ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The RIT Tigers scored on four out of six power plays and used a dominating second period to defeat the Elmira Soaring Eagles 7-1 in an ECAC West contest on Saturday, virtually locking up the Pool B bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Our power play was unbelievable early in the year,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “But then it kind of waned. Now it is back clicking again, just at the right time of the year.”
Elmira jumped on RIT territorially for the first half of the opening period, including an early power play. But the Tiger defense was able to push most of the Soaring Eagle chances towards the outside and that helped RIT to weather the early storm.
RIT opened the scoring at the 7:42 mark, just 24 seconds in to the first Tiger power play. Co-captain Derek Hahn got the puck at the left faceoff dot, and Elmira gave Hahn time to set up. He waited, picked his spot, and roofed the puck past Elmira netminder Rob Ligas.
The next 10 minutes of the period saw even play. Both teams got some high-quality chances and the referee let them play. RIT’s chances were a little more dangerous as it was able to set up screens in front of Ligas several times.
Elmira knotted the score 1-1 late in the period. Jason Silverthorn moved around Tiger defender Shawn Wilkins in the RIT slot and wristed the puck towards the lower right corner of the net. The puck glanced off Soaring Eagle linemate Adam Godfrey’s skate and into the RIT net for the goal.
“EC came out hard in the first, and just played so solid,” said Wilson.
“But our goal early in the second, and then to get up 3-1 and 4-1, was so important to get this win.”
Elmira killed off the front half of a 5-on-3 RIT power play that spanned the end of the first period and the beginning of the second. But the Tigers converted on the later half of the advantage just 19 seconds into the period. Sam Hill passed out of the corner across the slot to Mike Bournazakis on the far side of the Elmira net. Bournazakis tapped it in for the power-play goal to put RIT up 2-1.
The Tigers took the momentum firmly in hand and started to dominate territorially. RIT won all of the individual battles throughout most of the second period, and built on its lead.
After extensive pressure, RIT tallied its first even-strength goal of the nigt at 4:48 when Hahn buried his second goal of the game.
The Tigers got another power-play tally at 8:29 to continue to build thier lead. RIT managed to keep the puck in the Elmira zone for almost the entire power play, working the puck around the perimeter, and Bournazakis roofed the puck into the net to finish the play.
That marked the end of the night for Ligas. He stopped 22 of 26 shots, and made many stellar saves to keep the score as close as he could. Nick Edling came into the net for Elmira.
“I wanted to give our guys a chance to get their wind, and maybe take away some of RIT’s steam,” said Elmira coach Glenn Thomaris.
Soon after the netminder change, RIT’s Mike Walling took an obstruction-interference penalty, and it looked like the Soaring Eagles might retake some of the momentum. But the Tigers were relentless on the penalty kill, particularly Hahn, whose forecheck gave Elmira fits.
Just as the penalty expired, RIT broke out of its own zone and rushed down the ice. Mike Tarantino skated in to the Soaring Eagle zone with the puck and beat Edling low to build RIT’s lead to 5-1.
There was a lengthy stoppage of play to repair some glass along the boards, and this gave Thomaris the break he needed to steady his troops. After that, the Soaring Eagles were able to keep play more even, getting some chances, and finished the period enjoying a 5-on-3 power play.
Thomaris was pulling out all the stops, and pulled his goalie for the last 14 seconds of the period to get the extra attacker.
Elmira methodically tried to pick apart the RIT defense as the third period began to chip away at the Tiger lead. The Soaring Eagles, though, never were able to build up the momentum needed to overcome the lead.
The Tigers scored their fourth power-play goal of the game 6:15 into the final period. Sam Hill down low whiffed on a shot, but the puck trickled across the Elmira slot. Linemate Peter Bournazakis was there to collect the puck and slide it into the open net.
RIT’s seventh goal was a shorthander at 11:18. Elmira got caught in a line change, and turned the puck over near its bench. This sprung Jared Conlon in alone on the Elmira net, and he beat Edling through the five hole for the goal. That marked the end of the night for Edling, and freshman Ben Sadler came in to guard the Elmira net for the remainder of the game.
Elmira mounted strong pressure in the waning moments of the third period, but RIT netminder Tyler Euverman made several saves to keep the Soaring Eagles off the board.
With the 7-1 victory, RIT finished off its first undefeated regular season since 1964, going 22-0-1.
“The undefeated season is a great achievement. I give all the credit to the players because they worked so hard to earn it,” said Wilson.