Gene Castro Leads Stony Brook's Redemption: A Season of Resurgence and Rivalry Triumphs
Last season wasn't one that the Stony Brook Seawolves were hoping for. They had a record of 3-17 and finished last in the Empire Conference. Fast forward to this season, and the Seawolves have had a massive turnaround as a team. They’re 11-2-1, a record that puts them in first place in the Division III Empire Conference and cements them as one of the biggest threats in the Empire Conference playoffs. “Given last year’s record, we set goals of just getting in the win column and taking it day by day,” said starting goaltender and team president Gene Castro on the team’s goals for this season. With their day-by-day approach having such a high level of success, the Seawolves have started to target much loftier goals as the season progresses. “We still have the mentality of taking it day by day, but now we have added the goal of going for the national championship as well as a conference championship,” said Castro.
Along with their improved mentality, one of the biggest contributors to the Seawolves newfound success is recruitment. “We were basically short staffed… we would only have at most, 13 to 14 guys a game if that,” said Castro about last year’s team. The lack of depth on the team tired out the starters and made winning a lot more difficult. But some strategic scouting methods have made a huge difference in forming a winning hockey culture at the university. “The key was picking kids from good AA and AAA teams, showing up to games and practices, and having individual discussions with kids about the team, school, and the potential there could be,” said Castro. “Once enough kids were able to get into the school, everyone was able to play at a higher level because we weren’t gasping for air by the end of the second period.”
On a personal level, Castro has also had a bounce-back season defending the crease. He went from a 5.26 GAA and a .904 save percentage last season to a 3.41 GAA and a .932 save percentage this season. “The biggest thing that has been an improvement for me has been pacing myself better and eliminating unnecessary movements,” said Castro. “Nowadays, I have found that making a simpler save that is more controlled is more efficient than sprawling everywhere in the crease and tiring my legs out too quickly.” He also credits better rebound control and assistance from his defensemen as other key contributors to his improvement.
With a complete roster playing some of their best hockey, the Seawolves have had some big-time moments this season. “We had an amazing comeback win against Sacred Heart; we were down 3-0 at home and came back to win 4-3,” said Castro. Another highlight was the success they had against one of their big Empire Conference foes on Long Island, the Farmingdale State Rams. “Getting that first win against Farmingdale was awesome for us because there’s a good rivalry between us now,” said Castro regarding a 6-4 road win over the Rams. Castro also enjoyed one of his biggest career highlights in yet another game against Farmingdale. “I got my first collegiate shutout against Farmingdale to end the season series,” said Castro. “I had a lot of my family at that game, so I was really proud of that.”
Having already accomplished so much this season, the Seawolves have a chance to accomplish even more in the Empire Conference playoffs. They’re in the mix for the #1 seed in the Black Division, a feat that could give them a great advantage in making a deep run. Even with the postseason being a new experience for the team, Castro and the Seawolves feel prepared for this opportunity. “We’ve taken every game extremely seriously, and we played it like it's a playoff game,” said Castro. “There’s constant effort for all 60 minutes, and I feel that as long as we take that same mentality and keep working hard for the rest of the season, I think we’ll do really well in the playoffs.”