You can count the amount of times that Joey Spallina has been held without a point in a half on one hand during his storied Mount Sinai career.
You don’t need even one hand to tally up the amount of times any of the Mustangs opponents for the past five years have been able to hold the Team 91 Long Island standout entirely off the stat sheet for an entire game. It’s never happened, with the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2022 a model of consistency throughout his career despite seeing every defense in the book.
So when Spallina – and the rest of his team – held off the scoreboard in the first half of Friday’s GEICO Showcase against defending Long Island Class B champion Garden City, it figured that the Syracuse signee would find a way to make an impact in the back half.
Set your watch to it. Spallina fired home four goals, including a highlight-reel dive and a ridiculous rocker, and set up one of sophomore Lucas LaForge‘s three tallies to lead the NLF No. 5 Mustangs to an 8-5 come-from-behind win over the No. 20 Trojans to stay unbeaten.
Countering Garden City
Mount Sinai, the defending Long Island Class C champion, trailed 2-0 after a half thanks to a 3-for-4 performance at the faceoff stripe from NLF No. 34 ’22 Jack Cascadden (LI Express / Cornell). That, plus senior defenseman Brendan Staub (Cornell) doing yeoman’s work in coverage against Spallina and Garden City taking full advantage of a lack of a shot clock, led to some frustration from the Mustangs.
“They did a good job of taking the air out of the ball in the first half, and then we felt like we had to go right to the goal as quick as we can,” Spallina explained. “Just getting that first goal is kind of tough when you haven’t scored, so getting that first goal was pretty big. In the first half, we were just getting the ball, throwing one pass and then dodging, and that’s obviously not a good offensive scheme.”
It didn’t help matters that Staub was such a persistent presence all over Spallina. A big, strong, physical defenseman, Staub was able to handle Spallina well in the first half. He routinely denied Spallina his spot and helped produce a few turnovers.
— SportsCenter NEXT (@SCNext) April 22, 2022
The Inevitable Happens
Give a player of that caliber that many chances, though, and he’s bound to burn you. LaForge (Team 91 LI) got the Mustangs on the board off of a broken play and Spallina’s younger brother, NLF No. 26 junior Jake Spallina (Team 91 LI / Syracuse) showed off his offensive chops with a physical, downhill dodge that ended with an inch-perfect rocket under the bar, the elder Spallina got to work.
He shook Staub at GLE with an inside roll punctuated with a dive for his first goal of the game, then tossed a nifty feed inside to LaForge to cap off the ’24’s hat trick. With the Mustangs up one, he hit a devastating rocker and snapped home a low-to-low finish from 10 yards out.
Century Mark x 3
By the time it was all done, he finished with four goals and an assist, giving him exactly 100 points on the season. It’s the third time that he’s hit that plateau in his career, a number that would certainly be four if not for Covid wiping out his sophomore campaign. Despite that, he preferred to point out the Mustangs, who have now defeated both the Class A and Class B LIC champions from a year ago, are still perfect as they chase an elusive first state title in Spallina’s career.
“We’re a tough, hard-working team,” Spallina said. “We’re not fun to play against. We’ve all known each other since second or third grade, so we all know our tendencies and how to play together. I think beating teams like Northport and Garden City shows that we’re battle-tested and we’re ready for crunch time. It kind of shows to everyone that we’re the real deal.”
Oppenheim Changes the Tide
Indeed. If there was a bit of an unsung hero on the day, it was senior faceoff midfielder Austin Oppenheim (Team 91 LI). The Albany signee came out plus-one on the faceoff battles with an 8-for-15 day against four-star Cascadden, including a 4-for-5 performance in the final quarter. Perhaps not so coincidentally, the Mustangs outscored the Trojans, 3-1, in the fourth stanza.
Both teams got excellent performances from their goalies. Garden City senior Chris Allen stopped 15 shots, including 7-for-7 in the first half, while Mount Sinai junior Brayden Wilcken (Team 91 LI) rebuffed 12 shots sent his way.
The Trojans were patient – very patient, at times – offensively, and got two goals and an assist from Trinity commit Jay Ottomanelli. Mike Fargione, Jack Archer and Ryan Maher also got on the board for GC. While it was an opportunity for the No. 20 Trojans to make a national statement against the Mustangs, all of their team goals are still ahead of them with a roster capable of taking home the New York Class B state title.
“We’ve got a lot of guys with grit,” Cascadden said. “We’ve got guys that can play together and make up a good team, and we have a lot of chemistry. Putting a lot of pieces together and we’ve got a lot of talent on this team. Two unfortunate losses against some really good teams don’t help us, but we’re always going to battle back and come back with something better.”
Mount Sinai – Garden City Standouts
Chris Allen ’22, goalie, Garden City
The Trojans have cycled through up to three goalies in a game this spring, but it would have been ridiculous to look elsewhere after Allen blanked the Mustangs in the first half. He stopped all seven shots on cage in the first two quarters, including a diving save on Lucas LaForge and a high-to-high transition stop on Spallina. Allen was very poised with shooters bearing down on him and tracked shots well throughout, and the goals he gave up would have been tough for any goalie to stop.
Hat Trick for Lucas LaForge 🎩 as Mount Sinai regains the lead 🥍 pic.twitter.com/psNBUNNxjc
— SportsCenter NEXT (@SCNext) April 22, 2022
Lucas LaForge ’24, attack, Mount Sinai / Team 91 LI
LaForge was instrumental in helping the 91 Wolfpack to a national title this summer. This spring, he’s reprised his role as one of Spallina’s favorite targets. The tall lefty is at his best as a finisher around the cage, and he played that role to perfection against the Trojans. He finished his first on a broken play, but then got his second by following up his rebound and snapping it home. LaForge finished off the hat trick by subtly slipping off coverage and quickly burying a low-to-low snapper. He’ll be tasked with becoming more of an initiator when Spallina graduates, but he’s on pace for his second straight season of more than 40 goals. That’s phenomenal for a sophomore.
Austin Oppenheim ’22, faceoff, Mount Sinai / Team 91 LI / Albany
Garden City standout Jack Cascadden (LI Express / Cornell) came in to the game as the more highly-touted of the faceoff men, but he and Oppenheim have gone against each other for years and are extremely familiar with each other. Oppenheim used that experience and prior knowledge to will his way to an 8-for-15 day, including a 4-for-5 performance in the final quarter. Oppenheim showed plenty of toughness and scrappiness at the dot, often putting the ball in a good spot for his wing men. He was able to routinely deny Cascadden clean wins, too.
Dylan Sageder ’22, LSM, Mount Sinai / Team 91 LI / Syracuse – NLF No. 46 ’22
Sageder showed the continued evolution of his game, one that has helped him firmly establish himself as one of the premier LSMs in the country. He’s cut from a similar cloth as lot of fellow Team 91 LSMs where he focuses more on defense and havoc in the middle of the field over trying to score goals and primarily play offense.
Sageder had at least three caused turnovers in the game. The ‘Cuse signee was accurate and timely with his checks but didn’t get beat, either, showing the ability to marry good stickwork with quality positioning and footwork. None of his takeaways were better than a second-quarter can opener right at the midline. Sageder timed up his opponent’s cradles and landed the check perfectly, and it was a turnover that gave the Mustangs some much-needed juice.
“I was trying to study his cradle pattern, and I saw that he was really wide with his cradles, so as soon as he brought it forward, I just waited for the perfect time to throw my stick in for the can opener,” Sageder said. “I’ve been working on it a lot in practice.”
Sageder later added a gem of an intercepted pass where he deftly snagged a pass out of mid-air coming across the crease. It showed his IQ and understanding of how Garden City was trying to attack Mount Sinai.
Brendan Staub ’22, defense, Garden City / Cornell
Despite being a Cornell commit, Staub has somewhat flown under the radar nationally when it comes to discussing the best defensemen in the country. He made an excellent case as to why he should be a part of the final NLF ’22 rankings with a very solid day. It was one where he was tasked with covering the best player in the country. Staub was downright dominant in the first half, leading the Trojans’ shutout with his coverage. The best lineman in Nassau County as part of Garden City’s Long Island champion football team, Staub showed excellent footwork, leverage and strength to go up against Spallina’s powerful dodges. While Spallina won the second half and the game, Staub showed why Connor Buczek wanted him so badly.
“I think it was a good battle and he’s a great player,” Staub said. “All week in practice, our scout team did a great job. We’ve got a kid, Brendan Rosenblatt, played as Spallina for the week and did an awesome job of preparing me. We had a bunch of stuff ready to go – we had a 5 and 1 zone, a regular zone, shutting him – but we started the game off in man-to-man and it was working, so we never really came out of it. It was a good battle.”
Brayden Wilcken ’23, goalie, Mount Sinai / Team 91 LI
One of the better uncommitted goalies left in the junior class, Wilcken has shined in his first year as the Mustangs’ starter. That trend continued Friday when he came away with a dozen saves. That included a pair in the final minute against Jack Archer and Cascadden to secure the win.
“I was just trying to get a piece of it,” Wilcken said. “7-5, right at the end, we had to make the stop. It was most likely going to be the turning point if they scored because they would have had the momentum back. I just sat there, watched the ball come in and got a piece of it.”
Nearly all of his saves were clean ones and he dropped well on low shots. Wilcken also did a very good job of getting the ball up and out. He made accurate passes to start the break.
Mount Sinai 8, Garden City 5
Garden City 1 1 2 — 5
Mount Sinai 0 0 5 3 — 8
Garden City (6-2)
Jay Ottomanelli ’22 (Trinity) 2 goals, 1 assist
Mike Fargione ’22 1 goal, 1 assist
Ryan Maher ’22 1 goal
Jack Archer ’23 1 goal
Stevie Finnell ’23 (Syracuse) 1 assist
Luke Schmitt ’22 (Providence) 1 assist
Cole Webber ’23 (NLF No. 58 ’23 / Virginia) 1 assist
Jack Cascadden ’22 (NLF No. 34 ’22 / LI Express / Cornell) 7-for-15 faceoffs
Chris Allen ’22 15 saves
Mount Sinai (11-0)
Joey Spallina ’22 (NLF No. 1 ’22 / Team 91 LI / Syracuse) 4 goals, 1 assist
Lucas LaForge ’24 3 goals
Jake Spallina ’23 (NLF No. 26 ’23 / Team 91 LI / Syracuse) 1 goal
Austin Oppenheim ’22 (Team 91 LI / Albany) 8-for-15 faceoffs
Brayden Wilcken ’23 (Team 91 LI) 12 saves