OSWEGO, N.Y. — Green grass, calm winds and temperatures in the 50s are not the weather that fans or players expect when RIT travels to play Oswego in the annual renewal of their longstanding rivalry. For the last five years, RIT has headed east on route 104 in January, when the frigid wind is howling and the snow is piled halfway up the side of Romney Fieldhouse.
But once the game began Saturday, the intensity on the ice and in the stands ratcheted up to almost playoff level. Without the strong wind blowing from the north across the lake, seven of the eight goals were scored at the north end of the rink. Oswego attacked from south to north for the first and third periods, and won the contest 5-3.
The two teams entered the third period with the score knotted 2-2. Five minutes in, Oswego broke the tie. A scramble for the puck began at center ice, along the boards near the benches, when suddenly the puck sprang free. Oswego pounced on the puck and took off into the RIT zone on a three-on-one breakaway. Brian St. John finished the play when he beat Tiger netminder George Eliopoulos for the goal at the 5:01 mark.
“Oswego played a little bit harder in the third, and that was just enough,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “I thought that they worked down low around our net a little harder than we worked down low around theirs.”
Oswego scored on another odd man rush 9:33 into the period to build its lead back to two goals. Jocelyn Dubord and Don Patrick tore into the RIT zone marked by only a single Tiger defender. Dubord slid the puck across the slot to Patrick charging to the net, and Patrick easily slid the puck in to the net for the score.
RIT kept plugging away, trying to tie the game up as the third period wound down. The Tigers pulled their goalie with just under a minute remaining, and pulled within a single goal when Ryan Fairbarn scored.
But when RIT tried to duplicate the same feat after the ensuing faceoff, it was Oswego’s turn to score the empty net goal, by Gary Bowman, and seal the victory 5-3.
The first period was filled with penalties. Both teams killed off penalties in the opening five minutes. But right after a Tiger power play, Oswego struck on the scoreboard first. Mike Lukajic had snuck behind the RIT defensemen at center ice, when Ryan Koresky hit him with a pass right on the tape of his stick. Lukajic raced in to the RIT zone unmarked and scored at the 7:10 mark to put Oswego up 1-0.
The Lakers built their lead to 2-0 with a power play goal at the 15:57 mark. Trying to kill the penalty, RIT failed on several attempts to clear the puck out of its own zone. Dubord finally took advantage of the chances that Oswego generated, and chipped the puck past Eliopoulos for the goal.
“What we addressed between the first and second period was penalties,” said Wilson. “We took too many penalties and dug ourselves a hole. I was disappointed in some of the foolish penalties that we took.”
In the second period, it was RIT’s chance to skate south to north on the Romney ice, and they scored two goals in the period. The Tigers cut in to the Oswego advantage with a power play goal at the 7:21 mark. Michael Tuciarone backhanded in a rebound to get the Tigers on the board.
The goal, and a couple of Oswego penalties midway through the period, gave RIT momentum. The Tigers kept the pressure on the Lakers zone, and RIT tied the game 2-2 11:38 into the period. Roberto Orofiamma collected a puck that popped out from behind the Oswego net, and quickly wristed it home before any Laker defender could react.
The intensity of the game built as the second period continued, with physical play sending bodies flying in every direction.