during the contest, Drexel will be right where it wants to be. The Dragons’ penalty kill has been elite, as according to the ACHA’s website, they have killed off 86.3% of their penalties, which is the second-best mark in the ESCHL. Conversely, the Seawolves’ power play has been lackluster with just a 17% success rate, which is tied for the worst-mark in the ESCHL.

On the other side, Drexel’s power play matches up evenly with Stony Brook’s penalty kill. According to the ACHA’s website, the Dragons have capitalized on 24.3% of its man-advantage opportunities, which ranks third in the ESCHL. The Seawolves’ penalty kill also ranks third in the league (82.7%), but the unit boasts a slightly lower success rate (79.5%) in ESCHL action.

If Stony Brook can beat Drexel, it may be able to secure an even higher seed in the 2024 ESCHL postseason tournament. This game will be the last official league game for the Seawolves, as their next opponent is New York University (NYU). NYU is on probation for violating the ACHA’s scheduling rules last year, and its punishments are that none of its games versus ESCHL teams will count towards the league’s standings nor can they compete in the playoffs.

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