ELMIRA, N.Y. — In another titanic clash at the Thunderdomes Saturday, a goal by RIT’s Mike Bournazakis midway through overtime gave the Tigers a 4-3 win over the Elmira Soaring Eagles and put them in the driver’s seat of the ECAC West.
Elmira applied physical play for much of the game, and RIT never responded as the Soaring Eagles finished checks all night long. But Bournazakis’ goal, coming after the Soaring Eagles tied the game with only 31 seconds remaining in the third period, kept Division III’s number-one team undefeated on the season.
The Tigers struck first at 3:29. Brian Armes sent a pass from the boards out to defenseman Ryan Fairbarn at the point, and Fairbarn was able to skate across the top of the slot, sending a shot through a crowd jostling in front of the Elmira net. The puck appeared to deflect off the crowd, changed direction slightly, and zipped past Elmira netminder Rob Ligas for the goal.
The RIT goal slowed down Elmira for a couple of minutes, but the Soaring Eagles were dominating play by the 6:00 mark. Elmira got several scoring chances until Jay Zanleoni was assessed a major slashing penalty midway through the period. Elmira successfully killed off the penalty, leaving RIT a slim 1-0 lead after one.
The first 10 minutes of the second period were wild end-to-end hockey, with both teams getting top-rate chances on net. But the Tigers contracted give-away-itis in their own zone for the later half of the period, and Elmira used it to put pressure on RIT netminder Tyler Euverman.
The Soaring Eagles’ work finally paid off at 18:32. With the puck bouncing around in a crowd in front of the RIT net, and Eddie Cassie swatted home the puck for the tying goal.
Just 20 seconds later, Elmira struck again. With RIT running around in its own zone, Dean Jackson wristed a shot from a tight angle on the right side high into the RIT net to give Elmira the 2-1 lead.
“We had worked hard all game. It took a little while to crack RIT, but once we did, we got a couple,” said Elmira coach Glenn Thomaris.
The momentum pendulum swung again early in the third period. Elmira penalties, combined with a stronger Tiger forecheck, allowed RIT to carry play, and the Tigers scored a power-play goal at the 6:20 mark to tie the game back up.
On a three-on-two break, Josh Faulkner fed the puck to linemate Peter Bournazakis on the doorstep, and Bournazakis slid the puck under Ligas for the tally.
RIT struck again, this time even-strength, at 9:16 to retake the lead. Brian Armes, standing at the edge of the faceoff circle, took a pass from Faulkner in the corner and beat Ligas glove side for the tally.
“I’ve been so happy with Josh (Faulkner’s) play lately, but he has gotten no results,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “It was good to see him get some points.”
Faulkner had three assists in the game.
Ligas shut the door after that, even though RIT outshot Elmira 18-9 on the period.
“Rob made some real big saves, and gave us a chance to win it,” said Thomaris.
Elmira built pressure on the Tiger net as the clock wound down, and when Mike Bournazakis — caught with his stick around an Elmira player — got tagged with a hooking penalty at the 18:58 mark. Thomaris pulled his netminder as well, giving the Soaring Eagles a six-on-four advantage.
“I wasn’t really all that concerned (about the penalty), especially as it began,” said Wilson. But he should have been, because Elmira scored to tie the game 3-3 with only 31 seconds remaining.
“But then they got the goal,” continued Wilson. “I know how down I felt when they scored. Ah, (expletive deleted), I said.”
Senior Mike Hulbig somehow got his stick on the puck in the middle of a scrum in front of the RIT net and poked it in as the Elmira faithful erupted.
Jason Silverthorn had a strong game, with two assists, including one on the game-tying goal.
“He had been playing center, but I moved him back to wing just a couple of days ago. This is where he finished last year and it seems like it might be working for him again now,” said Thomaris.
Both sides had good chances in overtime, but Elmira’s shots went wide while RIT got three on net. The third Tiger shot, at 2:58, found the twine for the winner. Jerry Galway sent a shot from the point towards the net. Ligas went down to make the save, but Mike Bournazakis deflected the puck on the way in and it slid under Ligas’ glove for the 4-3 RIT win.
“The guys found a way to win, against a very good Elmira team. I give all credit to our captains for keeping the guys going after that late Elmira goal,” said Wilson.