College Hockey:
Top-Ranked RIT Starts Fast to Reach Title Game

— The RIT Tigers (27-0-1) scored three quick goals right out of the gate, and then carried that lead to defeat the Wisconsin-River Falls (23-9-2) by a 5-2 final score in game 2 of NCAA Championships Semifinal.

“You hope to get up like that, get into it, and take their fans out of it. But you certainly don’t expect it,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.

River Falls goalie Jacque Vezina makes a save on RIT's Derek Hahn while Tiger Mike Bournazkis (20) looks for a rebound. (Photos by Russell Jaslow)

River Falls goalie Jacque Vezina makes a save on RIT’s Derek Hahn while Tiger Mike Bournazkis (20) looks for a rebound. (Photos by Russell Jaslow)

River Falls climbed back in to the contest, and pulled to only a 4-2 deficit by the end of the second period. The Falcons had several great chances in the final stanza, including a one-timer at an open net that just whistled wide.

“Having River Falls miss that shot was probably the turning point of the game,” said RIT netminder Tyler Euverman.

RIT dumped the puck into the Falcon zone right off the opening faceoff, and it didn’t come out of the zone until the refs dug it out of the back of the net 29 seconds later.

Matt Moore sent a shot from the point through a gaggle of traffic in front on the River Falls net. Senior Jonathan Day deflected the puck up into the top of the net for the early goal.

“We were a little overwhelmed. We weren’t as focused as we needed to be. They were the most skilled team we’ve played,” said River Falls coach Steve Freeman.

“That first goal was directly the result of having home ice and the big crowd. We came out comfortable from the first shift,” said Wilson.

The first half of the period was all RIT as the No. 1 power play in the nation rolled. River Falls got in to some penalty trouble, and it cost them. RIT’s Derek Hahn, running the RIT power play from the top of the umbrella, scored on a blast from the top of the slot that beat Falcons netminder Jacque Vezina high on the stick side at 7:44.

The Tigers scored another power-play goal less than a minute later to take a commanding 3-0 lead. Sam Hill slid in a rebound at the 8:36 mark, just nine seconds into the power play.

River Falls righted the ship midway through the period and were able to establish a fast-paced, end to end flow to the game. The Falcons got several great chances in front of the Tiger net as the period waned, but RIT’s goaltender Tyler Euverman was able to steer them aside to keep the score 3-0 going in to the first intermission.

While shots on goal were basically even for the first period, looking at the shot chart reveals how RIT established the lead. The vast majority of the Tiger shots were from the middle slot and closer to the net. By contrast, all but four of the River Falls shots were taken from either the outside or up near the blue line.

River Falls used the momentum gained towards the end of the first period, and gained control territorially early in the second stanza.

The Falcons quickly converted the momentum in to a goal at 2:57. Rheese Carlson carried the puck down the left side of the Tiger zone and slid the puck across to Nate Kotewa crossing in front of the Tiger net. Kotewa then slipped the puck around Euverman for the goal.

Even though the Falcons kept up the pressure, RIT was able to reestablish its three-goal margin just over three minutes later. Mike Tarantino, with a strong forecheck, caused a turnover along the boards in the Falcon zone. Tarantino was able to collect the loose puck and found Sam Hill skating down the slot, and Hill wristed the puck in to the net for his second goal of the game, for a 4-1 Tiger lead.

The end-to-end flow continued in the game, as both River Falls and RIT played strongly. The Falcons took advantage of a bad substitution by RIT to narrow the lead once again late in the period. River Falls skated up on a 2-on-1 break, and Jeff Bernard finished the play for the goal at 15:54.

At the end of the second period, RIT enjoyed a narrowing 4-2 lead.

RIT celebrates its semifinal victory.

RIT celebrates its semifinal victory.

River Falls kept up the pressure throughout the third period, but wasn’t able to get anything past Euverman to cut the Tiger lead. The Falcons got a power play late in the third period. The RIT defense was able to prevent River Falls from even getting a shot on goal during the full two minute man-advantage.

“I think you really set the tone for killing those late penalties by killing off the ones early in the game,” said Wilson.

RIT added an empty-net goal with seven seconds remaining to make the final score 5-2. The victory moves RIT into the championship game against Plattsburgh, an earlier winner over Wisconsin-Superior.

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