Einar Lye and Niko Petridis celebrates the former’s goal. (Photo courtesy of St. John’s SID)
QUEENS, N.Y. – Behind Einar Lye and Niko Petridis, the No. 19 St. John’s University men improved to 4-0-0 with a 3-2 win over Iona College Tuesday night at Belson Stadium Tuesday night.
St. John’s has won four games in four tries to open the season for the first time in 18 years, last doing so in 2001.
The Johnnies have scored three or more goals in back-to-back games for the first time since 2010, when the Red Storm topped Hartford, 3-0, Sept. 17 before defeating LIU Brooklyn, 5-0, two days later.
Lye, suiting up for his fourth game in red and white, scored the Red Storm’s final two goals less than a minute apart and assisted on the game’s first tally. He became the first Red Storm player to record five points in a game in 14 years, as Sebastian Alvarado-Ralph last accomplished the feat with a one-goal, three-assist effort in a 4-0 win at No. 2 Duke Sept. 11, 2005.
“He’s starting to come alive,” head coach Dr. Dave Masur said of the first-year Norwegian midfielder. “He told me it’s taken a little bit of getting used to college soccer, but he’s doing really well and the last two games he’s been very, very good.”
Petridis opened up the scoring in the 12th minute and added an assist on Lye’s eventual game-winner in the 54th minute. The goal was the first of Petridis’ St. John’s career.
Skage Simonsen added an assist on Lye’s game-winner, his second this season.
Entering the contest having yet to concede a goal, the St. John’s goalkeeping tandem of Jan Hoffelner and Luka Gavran saw its scoreless streak snapped at 326:47. The stretch was the longest for the Red Storm in nearly four years, as the 2015 squad kept opponents off the board for 387:13 in parts of five games. Gavran, who made four of the team’s five saves on the evening, earned the win to improve to 2-0-0.
The Red Storm opened the scoring as Petridis scored his first goal with the Johnnies in the 12th minute. After Josiah Crawford forced a turnover in the Gaels defensive zone, Atila Ashrafi played a ball in traffic to Lye, who threaded a pass to Petridis on the right side. With one defender to beat, Petridis buried a ball in the top right corner of the cage.
Iona tied it a half hour later, as Tomas Jamett and Lenworth Lopez connected. Jamett dribbled down the left side of the box and anticipated a charge from Hoffelner, dishing the ball to Lopez. Lopez poked it home for a 1-1 deadlock.
Coming out of the intermission with a renewed vigor, the Red Storm got a great look on goal early in the second half when Lye drew a foul just outside the box to earn a dangerous free kick. On the ensuing set piece, Petridis crossed the ball into Ron Alkobi, whose header missed just high.
Then Lye took center stage.
Tani Oluwaseyi drew a foul near the top of the box for a free kick. Lye drove the spot kick off an Iona defender in the wall, ricocheting it past the goalkeeper and for a 2-1 advantage at 52:28.
Only 53 seconds later Lye wreaked havoc on the defense once again, this time puncuating a sequence of passes to put the Johnnies ahead, 3-1. Brandon Duarte started the sequence playing the ball from the other side of midfield toward Simonsen. The 2018 Big East freshman of the year chipped the ball forward down the right side to a streaking Petridis. Petridis played a cross in front to Lye, who converted the scoring opportunity.
“I was real proud of our guys at halftime and into the second half to come out and play with a kind of smarts, maturity and quality that was needed to get those next two goals,” Masur said.
Iona pulled within one, 3-2, on an 81st minute penalty kick by Esad Mackic.
The Red Storm will look to improve to 5-0-0 for the first time since 1995 when the team hosts the University of Pennsylvania at Belson Stadium Friday at 7:30 p.m.