RIT Sweeps To ECAC West Title
RIT swept through the ECAC West playoffs, downing Hobart in the semifinals and Manhattanville in the finals to take its third straight ECAC West crown. The Manhattanville Valiants reached the finals with an upset win over the Elmira Soaring Eagles in the semis.
No. 2 ELMIRA (16-10-0) 5 vs. No. 3 MANHATTANVILLE (14-10-2) 6 (3/2): Manhattanvile scored just 17 seconds in to the first period, and rode that momentum throughout the game. Elmira kept battling back from deficits all night long, but couldn’t manage to tally a go-ahead goal.
“We’re still a young team … To have this kind of a win in only our second year is just monstrous,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal.
The Soaring Eagles answered the opening goal by the Valiants, 32 seconds later, to tie the game, the first of three ties during the contest. Manhattanville kept up relentless pressure, peppering the Elmira net with 23 shots in the first period alone. The work paid off for the Valiants, who notched the next two goals midway through the period to take a 3-1 lead. Elmira chipped away at the lead in the waning seconds of the period, but found itself on the short side of a 3-2 scoreboard at the end of the first period.
Elmira tied it up early in the second period, 3-3, but the Valiants repeated the pattern as they scored the next two goals, only to watch as Elmira tied it up with two quick goals midway through the third period. The Soaring Eagles used an unlikely hero to climb back in to the game. Freshman Matt Howarth, who had scored a single goal all season, scored twice in this game, both times to tie the score.
“He is a hard-working kid who we moved to center a couple of weeks ago. He had a career game,” said Elmira coach Glenn Thomaris.
But the pattern held, and the next goal went to Manhattanville just 1:10 after Elmira tied it up. That was the end of the scoring, and the Valiants celebrated advancing to the ECAC West final in only their second season.
No. 1 RIT (23-0-1) 9 vs. No. 4 HOBART (6-15-4) 1 (3/2): The No. 1 seed Tigers held serve in the second semifinal game, and trounced No. 4 seed Hobart. The Tigers held a distinct territorial advantage most of the game, and outshot the Statesmen 48-17 in the contest.
RIT scored twice in the opening 6:22 of the game, and it looked like they were off to the races. But the Hobart defense solidified and netminder Chris Connolly made some key saves to stem the Tiger tide.
RIT managed its third goal midway through the second period. Hobart got on the board very late in the period, and going in to the second intermission it looked like Hobart might be able to pull the second upset of the night.
Hobart, loaded with seniors, came out in the third period with a will. The Statesmen played RIT tough early in the period, but couldn’t get anything past RIT netminder Tyler Euverman.
Three goals in quick succession midway through the third period by RIT deflated Hobart, and that was the game. RIT’s third line of Sam Hill, Errol McDonald, and Mike Tarantino had a stellar game, notching two goals and five assists in the contest.
No. 3 MANHATTANVILLE (14-11-2) 2 vs. No. 1 RIT (24-0-1) 8 (3/3): When the teams were skating at even strength, play in this game was even, with entertaining end-to-end action. Unfortunately for Manhattanville, the two teams didn’t skate even strength very much, as there was a steady parade of players from both sides to the sin bin. The longest stretch of even-strength play was only eight minutes, early in the second period.
Special teams were the difference, as RIT scored four goals on nine power plays while Manhattanville didn’t manage any tallies on six of its own.
“We thought coming in to this game that discipline might win or lose it for either team,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.
He was right.
RIT was up 2-0 after the first period. With the early parts of the second period played at even strength, the Valiants made a game of it, putting pressure on the RIT net and keeping the Tigers’ offense towards the outside.
But the Manhattanville bus must have been equipped by Firestone, because the wheels exploded midway through the second period to send the Valiants crashing. RIT scored two goals separated by only 26 seconds, starting at the 10:33 mark, and it was all over for Manhattanville after that.
The Valiants didn’t give up, but the Tiger feeding frenzy never gave them any breathing room. RIT went on to score four more goals before the end of the contest, while Manhattanville chipped in two goals in the closing moments.
The win gave RIT its third straight ECAC West championship, and eighth overall. Tiger Sam Hill was named the tournament MVP, notching four goals and three assists on the weekend.
Into The NCAAs
Undefeated RIT (24-0-1), ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com poll for the ninth straight week, was awarded the No. 1 East seed for the NCAA tournament, and will host the No. 5 East seed Lebanon Valley Flying Dutchmen (18-7-2) — the ECAC Northeast champions — in quarterfinal action this weekend at RIT’s Ritter Arena.
RIT and Lebanon Valley have never met before, but looking at four common opponents this season (Manhattanville, Elmira, Hobart and Geneseo), LVC was 1-3-1 against those teams with a win over Hobart and a tie with Manhattanville. RIT was 10-0 against those four teams.
As the NCAA playoffs begin, this is the final weekly installment of the ECAC West column. But it’s not over yet. Look for an “ECAC West Year in Review” issue to come out in a couple of weeks. Each of the four teams’ seasons will be covered, including the high and low points, the stars and the duds — and I will see if I can get the coaches to give some insight into next year’s schedule and recruits.
So stay tuned…