GENEVA, N.Y. — An exercise in futility for Hobart College finally came to an end early Saturday evening. Since late 1992, RIT had rattled off twenty-nine straight victories against the Statesmen, most of the time by dominating scores.
However, in tonight’s contest, Hobart battled back from a late deficit and defeated the Tigers 5-4. As the final buzzer sounded, the Statesmen poured off of their bench, mobbing netminder Adam Lavelle, who made 35 saves, and celebrated the monumentous win.
Because of Manhattanville’s loss at Elmira on Saturday, the win gave Hobart the regular season title in the ECAC West for the first time in the program’s history.
“It’s a big win for the program,” said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “The seniors have spent a lot of time here, and they wanted to get first place. RIT is a program that has gained a lot of respect, and any time you can get a piece of that is a good thing.”
Hobart carried a 2-1 lead in to the third period, and quickly built on its lead. While killing off a penalty, Jess Desper spotted linemate Lee Carrier cheating out towards the neutral zone. Desper hit Carrier with a long pass, and Carrier was off to the races in to the Tiger zone. Two Tiger defenders tried to hog-tie Carrier from behind, but he was able to flip the shot over RIT netminder George Eliopoulos’ shoulder to give Hobart a 3-1 lead 2:04 in to the period.
RIT switched to a 2-1-2 forecheck scheme in the third period to try to climb back in to the contest, and it paid dividends almost immediately. Brad Harris intercepted a clearing pass at the Hobart blue line, and took off into the zone. As he was being hauled down by a Hobart defender, he flipped the puck towards the net, eluding Statesmen goaltender Adam Lavelle.
This goal, at the 5:47 mark, gave the Tigers hope.
And the RIT goal at 6:09 gave them life. The Tigers outworked Hobart down low, and Matt Moore tallied to tie the game 3-3.
What started out as a wild third period, only got wilder. After battling back, RIT retook the lead midway through. The line of Bryan Payant, Roberto Orofiamma, and Rob Tarantino rumbled, stumbled, and bumbled up the ice, and Payant finished the play with a goal at 13:59 to put RIT up 4-3.
“Our bench was p–d off after RIT scored their two goals, which was a good sign,” said Taylor. “We call it the ‘Rhino Mentality’ — either find a way or make a way to get it done. One of our guys wrote that up on the board in the locker room before tonight’s game, and we really needed that.”
That mentality proved the difference in tonight’s contest, and Jonathan Swift was the player who really took it to heart for Hobart. Swift tied the game at the 15:09 mark, when he swatted in a rebound off a shot by Greg Gallagher.
“We gave up a soft rebound in front,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We need to tie those up and do a better job in front of our own net.”
Then Swift tallied the game winner less than two minutes later. Edward Poirier carried the puck behind the Tiger net, to the far corner. Poirier found Swift in front of the Tiger net, unmarked, and Swift buried the pass from Poirier for the powerplay goal.
Eliopoulos broke his stick against the post of his own net in frustration, but the damage was already done.
Statesman Mike McCarthy was whistled for a roughing call with 1:54 remaining, and RIT pressed to tie the score. However, the Hobart penalty kill was up to the task, and despite RIT pulling its goaltender for the last sixteen seconds, the Tigers only managed a single shot on goal and failed to tie the game.
“It was a great game by Hobart,” said Wilson. “Up and down by both teams. They were the better team. It was a good, flat-out hockey game.”
The Geneva Recreation Center was shoulder to shoulder as fans from both Hobart and RIT packed in to the rink for this important game. From the opening faceoff, chants from both sides echoed off the rafters.
RIT struck first, just :57 seconds in to the contest when Darren Doherty scored off a quick shot on just the second shift of the game for RIT.
Undaunted, Hobart answered right back with a pair of goals of its own. Colby McVey one-timed in a pass from Craig Levey at 6:57 to tie the game 1-1. And then Poirier scored on a shot that deflected off a Tiger defender at 1:28 for the 2-1 Hobart lead.
The first period was very physical, and it was “anything goes” as the referee quickly seemed to lose control of the contest. This finally exploded at 13:48, when scrums erupted across the ice following a whistle deep in the RIT zone. After sorting it out, Hobart ended up with a power play, but the Statesmen were unable to convert.
Off a scramble in front of the RIT net that found Tigers taking out bodies, two penalties were called on RIT, and none on Hobart. Hobart pressed hard during the resulting two-minute 5-on-3, but couldn’t build on its lead.
As the second period progressed, the body work ebbed, but the sword fighting with sticks increased. RIT got a 5-on-3 advantage of its own, although only 1:10 in duration, and like Hobart were unable to score during the man advantage.
The second period ended, as the first did, with Hobart enjoying a 2-1 lead.