ROCHESTER, N.Y. — With the parity in Division III this season, it’s hard to win with talent alone.
The ECAC West is no exception. RIT almost learned that the hard way Friday’s with Neumann. The Knights played with intensity right from the opening faceoff, while RIT was barely going through the motions.
“We didn’t come out ready to play,” said RIT senior Ryan Francks. “That is something that we have had to work on all season. We finally got going better in the second period.”
Neumann took advantage of its opportunities, and skated to a 5-1 lead by early in the second period. Tiger coach Wayne Wilson switched goaltenders, called a timeout, and the RIT players responded by playing with much more emotion. Once RIT got rolling, the game was all Tigers as they scored ten unanswered goals on the way to an 11-5 win.
The Knights scored two quick goals to open the second period to build its lead to 5-1. John Nicoletti finished off a 2-on-1 breakaway for a goal at the 2:43 mark. That forced the RIT goaltender change, with George Eliopoulos replacing starting netminder David Wrisley.
“It was really unfortunate for David Wrisley to come out and play that way, and for the team to play that way,” said Wilson.
Eliopoulos didn’t fair much better, however, letting in a goal on the first shot that he faced. RIT turned the puck over in the slot of its own zone, and Tim Tabb pounced on it, beating Eliopoulos high just forty seconds later.
“After the fifth goal, our guys started to deviate from the system, and holy hell broke loose,” said Neumann coach Nick Russo.
That was enough for Coach Wilson. He called a timeout, after which the Tiger players realized that they needed more than talent alone to win this game.
“Tonight was kind of a sloppy effort,” said Wilson. “The shots were just kind of ho-hum on net. We played the game, but didn’t really compete very hard. It was a frustrating night.”
RIT tallied two quick goals to start the long climb back in to the game. Darren Doherty poked in a puck off a scramble in front of the Neumann net at 4:27. And Jason Chafe deflected a shot from the point to score on the power play at 5:18.
Neumann continued to play strong as the second period continued, trying to hold on to its advantage. However, RIT scored twice again in the waning seconds of the period to tie the score 5-5.
Both goals came on the same 4-on-4 sequence. Roberto Orofiamma found the top corner with a wrist shot at 18:30, and Tristan Fairbarn steered the puck around Vega at 19:43 for the Tiger goals.
RIT had managed to climb the tall four-goal deficit mountain, and it was an even game going in to the third period.
The RIT special teams dominated play early in the third period to take control of the game. Ryan Francke scored from the weak side at 1:09 on a power play. And Tristan Fairbarn tallied his second goal of the night, also on the power play, at the 6:41 mark.
“Depth and penalties killed us,” said Russo. “Four-on-four hurst us also. It was just too much ice for RIT to play with.”
Once RIT took the lead, all of the wind came out of the Neumann sails. Vega was visibly tired after making more than thirty saves in just over two periods, and RIT started pouring it on.
The Tigers chipped in four more goals, before finally finishing the contest with an 11-5 victory.
Neumann took advantage of its opportunities in the first period. Conversely, RIT had trouble breaking out of its own zone. Combine the two, and Neumann took a 3-1 lead as the period ended.
The Knights got on the scoreboard first, on its first shot of the game, at the 2:54 mark. RIT coughed up the puck along the right faceoff circle in its own zone. Mike Robbins jumped on the loose puck and swatted it past Tiger goaltender David Wrisley for the goal.
RIT enjoyed a comfortable margin in shots on goal in the period, outshooting Neumann 17-7, but the Knights scored the second goal of the period to take a 2-0 lead. This time it was Justin Riccardi carrying the puck in to the Tiger zone. Riccardi got off a soft shot, that Wrisley saved, but the puck rolled right back on to Riccardi’s stick. This time he did make any mistakes and poked the puck under Wrisley for the goal at the 11:44 mark.
The only mistake Neumann made in the first period, and it was a minor one, was taking a penalty. With RIT’s power play running at almost thirty percent, the Knights could ill afford to take penalties. The Tigers made them pay, scoring a power play goal at the 15:25 mark. Ryan Fairbarn sent a blast from the top of the slot through a crowd. The puck deflected off linemate Mike Tarantino and past Knights goaltender Joshua Vega for the goal.
Neumann wasn’t done, however. With only 33 seconds remaining in the period, Joe Viscuse found himself along in front of the Tiger net, and wristed the puck past Wrisley to send Neumann to the locker room with a 3-1 lead.