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Rutgers netminder sparks team in opening win over St. John's

<p>Junior goaltender Kris Alleyne stopped 11 shots from St. John's in Saturday's season opener in Queens. Rutgers got the win, 10-8.</p>

Junior goaltender Kris Alleyne stopped 11 shots from St. John's in Saturday's season opener in Queens. Rutgers got the win, 10-8.

Last time was different.

The Rutgers men’s lacrosse team had made a change in goal when they last met St. John’s back in April in Piscataway. Entering that matchup, it had been five years since the Scarlet Knights came away from a tussle with the Johnnies victorious.

But the Knights held off St. John’s that day, in part on the strength of their goaltending with junior Jake Andersen in net, earning the 16-13 win.

Senior Kris Alleyne began as the starting goaltender for the first 10 games of last season, but was sidelined down the stretch as he battled injuries and inconsistent play. Andersen was deemed the replacement for the last four games of 2014 and made the most of it, registering the first Big East Tournament win in program history.

But on Saturday in Queens, Alleyne got back on track.

The senior netminder rebounded from a rough third quarter where he gave up four goals and stifled the opposing offense with five of his 11 saves coming in the fourth quarter, leading Rutgers to weather the second half surge from the Red Storm in a 10-8 season-opening win.

Head coach Brian Brecht was enthusiastic about the way his goalie closed in crunch time.

“Kris has been here before. He has a lot of minutes logged,” Brecht said. “He had a solid day, but he was exceptional down the stretch in the fourth quarter.”

Alleyne attributed his restored agility to dropping 15 pounds in the offseason.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film with the coaches,” Alleyne said. “I’ve really dedicated myself to fine-tuning my body and my game and just working out the kinks.”

Rutgers got a jump-start from two newcomers with sophomore midfielder Jeff George, a transfer from UMass, netting two goals on six shots in the first game of his Rutgers career. Freshman Jules Heningburg added two goals and an assist in his collegiate debut.

“I thought some of the new guys really contributed,” Brecht said. “Heningburg, playing his first game and he gets two and one. Jeff George, the transfer, playing his first game with us got a couple goals. So, we were really happy with the contributions from the new guys.”

Combine the new flavor with old faithful in 2014, sophomore Christian Trasolini, and the Knights’ offense displayed a potent attack, developing cohesion as the game went on.

Trasolini drove four goals past St. John’s keeper Joe Danaher, actively launching seven shots throughout the remainder of the contest.

For Brecht, though, Trasolini’s performance was ho-hum.

“Christian [Trasolini] was our leading scorer last year, so he played just how we expected,” he said. “… If we can’t get goals from him, we are going to have trouble.”

The game held a different level of significance for Trasolini, as he attended high school 15 minutes from St. John’s in New Hyde Park.

The sophomore led all returning players in goals last season with 27 and finished second on the team with 40 points.

Trasolini deflected the credit for the offensive output and with good cause, as five different Knights tallied a goal. The sophomore attacker knows the numbers game in lacrosse is the more shots put on net, the more goals will be scored.

“I think it was just the offense,” Trasolini said. “We were clicking on all cylinders. We knew our tendencies, we knew each other so well it allowed us to get all those shots.”

Rutgers jumped out to a 3-0 first quarter lead before St. John’s climbed back in the game with three unanswered goals of their own, concluding with a shot that snuck past Alleyne with 11 seconds to go in the first half.

In a game of runs, the Knights wore the Red Storm out down the stretch.

After the Johnnies took a 7-4 lead in the third quarter, Rutgers struck back with a 6-1 run to close out the contest and begin the year 1-0.

The boys on the banks will have little time to celebrate. With a trip to Richmond next weekend, followed by a matchup with No. 9 Virginia on Feb. 21, it’s imperative the Knights remain focused.

But after his team getting their first win of the season in a rivalry game, Trasolini thinks Rutgers opened up 2015 with a statement.

“We are going to be a powerhouse team, so they [St. John’s] are just going to have to deal with that.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s lacrosse team, follow @KevinPXavier and @TargumSports on Twitter.

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