ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What started as a friendly league game in the first period, erupted in the second period into a penalty-fest. Thirty seven minutes of penalties were distributed between Utica and RIT in the second period, including a rare fighting disqualification. RIT may have lost the fight, but the Tigers won on the scoreboard by a score of 6-1.
“Utica brought a lot of different things to the table,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “They kept one guy high and we had to adjust to that in the second and third periods. There are all kinds of games, and you have to be able to overcome what the other team brings to the table.”
Just under four minutes into the second period, a scrum in front of the Utica bench ended up in a rare fighting disqualification. After a short scrum in front of the Pioneer bench, Utica’s Brian Bansner and RIT’s Ryan Fairbarn separated from the pile and danced toward center ice. Words were exchanged and Bansner suddenly dropped his gloves, ripped off Fairbarn’s helmet, and started swinging away with haymakers. Fairbarn maintained his composure, unlike Bansner, and didn’t swing back.
After the penalties were handed out, Bansner was ejected from the game for fighting, while Fairbarn received a double minor for roughing and ten-minute misconduct.
Even though Utica was the aggressor, the Pioneers ended up with a four-on-three power play. The referee decided to clamp down at this point in the game to try and regain control, and he proceeded to parade a steady stream of players from both teams to the penalty box.
“There was a lot of stick work that wasn’t being called,” said Utica coach Gary Heenan. “At some point, you have got to stand up for your team. After the first period, we didn’t have any energy going. We tried to get some going.”
Eventually, only the penalties to Fairbarn and Bansner were on the board, and RIT took advantage by scoring on the 4-on-4 play. Michael Tarantino wound the puck around Utica netminder Mike Beacham 6:44 into the period to give RIT a 3-0 lead.
RIT completed a nice tic-tac-toe play 11:05 into the period to build the lead to 4-0. Rob Tarantino finished off the play, but it was Darren Doherty that dug the puck out of the corner to start it.
“It was a great team effort tonight,” said Tarantino. “Utica is a gritty team that battles every night. Our boys responded well.”
During the second half of the period, the parade of players to the penalty box was almost exclusively Tigers. Utica worked some good passing around the perimeter of the RIT zone on the resulting power plays, but the Pioneers couldn’t pull the Tiger defenders out of position and didn’t get many shots off.
“We’ve been struggling with getting shots on the power play,” said Heenan. “Bansner is on our first power play line, so that obviously messed things up. For the 5-on-3′s, we have three designed plays. But with a freshman out there instead of Bansner, those didn’t work.”
“It was a frustrating game from a lot of standpoints,” said Wilson. “With that many penalties, you can’t roll the lines.”
The high tensions building throughout the second period continued as the coaches walked off the ice for the second intermission. Utica coach Gary Heenan was given a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct for yelling comments towards the RIT coaching staff.
The teams traded goals in the third period. RIT tallied two goals in the first nine minutes of the period, with Ryan Francke and Michael Tarantino scoring.
Utica got onto the scoreboard just six seconds after the Tiger’s sixth goal. Jimmy Sokol broke into the RIT zone right off the center-ice faceoff, and passed to Ryan Webb breaking into the zone with him. Webb slid the puck under Tiger netminder George Eliopoulos at the 8:58 mark to make the score 6-1.
The Pioneer goal ended a streak of almost 149 minutes that Eliopoulos had pitched shutout hockey.
The Tigers jumped on the scoreboard in the first minute of the opening period. The puck squirted out from the corner into the high slot, and RIT defenseman Ryan Francke jumped on it. Francke collected the puck unmarked and wristed the puck past Beacham for the goal 57 seconds into the period.
After the goal, both defenses settled down and controlled play for several minutes. Neither team was able to mount much offense as they were immediately met by opposing defenders at the blue line as each rush moved up ice.
RIT built its lead to two goals midway through the first period with another score from a defenseman. Mike Walling wound a blast from the point through a screen that eluded Beacham for the goal at the 11:57 mark,
The pace of the game picked up after this goal and more end-to-end play ensued and each team earned some good chances to score. Utica had several strong rushes up ice, got off good shots, but couldn’t solve RIT netminder Eliopoulos.
The Tigers almost scored in the last minute of the period at the tail end of a powerplay. But Beacham did everything but stand on his head and kept the puck out of the net to keep RIT within reach.