(Photo Courtesy of St. John’s Athletics)
The St. John’s Red Storm began the 2021 season going up against the same team they went up against to end the shortened 2020 campaign: Hofstra. And unlike their meeting 11 months prior, St. John’s came out on top, 19-18, in overtime to start their season off with a bang.
However, that season-opening win, which was their only non-conference game of the season, would be the only victory the Red Storm were able to bask in the rest of the season as they went 1-10 overall (0-10 Big East) against a conference-heavy schedule. It marked the fourth consecutive full season in which the Red Storm have gone winless in conference play.
St. John’s did come close to breaking that conference losing streak twice this past season, falling to Marquette by one goal in both of their meetings.
The 2021 season, as unusual as it was, continued the trend that we’ve seen from this St. John’s program in recent years. The Red Storm have recorded some very good non-conference wins, such as beating Hofstra this past season as well as their wins over High Point in both 2018 and 2019. But when it comes to Conference play they just haven’t been able to get over the hump. The Red Storm are now 0-25 against Big East play since 2017 and only have two conference wins to their record since 2015.
It is no question that St. John’s was one of the team hurt the most by scheduling changes last season. And with normalcy returning in 2022, maybe Jason Miller’s squad can start to get things back on track and possibly end that conference losing streak. And while their record last season may not have shown it, there is plenty of talent on this team that can make that a reality and help push this program forward.
Last season, the Red Storm had the nation’s 52nd-best scoring offense, averaging 9 goals per game. That’s bottom 15 level. They also ranked 38th in man-up offense, cashing in on .316% of such opportunities, and 44th in team shooting percentage (.265%). So there is certainly a good amount of growth to be had on this end of the field, and with the loss of four of their top five scorers from a year ago, perhaps a bit of a new look on that end can help usher some better results. And of course, not having to face both the nation’s top defense (Georgetown) and 11th-best defense (Denver) twice each should provide some breathing room.
Jonathan Huber is the top returning offensive weapon for this St. John’s team coming into the 2022 season. Starting every game the past three seasons at attack, Huber led the Red Storm in points last season with 30 (23G/7A) and is expected to be a very focal point of this offense again this spring. Additionally, junior midfielder Connor Kalmus (6G/4A) and redshirt senior midfielder Mackenzie Iacocca (6G/3A) each saw significant playing time last season as the Red Storm’s fifth and seventh-leading scorers and could very well see increased roles on this offense this spring.
Additionally, senior midfielder Dylan Willis is expected to be a strong asset on offense once again after suffering a season-ending injury just five games into last season, starting in all five and tallying eight points off five goals and three assists. He should be a huge asset for this offense, especially if he can stay healthy and return to form.
On the back end, things were even worse for the Red Storm in 2021 as they had the worst scoring defense in the nation, allowing 18 goals per game. That includes three consecutive games (Denver, Villanova, Georgetown) in which they allowed 20 points.
St. John’s only returns two poles who saw starting time last season in junior Benjamin Bishop (5GB/7CT), who saw action in seven games with five starts, and senior Francis Cannizzo (7GB/4CT), who saw six starts in nine outings. Additionally, senior Matt Duncan (14GB/5CT) and Kyle Wasilewski (13GB/5CT) saw a good deal of action at the SSDM spot and should be leaders of that rope unit once again.
Senior Brody Agres returns as the Red Storm’s most experienced goalie. He started every game in both 2019 and 2020 before seeing action in 10 games with seven starts this past season. He made 92 saves with a .482% save percentage this past spring.
With multiple heavy contributors back for this defense, and coming off a season of the likes they just had, there is a lot of room for growth on this back end. And if this program wants to be a consistent competitor in the Big East and break that conference streak, defense is the area of the field in which the Red Storm will likely need to improve the most.
New defensive coordinator Chris Fisher will certainly have his hands full trying to improve this unit.
Another area in which St. John’s was amongst the bottom 15 in DI and must improve upon to be successful in the Big East is at the faceoff dot. Jake Oemcke went 64-for-178 (36%) at the dot and grabbed 34 ground balls as the Red Storm’s primary option in 2021. As a team, the Red Storm ranked second-to-last in DI behind only Bellarmine in team faceoff win percentage (.299%).