ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RIT coach Wayne Wilson and Geneseo coach Brian Hills share a Florida condo for their joint annual family vacation. They are longtime friends, former teammates and former coaching mates at Bowling Green, whose families are as close as two families can be. So, perhaps it was appropriate that in their third meeting against each other since they came to coach in Western New York, the contest ended in a 4-4 tie.
In front of a packed house in Ritter Arena, it was the large contingent of Geneseo fans making the trip up I-390 who jumped for joy with two seconds left in the game. That’s when Paul Weisman beat George Eliopoulos over the shoulder with a 6-on-4 advantage, thanks to a power play and the Ice Knights’ pulling their goalie.
Special teams were the order of the day as numerous penalties were called, providing plenty of opportunities for both squads. In the second period alone, RIT had four power plays while Geneseo had three.
The difference in the game was RIT’s ability to stop the Geneseo power play, though the Ice Knights had many close chances. However, it was the lone Geneseo power-play goal producing the equalizer that proved to be the difference.
“I thought the penalties were throwing both teams off their rhythm,” Wilson said.
That may be, but RIT certainly took advantage of them scoring two power-play goals to build a 3-1 lead.
The game started with RIT immediately jumping on a failed clearing attempt by Geneseo. An initial point-blank shot was stopped by Brett Walker, but the Tigers picked up the rebound behind the net and worked it back out in front. Mike Tarantino was there and didn’t waste the opportunity to give RIT the lead 35 seconds into the game.
Geneseo came back to tie it six minutes later. Jay Kuczmanski kept it in on the right point, and put a slow shot towards the net. Mike MacDonald, with his back to the net, ever so slightly deflected the puck as it went between his legs. Eliopoulos never saw the puck, never moved, and never had his stick down. The puck went through his legs untouched.
The Tigers retook the lead six minutes later on the power play with some crisp passing around the horn then to the front — Tristan Fairbarn to Mike Tarantino to Ryan Fairbarn. The older Fairbarn easily fired it in from the high slot; Walker had no chance to stop it.
The second period started out with an increase in physical play, and it never let up. Geneseo’s Chris Tarr and RIT’s Steve Farrer collided hard, away from the puck, in front of the Geneseo net early in the second period, leaving Tarr dazed and bleeding on the ice. He eventually left the ice, slowly, under his own power, but did not return to the game.
The referees were allowing both teams to get away with their fair share of extracurricular activity, but penalties were called. A set of offsetting penalties, a failed power play for Geneseo, and then an RIT power play that converted. After winning the faceoff back to Tristan Fairbarn at the right point, Fairbarn passed it sideways along the blueline to his brother Ryan, who ripped a straight-on shot that blew by Walker for the 3-1 lead.
RIT went on another power play soon after and nearly converted again when Tristan Fairbarn, unmarked on the side of the post, just missed stuffing it in. Soon afterwards, Mike Tarantino got a feed from Darren Doherty which left him alone with Walker. However, Tarantino was a bit too close and couldn’t work the puck over Walker.
The teams enjoyed five more power play opportunities in the period, three for RIT, but none were converted.
The Ice Knights came out in the third period and quickly cut the lead to one when Justin Corio beat Eliopoulos through the five-hole, again. Geneseo couldn’t take advantage of the momentum because it quickly committed two consecutive penalties. Though it successfully killed off the penalties, it cost precious time for Geneseo to mount a comeback.
Geneseo was really slowed down when RIT retook the two-goal lead midway through the period. Jason Chafe scored quickly off the faceoff, beating Walker high.
However, Geneseo mounted its comeback with just under three minutes remaining when Mitch Stevens made a perfect pass to a streaking Kuczmanski at the top of the right faceoff circle. Kuczmanski waited patiently before ripping a shot to the far side out of the reach of Eliopoulos.
Then, Geneseo finally found a way to score on the power play in the nick of time. It allowed it to extend its unbeaten streak to nine games (7-0-2) with an overall record of 11-4-3.
“The bottom line, we didn’t get the job done in the third,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, RIT has a modest streak of its own, going 3-0-2 in its last 5 games. Overall, it is 9-4-4 and turn right around to host Oswego Saturday night.
“It was an exciting game for the fans,” Wilson said.
And most likely an exciting game for the coaches who can talk about it while lounging on the beach sipping their tropical drinks.