Harry Cooksley assisted on all three St. John’s goals in its 3-1 win over Creighton. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s Communications Dept.)
QUEENS, N.Y. – The St. John’s University men wasted no time, scoring twice in the opening seven minutes to record a 3-1 victory over Creighton University its Big East quarterfinal match at Belson Stadium Saturday night.
Playing in the first Big East tournament games of their careers, three St. John’s players carried the offensive effort and propelled the Johnnies (9-6-3) to victory.
Alistair Johnston recorded his second brace of the season, scoring the Red Storm’s second and third goals. Classmate Matt Forster kicked off the offensive flurry for the Johnnies in the fourth minute with his third goal of the season before assisting on Johnston’s first tally 3:20. Harry Cooksley, who was named the Big East midfielder of the year Friday, assisted on all three goals, becoming the first St. John’s player since Tadeu Terra against LIU Brooklyn on Sept. 19, 2010, to register three helpers in a game. The senior from London has eight assists this season.
The Red Storm’s first win in a Big East championship game since claiming its ninth league title in 2011, Saturday also marked the first time it scored three goals in a conference tournament match since blanking Rutgers, 3-0, in the opening round in 2009.
“Creighton’s a great offensive team,” St. John’s head coach Dr. Dave Masur said. “They have great athletes and they had us under a lot of stress after we went up 2-0, but we did well and had players make big plays. I’m proud of them. I’m proud of the effort. We’re excited to move on and we have to make sure we move on with the right focus.”
Forster kicked off the scoring a few minutes after the opening whistle, executing a sequence with Cooksley. A few steps inside the midfield line, Cooksley placed a left-footed strike, sending it to a perfect spot for a streaking Forster. The sophomore from Bedford, England, chipped the ball over the charging keeper and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Three minutes and 20 seconds later, Cooksley found Forster again on the left side of the box. Forster delivered a cross in front for Johnston, who headed it into the back of the net and set up the Johnnies with a 2-0 advantage 6:53 into the game.
Creighton (9-7-2) responded less than 15 minutes later, as Big East co-Offensive Player of the Year Ricky Lopez-Espin netted his league-leading 12th goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Bluejays controlled the momentum for the remainder of the half, but the Red Storm kept the visitors from scoring.
The Johnnies struck again to regain a two-goal margin. The sequence began with a free kick from Cooksley outside the box. The senior sent the ball toward the far post, where Johnston sent it home.
“I think we’re just getting started,” Cooksley said. “We’ve putting a good run together here and we’re just getting started.”
The Red Storm will face Georgetown University in the semifinals Wednesday at 1 p.m., less than two weeks after handing the then-No. 10 Hoyas a 1-0 loss at Belson Stadium.