ELMIRA, N.Y. — No. 10 Elmira confirmed its ability to slay giants Saturday, defeating top-ranked RIT 4-2 to take possession of first place in the ECAC West. The Soaring Eagles scored three goals in the first period, then held on for the win.
“Before the game, I didn’t know if we would be able to take advantage of RIT’s mistakes,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “I thought it would be us who had to worry about RIT taking advantage of ours.”
RIT (16-2) came out in the first period and won the territorial battle, putting pressure on the Soaring Eagle net early. However, Elmira took advantage of RIT’s mistakes to take control of the game.
Elmira’s first goal came at the 4:29 mark. From deep in the RIT zone, the puck was flipped out of the corner towards the RIT crease. With a four-player scrum in front of the Tiger net, the puck deflected off one of the bodies and in.
That was the break that Elmira (12-6) needed to get its confidence going.
Less than three minutes later, Elmira took a 2-0 lead, scoring shorthanded. As the puck moved through the neutral zone, the RIT defense decided to take the body instead of play the puck, allowing Elmira to break into the Tiger zone 2-on-1. Mike Clarke made RIT pay for the mistake, beating goaltender Tyler Euverman high glove side at the 7:06 mark.
“I thought we made some bad decisions,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We played well, but didn’t play with the determination that Elmira did.”
RIT’s best chance of the period came as senior Jerry Galway stepped out of the penalty box midway through. He caught a long pass and streaked into the Soaring Eagle zone all alone, but Elmira goaltender Rob Ligas steered Galway’s shot wide of the net.
Elmira’s strong forecheck caused havoc for RIT throughout the first period, and led to the Soaring Eagles’ third goal, the eventual winner. Senior Steve Kaye intercepted a cross-ice pass midair that Tiger Mike Walling tried to get across the RIT blue line. Kaye streaked into the RIT zone and again beat Euverman high for the tally at the 17:37 mark.
The Soaring Eagles got away from their game plan in the second period, and let RIT back into the game.
“We got lazy, real lazy, and got away from the things that we were successful at,” said Ceglarski. Elmira let up on forechecking, allowing RIT to get out of its own zone.
The Tigers scored a shorthanded goal of their own to get on the board 6:36 into the second period. Brian Armes and Josh Faulkner broke into the Elmira zone 2-on-1 off a forechecking turnover, and Armes finished the play, sliding a backhand under Ligas for the goal.
The Tigers narrowed the margin again late in the second period to cut the Elmira lead to 3-2. What looked like a harmless play behind the Elmira net turned into a goal after Sam Hill jammed in a rebound from a wraparound attempt at 14:12.
Both teams tightened up in the third period, trying not to make the mistake that would cost the game. Mid-period, RIT started to pour the pressure on to the Elmira net, but couldn’t get the equalizer.
Elmira’s Mike Clarke tallied his second goal of the game with the empty net at 19:14, after RIT had pulled Euverman 26 seconds before.
“The win puts us in a different light,” said Ceglarski.
“If everyone were to lay down for us in the league, then we really don’t have a league,” said Wilson. “The Elmiras and Manhattanvilles are good teams and we have to expect them to challenge us every game.”