Salisbury junior Matt Cannone has a busy Saturday lined up.
At 1:00, the Long Island native will be at Sea Gull Stadium, leading the No. 3 team in the nation against Mary Washington in the Sea Gulls’ second Capital Athletic Conference game of the season.
When it’s over, he’ll head home, joined by several of his Salisbury teammates as they watch Cannone’s older brother Matt, a senior on the hockey team at Miami University, take the ice with the RedHawks against New Hampshire in the 2011 NCAA Northeast Regional.
“I watch all my brother’s games,” the younger Cannone said, “and it’s cool, because the guys support me with that. They all come over. I’ll be sitting in my house with about eight guys on my lacrosse team, watching my brother play hockey. Just like they say it’s a family, a brotherhood, that’s how our team is.”
With Pat’s team at Miami priding itself on team chemistry and togetherness – the RedHawks hockey team often refers to itself as “the Brotherhood” – it makes sense that his younger brother would be drawn to a similar atmosphere with the Sea Gulls.
“I feel like when you love your teammates and you’re friends with everyone, you play better,” Matt said. “You want to go out there, and you want to help that person. If your buddy’s in trouble, someone’s getting pressured, you want to go over there, because that’s your best friend. That’s your brother, and you want to help him out, and I feel like you play harder for each other when you like each other.”
The chemistry that the Sea Gulls enjoy off the field certainly translates well into competition. After going 37-6 in Cannone’s first two years, Salisbury is off to an 8-0 start this season, with big wins over No. 16 Lynchburg, No. 11 Gettysburg, and most recently, No. 8 Roanoke, a game that saw Cannone lead the way with five goals in a 10-7 win.
While Cannone has little trouble putting the ball in the back of the net, though, his real strength has been in his ability to set up his teammates. Through eight games, Cannone leads the Sea Gulls with 17 assists, and is second on the team with 31 total points.
“I think the key has been the people around me,” Cannone said. “Krummy [Erik Krum] this year has just been a go-to guy. He’s always on the crease, the most active player in D-III. He’s always turning around, giving me the opportunity to get him the ball to finish, and I’ve got Tony Mendes on the right side. That kid has a crank and a half. I throw a pass pretty much as hard as a shoot the ball, and he catches everything and just lets fly. You’ve got Sammy Bradman, the best player in D-III. He makes everything a lot easier out there, because all the focus is on Sam Bradman, and everyone’s first priority is to stop the best player in D-III.”
Bradman, one of only three Division III players on the watch list for the 2011 Tewaaraton Award, has certainly been hard to stop, leading the Sea Gulls with 34 points (25 goals, 9 assists) in eight games. With Salisbury firing on all cylinders, the team is looking strong for a run back to the NCAA Division III Championship game, one year after falling to Tufts in the last game of the season at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth when you get that far in your overall journey and you come up short,” Cannone said. “You’re really energized at that point. You want to get back there and improve to where you can win and you’re going to win.”
Pat Cannone knows just as well about the disappointment that comes from coming up short in an NCAA Championship game, as he was a sophomore on the Miami team that lost in overtime to Boston University at the 2009 NCAA Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. That shared experience drives both Cannone brothers to get back to their respective title games.
“I believe that experience for both of us has really pushed us in the right direction,” Matt said. “It was great motivation. I know that this summer, my brother was busting his hump all summer, working out all summer, trying to get down to 180 pounds of straight muscle. He’s been doing amazing. I feel like that motivation has helped me in the same direction.”
Of course, the elder Cannone will have his chance first, as a pair of wins at this weekend’s regional will put Miami in the 2011 NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn., on April 8 and 10. Matt, meanwhile, will continue to lead the Sea Gulls on the path back to Baltimore, and the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships at M&T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day Weekend.
If that opportunity does come, Matt hopes it will be the next time he sees his brother.
“He does not have the privilege of coming to Sea Gull Stadium to watch,” Cannone said, “because the hockey season is so dragged out. Hopefully, he is in the national championship again, so I hope not to see him until Memorial Day Weekend, for his sake.”
Until then, Matt Cannone and his Salisbury teammates will watch on TV.