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It wasn’t a surprise to anyone that Tuesday night’s Long Island Suffolk County Class C battle between Mount Sinai and Bayport-Blue Point didn’t have much separation.

The two teams came into the game unbeaten and both slotted into the most recent NLF high school top 25. Between all of the talent on the No. 16 Mustangs and No. 22 Phantoms and the familiarity between the two programs, everyone expected a close game.


Nobody thought that it would be such a defensive struggle, though. Midway through the game, the two rivals combined to score one goal. Twelve minutes later, the scoreboard at Mount Sinai had only added one goal. For a while, it seemed like the two teams, already very familiar with each other, wanted to feel each other out. Eventually, though, the shots were going to start falling, right?

In the end, though, Mount Sinai came up with just enough offense and some fantastic stops from senior goalie Brayden Wilcken (Team 91 Long Island / LIU) to knock off the Phantoms, 4-2.

“You do get cold (in a low-scoring game) sometimes, but you’ve just got to stay on your feet and stay ready,” said Wilcken, who was fantastic in the Mustangs’ cage with 10 stops.

Offense Comes Through for Mount Sinai

The teams opened up the fourth quarter tied at 1 after senior Navy-bound midfielder JJ Aiello (Team 91 LI) tied the game up by using his huge frame to get to the middle of the field and snapping a low-to-low dart past Wilcken. The Mustangs started to initiate some of their offense from up top, including getting X attackman Cole Marsala (Team 91 LI / Quinnipiac) on a big-big matchup up top. Marsala came off of a Jake Spallina (Team 91 LI / Syracuse) pick and hammered home a high shot.

Less than two minutes later, it was Spallina’s turn to come off of a pick and smash home a low-and-away rip. Thirty-six seconds after that, the attack line of Lucas LaForge (Team 91 LI / Michigan), Marsala and Nick Carretta forced a turnover on the ride that set up LaForge’s 1v1 dunk.

New Look for LaForge

Just like that, the Mustangs showed why they’re a significant threat to defend their Suffolk title. Mount Sinai hadn’t struggled to score goals this year before Tuesday’s game. The Mustangs came in averaging nearly 14 goals a game despite losing NLF No. 1 ’22 and soon-to-be ACC Freshman of the Year Joey Spallina. It’s a different, yet still potent, look.

“Playing with Joey was great. I learned a lot about playing off-ball and it helped me with that part of my game,” LaForge said. “With him not being here, I’m getting a bigger role on offense and it’s great. Last year, I was more of a shooter, but now I get to get my teammates involved, which was his role, and that’s great for my game.”

Bayport-Blue Point never found its offensive rhythm against the Mustangs. It didn’t help that the Phantoms got overly friendly with the posts, ringing up five pipes in the first half alone. BBP came in to the game averaging a little fewer than 14 goals per game, so the talent’s definitely there. Expecting the Phantoms to only score twice again is overly ambitious. If BBP has its way, a rematch is definitely in the cards in the Suffolk playoffs.

“One hundred percent,” Aiello said. “We’ll see them again and I think we’ve got it.”

Mount Sinai – Bayport-Blue Point Standouts

JJ Aiello ’23, midfield, Bayport-Blue Point / Team 91 Long Island Bandits – Navy 

Offense was obviously at a premium for everyone in a 4-2 game. Despite that, Aiello worked his way to a lot of looks that will usually land a lot more in almost any other game. He flashed some of his offensive talent when the 6-2, 215-pound lefty dipped his shoulder through a check to get to the middle before firing off a low-to-low rip to tie the game at 1.

What was most impressive about Aiello’s game, though, was his commitment to playing defense. He never played much of it in his Team 91 days, but Tuesday, he was more than willing to get involved in any situation to help his team. Aiello’s so big that he occupies space and threw off passing windows with his long reach. He defended well on the wings and up top, too.

“I’ve got to step up and play defense sometimes,” Aiello said matter-of-factly. “We don’t have that many people. You’ve just got to step up and do it and get it done.”

Mikey Luce ’24, defense, Bayport-Blue Point / Team 91 Long Island Wolfpack – Boston University

You wouldn’t expect a defenseman of Luce’s size to move the way he does. He’s got that prototypical Division I frame at 6-4, 190 pounds, but it’s clear that he’s put in a lot of time into improving his footwork and athleticism. The future Terrier had a couple of impressive clears where he hoofed it past the ride. He had some hiccups early as a passer, but redeemed himself with a bevy of nice feeds later in the game once he diagnosed how Mount Sinai’s ride was set up. Luce had a good night in coverage to lead a BBP defense that only yielded two goals in settled 6v6 situations.

Brett Spallina ’23, LSM, Mount Sinai / Team 91 Long Island Bandits – Syracuse

Spallina plays LSM but opts for a more subdued, defense-oriented game than a lot of the poles who like to focus on offense first. He had a couple of takeaways and some important ground balls that helped kill some long BBP possessions in the first half. Spallina is quietly effective in coverage and did a nice of sliding and taking away some Phantoms’ offensive looks out of the midfield. He threw accurate checks and like his two brothers, has a ton of sandpaper in his game.

Jake Spallina ’23, faceoff midfield, Mount Sinai / Team 91 Long Island Bandits – Syracuse – NLF No. 26 ’23

It’s impressive to watch Spallina’s ability to adapt to any situation.

He’d win the faceoff and after Sinai cleared it, he’d grab a new stick to stay on and play midfield. When the ball went to the other end, Spallina was all too happy to stay on and play good defense. He’s gotten noticeably faster, a trait that was painfully evident to the Phantoms when he beat his man down the alley and ripped one low and away to push the Mustangs’ lead to 3-1.

“Lucas (LaForge) came up and set a pick. I obviously ran off of it and my guy got washed. (LaForge’s) guy came over to me and I just got the edge on him and stung it bottom left,” Spallina said.

Spallina’s compete level is off the charts, and it’s going to help him get on the field at Syracuse. He’s gotten so much better as a faceoff man, too. Spallina won seven of nine faceoffs, all of which came on defensive exits because Bayport used a pole at the stripe on every rep and the Phantoms made it their No. 1 mission to prevent him from going forward.

Brayden Wilcken ’23, goalie, Mount Sinai / Team 91 Long Island Bandits – LIU

The Mustangs’ second-year starter continues his upward trajectory. Last year as a first-year starter, he helped the Mustangs take home the Suffolk County championship and nearly willed the Team 91 2023 Warriors to a quarterfinal upset at the NLF National Championships with a ridiculous individual effort against the Team 91 Bandits. It’s clear that he’s carried over a lot of that confidence into his second campaign with the Mustangs. Wilcken was brilliant for Mount Sinai, coming up with 10 saves, including a pair of 10-bell 1v1 saves in front.

The best one of the night was a stop in front with Mount Sinai up 4-1 with six minutes to play, plenty of time for the Phantoms to come back. The Phantoms got an open 1v1 look on the crease, but Wilcken somehow came away with the crucial stop.

“I’m mainly just watching the head of the stick, throwing my body at it and getting as much space behind the ball as I can. I’m hoping to deflect it or get it with my stick,” Wilcken modestly said.

Mount Sinai 4, Bayport-Blue Point 2

Bayport-Blue Point (7-1)

JJ Aiello ’23 (Team 91 LI / Navy) 1 goal
Connor Curran ’25 1 goal
Eric Grahn ’23 (Team 91 LI / Siena) 3 saves
Brady Smith ’24 (Team 91 LI / Albany) 3 saves

Mount Sinai (7-0)

Lucas LaForge ’24 (Team 91 LI / Michigan – NLF No. 101 ’24) 2 goals
Jake Spallina ’23 (Team 91 LI / Syracuse – NLF No. 26 ’23) 1 goal, 7-for-9 faceoffs
Cole Marsala ’23 (Team 91 LI / Quinnipiac) 1 goal
Brayden Wilcken ’23 (Team 91 LI / LIU) 10 saves