For most of afternoon, the lacrosse ball was goalie Hayden Johnstone's enemy, but the Stony Brook freshman will treasure one for quite some time -- the game ball given to him by coach Jim Nagle.
Johnstone earned it, making 19 saves while backstopping the Seawolves' first America East win of the season Saturday in a 10-7 victory over Vermont at LaValle Stadium.
"That's a huge thing," Johnstone said. "That's my first game ball so I'm probably going to keep it with me throughout my career here. I'll always have it in my locker as a memory of this game."
He also will remember how he helped the Seawolves (5-7, 1-1) snap a three-game losing streak Saturday after Tuesday's shoddy defensive performance, a 12-11 home loss to Qunnipiac.
Mike Rooney led Stony Brook with a hat trick and Brody Eastwood added two goals, while Challen Rogers, Matt Schultz, George Benitez, Jake Sichenzia and Mark Ellis chipped in with one apiece against the Catamounts (5-5, 0-2).
"It's our offense that had a low production day," Nagle said. "Hopefully we'll put it together one of these days. I was definitely happy with the defense. Certainly Hayden's performance in the goal helped us there . . . He played great."
Johnstone's most important saves came in the second quarter, as he denied Ian MacKay (two goals) and Andrew Buckanavage (one) from point-blank range twice as he helped secure a 7-2 halftime lead.
"Hayden is a freshman but he's not acting like a freshman," Benitez said. "He still has to keep playing well, but this is a confidence booster for him."
Johnstone, who made 12 saves in the second half, deflected credit to the defense.
"We played probably the most energized defense we've played yet," he said. "It makes it easier when the defense is working. I'm getting farther out shots. It's easier to save."
Leading 2-1 early in the second quarter, the Seawolves broke it open with three goals in a 71-second span as Rogers (1:51), Ellis (2:09) and Sichenzia (3:02) tallied.
Benitez, a senior defenseman, even got onto the scoresheet, connecting on his first collegiate goal. While killing a penalty, he found space and went on a brilliant individual rush down the left side before beating goalie Justin Rosenberg for an 8-2 advantage 38 seconds into the third quarter.
"It was so surreal," said a smiling Benitez, who scored two goals in high school. "There is nothing more satisfying. You get one in the game, in the college game, it's unbelievable. Time almost stopped. It was crazy."The goal turned out to be the game-winner as Vermont rallied for four goals in the final period, despite Johnstone's heroics, to make it interesting.