The Red Hawks are headed to the Skyline Conference Finals after a 17-3 home win over the Kean Cougars (11-7) on May 4, bringing them one step closer to their eighth conference title in a row.
Montclair State was able to guarantee themselves home-field advantage after posting a 6-0 record in conference play prior to this game and they gave the 319 strong home crowd plenty to cheer about.
The Red Hawks’ goals were all scored in streaks, as they posted runs of seven, six, and four, while not allowing more than two goals in a row by the Cougars.
Senior midfielder Connor Cunningham led the team with six points (4G, 2A). His aggressiveness was a big reason for the Red Hawks’ quick lead by assisting the first goal scored by senior midfielder Ryan Totin and then scoring a goal himself just over a minute later.
Senior attacker Brett Mangan added three more goals to his already team leading season, putting him on top of the Red Hawks’ stat sheet in both assists and goals with 30 and 37 respectively.
After posting only four points all season long, junior midfielder Shaun Sterner put up five points (2G, 3A) in this, the biggest game of the season so far.
Senior attacker Don Finn kept up his supportive ways with two assists and a goal, giving him 27 assists on the year, just behind Mangan’s 30.
Junior attacker Brady Wulster strengthened his chances for acquiring next season’s top role with three points (2G, 1A), continuing the best season of any non-senior on the team.
Montclair State let the sticks fly with 48 shots total, compared to just 14 for Kean, while also winning 19-of-23 face-offs, showcasing two abilities the Red Hawks possess to help keep momentum of the game in their control.
After a better turnover performance last game against Maritime, the Red Hawks improved even further by dropping into the single digits, giving up just nine turnovers while inducing 13 from the Cougars.
A weak spot for Montclair State though was their inability to score on man-up opportunities, converting on only 1-of-7. If the Red Hawks can produce that many chances in the Conference Finals and subsequent NCAA Tournament, they’ll need to hit on them more consistently against some of the strongest opponents they’ll face all season.
With all the recent success for Montclair State through the tireless play of their senior leaders, the biggest question remaining is who’ll be next in line to lead the team into the 2017 season. Wulster is no doubt the most prolific scorer for next year’s team, but they’ll need more if the Red Hawks want to remain as dominant as they have been of late.
After a slow season was suddenly jump-started for Sterner, his ability to come up big in a conference tournament game shows that maybe he can be a part of that future for Montclair State. Junior midfielder Corey Carlson also put up 16 points (11G, 5A) this season, while playing in 16 of 17 games, giving him the experience to help his upside develop to be a main contributor next year.
Going into the Skyline Conference Finals against the Stockton Ospreys, the Red Hawks should feel confident in their ability to win after opening their 2016 conference play with a 15-9 win over Stockton – the win that began their current seven game win streak.
Montclair State will face off against Stockton this Saturday at 1pm on Sprague Field with the Skyline Conference title in the balance.
Montclair State | New Jersey