In a battle of momentum shifts, Stony Brook prevailed with four unanswered goals.
The No.1-seed Seawolves wound up with a hard-fought 6-4 victory over the No.5-ranked University of Rhode Island Rams in the semifinals matchup of the ESCHL playoffs in Hershey, Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon.
Freshman forward Matthew Crockett scored the game-winning goal, putting SBU ahead 5-3 with 9:52 remaining in the game. Crockett’s goal followed a timeout called by Head Coach Chris Garofalo just 22 seconds earlier.
URI sophomore forward Mike Pesola scored off a scramble in front of the net to cut the Stony Brook lead to 4-3 at 6:43 in third period, breaking SBU’s four-goal scoring streak. For the next few minutes, URI snatched all of SBU’s momentum, threatening to tie the game until Garofalo had seen enough.
“I took the time-out because we were out there for awhile and we iced the puck,” Garofalo said. “I told the boys they had to bear down. This is part of hockey and we have to show we’re one of the best teams in the country.”
URI had all the momentum early in the game as well, jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead at 10:27 into the first period on a wrist shot by senior forward Brian Gara and a shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Mark Matson that found its way past a screened goaltender Todd Scarola.
“We have to stop starting games slow,” Garofalo said. “We have to get out to a fast start and be more focused right away. If we start slow against Lebanon today or in the National Tournament, we could be down 4-0 instead of 2-0.”
The game changed course when Stony Brook freshman defenseman Parker Bishop flew down the right wing and snapped a shot past junior goaltender Caleb Neal to cut SBU’s deficit in half less than two minutes after Matson’s goal. The goal was Bishop’s first college tally.
“It felt great to finally get my first goal,” Bishop said. “A goal was what we needed to get things rolling and I was lucky enough to put one in.”
The Seawolves carried that momentum into the second period, where they scored two goals to take a 3-2 lead into the third.
URI Junior defenseman Dalton Gilbert tied the game just 2:52 into the second frame on a power play goal. Sophomore forward Chris Stemke gave SBU the lead for good when he scored in front of the net at 10:57 into the period.
“My goal wasn’t the only thing that got the boys going,” Bishop said. “In the first intermission, we all sat down, had a talk and recognized that we needed to get a little jump in our step. It wasn’t pretty but we kept chipping away and found a way to win.”
Scarola made some nice saves in the first period to keep SBU in it after the slow start. He finished the game having stopped 17 of 21 shots.
“It wasn’t our best game but we got the job done,” Scarola said. “I felt a little pressured after the first two goals but I put it behind me and acted like it was a 0-0 game. I didn’t see a lot of action in the second, but I just kept battling throughout the rest of the game to keep my team in it.”
Stony Brook scored their fourth straight goal just 2:20 into the third period when junior forward Joe Bochichio got the puck past Neal to give the Seawolves the lead. Senior forward Matthew Gervasi clinched the game for SBU at five seconds remaining with an empty net goal.
With the win, Stony Brook will play the Lebanon Valley College Dutchmen today at 2 p.m. in hopes of winning its fourth consecutive ESCHL Championship.