ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Potsdam fans are accustomed to stellar performances by netminder Ryan Venturelli. RIT, on the other hand, has been following the adventures of George Eliopoulos as he tries to settle into his first year as the Tigers’ starting goaltender.
However, in Friday’s game between these longtime foes, both goaltenders gave strong performances. Quick glove saves, reflex kick saves, and saves off sticks while diving across the crease were common sights in front of both nets. The result: a 3-2 RIT victory, thanks to Darren Doherty’s third-period winner.
“This last few weeks haven’t been my best weeks in hockey,” said Eliopoulos. “I felt that I needed to turn around my game. The guys did a great job of playing in front of me tonight.”
“RIT is a good skating team,” said Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris. “Ryan [Venturelli] made some great saves.”
Unlike the first two periods of the game, the third period was evenly played. Each team gained scoring chances as play moved up and down the ice.
While RIT played last week in the Plattsburgh Cardinal Classic, this was Potsdam’s first game back after the holiday break.
“I thought the team came off the break and played pretty well,” said Thomaris. “The guys were excited to play the game.”
RIT scored early in the third period to regain the lead 3-2. It came off a scramble in front of the Bears net that Doherty was able to poke home past Venturelli at 4:12 for the goal.
Potsdam pulled Venturelli in the last minute, but couldn’t tally a goal as RIT held on for the win.
“It was a good, hard win, the kind of win we were looking for to get us going down the road,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson.
Both goaltenders showed their quickness in the first period, making several saves by diving across the crease or flipping a quick glove. However, there were goals scored, giving RIT a 2-1 lead by the period’s end.
Tiger Ryan Francke opened the scoring 6:50 into the game. Francke wound a slapshot from the left point through a crowd that found the back of the net. Venturelli was screened on the play and never saw the puck until it was past him.
Potsdam’s strategy was to use quick cross-ice passes to work the puck into the RIT zone. However, it was a singular rush up-ice that gave the Bears their first goal of the game.
That effort came from Mark Hathaway, who carried the puck into the Tiger zone until he was just below the left faceoff dot. Once there, he wristed the puck towards the far corner of the net, hugging the ice, and it eluded Eliopoulos’ glove for the goal at the 12:18 mark.
RIT retook the lead in the waning seconds of the period when Francke tallied his second of the period. Francke launched another blast from the point through a crowd, and this time it deflected off a player and into the net to regain the lead for RIT 2-1.
The Tigers came out in the second period as they ended the first, putting a ton of pressure on the Potsdam net. But Venturelli came up with two spectacular saves to prevent RIT from building on its lead.
Potsdam weathered the RIT storm, and took control of the game territorially five minutes into the period. The Bears did a good job of anticipating RIT’s breakout passes, pinning the Tigers deep.
The work paid dividends 8:51 into the second stanza when Potsdam scored to knot the game at 2. Mark Stewart, from the top of the right faceoff circle, wristed the puck towards the Tiger net. Eliopoulos made the kick save, sending the puck out the far side of the crease. But Phil Aubry had snuck behind the Tiger defenders and was alone there, slapping the puck into the empty side of the net for the goal.
Potsdam continued to enjoy a territorial edge for the remainder of the second period, but was unable to tally again. RIT finally evened out play in the last three minutes, gaining some good scoring chances, only to be denied by Venturelli.
“We were still a little sluggish,” said Wilson. “We still need to grind it out a bit more than we are.”