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Local connection puts SBU in good conference standing

Stony Brook's Chris Pickel celebrates his game-winning goal

Stony Brook's Chris Pickel celebrates his game-winning goal in the second overtime against Vermont on Saturday at LaValle Stadium. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Chris Pickel Jr. spent years watching Jack Walsh set up Miller Place High School teammates for crucial goals and Walsh witnessed Pickel Jr. take over the Bayport-Blue Point High School offense when the team needed a play.

But the two no longer need to worry about one potentially ending the other’s season. Now they are utilizing each other’s strengths to take the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team to the next level.

“We’re both Long Island Class B guys, so we’ve been playing against each other for a couple of years,” Walsh said. “And then we get here and we’re playing together now, so we know exactly what it takes to win.”

The two displayed that chemistry Saturday when Walsh found a cutting Pickel Jr. and he scored with 2:47 remaining in the second overtime as Stony Brook defeated No. 16 Vermont, 8-7, in an America East game at LaValle Stadium.

“I’ve played against him and I know just how good a feeder he is,” Pickel Jr. said. “He can sling the ball across the offense and I’m a cut kind of guy, so it works together.”

Stony Brook improved to 5-7, but more importantly 3-1 in conference, tied for first with Albany.

After Vermont (10-2, 2-2) scored the first three goals of the second half to take a 6-4 advantage with 13:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, Wayne White scored off an assist from Walsh 33 seconds later and Tom Haun evened the score at 6 with 9:29 remaining.

Walsh scored with 6:12 remaining to give Stony Brook a 7-6 lead before Vermont’s Rob Hudson found the back of the net with 2:38 left to force overtime.

Stony Brook goaltender Michael Bollinger had a career-best 16 saves in what coach Jim Nagle called “the best game I’ve seen him have.” Bollinger made five saves in the first quarter and a crucial stop in the first overtime as his early success fueled his later performance.

“It was definitely a confidence booster,” said Bollinger, a Sachem East graduate. “Usually we don’t start off with big stops but I thought we had some huge stops in the beginning and that got the offense going and the energy really came with it.”

“Not too many sophomores in the country have as many starts as Michael does,” said Nagle of Bollinger’s 16 over the last two seasons. “That experience really pays off.”

And in the end, it was the Long Island connection leading the local team that’s in the hunt for a conference championship.

“I saw a little spot I could cut into and I knew Walsh has been feeding me all season so I just went for it,” Pickel Jr. said. “He threaded the needle and I just put it in the back of the cage and luckily we got it done.”

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