Terriers win Battle of Brooklyn to reach NEC playoffs

Andy Cormack and John Johansson accept the Arnie-Carlo Cup after St. Francis beat LIU Brooklyn in the annual Battle of Brooklyn. Photo by Rob Abruzzese.

Andy Cormack and John Johansson accept the Arnie-Carlo Cup after St. Francis beat LIU Brooklyn in the annual Battle of Brooklyn. Photo by Rob Abruzzese.

The St. Francis Terriers and the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds met up for the Battle of Brooklyn on Sunday with a lot more than just bragging rights on the line as both teams needed a win to reach the Northeast Conference playoffs.

The Terriers were too much for the Blackbirds though as they scored two goals within the first five minutes of the game to cruise to an easy 4-0 lead at LIU Field on Saturday to win the Arnie-Carlo Cup, awarded to the winner of the Battle of Brooklyn each year.. The win puts them into the NEC playoffs where they will face Central Connecticut State University in Connecticut on Friday.

“We’re playing great,” said Terriers’ captain Andy Cormack. “We’re getting the wins that we need. Today we played beautiful, beautiful soccer and that’s great heading into the playoffs. It’s the first time in a while the school has been to the playoffs and I’m proud, as a captain, to be able to take the team there.”

The Terriers wasted no time in firing the first shot as sophomore Harry Odell quickly found himself in a two-on-one situation with junior Kevin Correa. Correa made a beautiful pass past the defenseman and Odell buried it to make it 1-0 during the third minute. Barely more than a minute later, Cormack sent a long pass down field to Gabriel Bagot, who beat LIU Brooklyn goalkeeper Logan Keys to make it 2-0 during the fourth minute.

“It was the best start we could have possibly wished for,” Cormack said. “All week we were apprehensive about how it was going to go and within five minutes we scored two goals. That’s as good as it gets.”

With more than 85 minutes still left on the clock, the Blackbirds knew that they had enough time for a comeback and it showed in the way they played as they fought hard and got multiple chances in the first half. Everything, including a penalty kick late in the half, was turned away by St. Francis goalkeeper Jack Binks, who earned his sixth shutout of the season.

“(Binks) is a great keeper and he deserves every shutout that he gets,” Cormack said.

The game was still within reach to start the second half though. That was until Correa blasted a shot from more than 30 yards out that somehow found a tiny hole to get past Keys.

“It was amazing, 30 yards out, he blasted it in,” Bagot said. “It was a great goal. He scores them all the time in practice so it’s no surprise to us. He did that against Robert Morris too.”

That goal pretty much finished off the Blackbirds even with more than 40 minutes left in the game. The two teams were tied at six shots apiece at halftime, but in the second half St. Francis had a 12-2 edge in shots. When Viktor Bakkioui scored with 27:38 left in the game to make it 4-0, the Terriers lifted most of their starters to prepare them for the playoffs.

“That fourth goal was big for us because at that point they are not going to be able to come back so we could rest some guys,” Bagot said. “It’s also good for the other guys to get some confidence just in case we need them to go in.”

The win capped off a season where the Terriers finished 10-5-1 overall and 4-3-0 in conference play. It also gets them back on the winning track heading into the playoffs as they were coming off a stretch where they were 2-3-0 in their final five NEC games which followed a seven-game unbeaten streak.

“We obviously needed this one to get into the playoffs, but you like to be going in coming off a win too,” Terrier head coach Tom Giovatto said. “We played really well all year. We feel like we have a good team, but we know it’s not going to be easy down there.”

The Terriers will face Central Connecticut State University in the first round of the playoffs. Those two teams had previously faced each other back on Oct. 25 with the Blue Devils winning 1-0. Giovatto admitted that it will be a tough matchup, but said that he feels good about facing them after the last game.

“The key is to score against them and keep their big guys off the board, No. 17 and No. 10,” Giovatto said. “If we can keep those two from scoring then we feel that we can win that game.”

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