QUEENS, N.Y. – The third-seeded and 24th ranked St. John’s University men will open the Big East men’s Championship when it hosts sixth-seeded Butler University in a quarterfinal Saturday at 5 p.m. at Belson Stadium.
The game is on the Big East Digital Network with Matt Ambrose and David Gass on the call from Queens.
St. John’s finished the regular season at 10-5-2, including a 5-3-2 mark in the conference. The Johnnies, who saw all three of their conference losses come in extratime and two of those league defeats come at the hands of ranked opponents, finished third or better in the Big East regular season standings for the third time in the last four fall campaigns.
Saturday will mark the Red Storm’s 29th appearance in the conference championship, a tournament that the Johnnies have won a league-record nine times. The Red Storm advanced to the conference semifinals in 2017 and 2019, but has not reached the conference title game since winning it all for the last time in 2011.
The contest will be the second in four days between the Red Storm and Bulldogs, as Butler used a 94th-minute Golden Goal from Hemi Nasser to leave Belson Stadium with a 1-0 victory Wednesday night. St. John’s will open BIG EAST Tournament play with a rematch of its regular-season finale for the third consecutive fall campaign, as the Johnnies faced Providence College to close the regular season and begin the postseason in 2018 and 2019.
In addition to breaking into the United Soccer Coaches poll for the first time this season Tuesday, St. John’s also moved jumped to No. 23 in the RPI following two lopsided wins against Marquette University and DePaul University.
The Red Storm boasts one of the nation’s most stringent defense units, as the Johnnies allowed only 10 goals in 17 regular games. Anchoring the Red Storm’s efforts is goalkeeper Luka Gavran, who leads the NCAA Division I with 10 shutouts. The redshirt junior from Hamilton, Ont. is one of seven goalkeepers in program history to record double-digit clean sheets in a campaign and the first to do so since Derby Carrillo during 2009. Gavran enters the weekend ranked fourth nationally in goals-against average (0.56) and save percentage (.841).
Butler snapped a three-game winless streak at Belson, as Nasser’s second goal of the season ended the contest less than four minutes into extratime. Wilmer Cabrera Jr. and Jack Streberger picked up assists.
Cabrera Jr., a two-time All-Big East selection and the conference’s 2019 freshman of the year, is the team’s leading offensive producer with five goals and two assists. Cabrera, Nasser and redshirt sophomore Tommy Visser (two goals, two assists) are the only Butler players to record multiple goals this fall.
Gabriel Gjergji has played every minute between in net, posting a 1.02 goals GAA and a .757 save percentage. His Wednesday clean sheet against the Red Storm was his fourth of the campaign.
St. John’s owns an 8-3-1 record all-time against Butler, but since the Bulldogs joined the Big East for the 2013-14 academic year, the Red Storm advantage sits at 5-3-0.