During the regular season, RIT and Manhattanville played to a pair of ties. They met again in the semifinals of the ECAC West and for a while it was more of the same.
Tied 2-2 after two periods of play, RIT broke through midway through the third period, then added an empty-netter to skate away with a 4-2 victory.
With the win, RIT moves on to meet either Hobart in the championship Saturday night.
“Our three captains did a great job leading the other guys,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “All our lines played well and the goaltending was solid. A good game and a good win against a good opponent.”
Unlike the first two periods, RIT held a territorial advantage in the opening moments of the third. The Tigers maintained the advantage for the next six minutes before play evened out. However, the Valiants defense held firm and RIT was unable to score.
The Tigers took their first lead of the game midway through the period. The puck was bouncing from one player to another behind the Valiants’ net, when RIT’s Brad Harris flipped the puck high into the air and over the cage.
The puck came to rest near the far faceoff dot, where defenseman Ryan Francke pinched in and slapped it past Manhattanville’s netminder Jay Chrapala, giving RIT the 3-2 lead 10:15 into the third period.
Manhattanville tried to turn up the gas and tie the game, but RIT’s forecheck gave the Valiants fits as they tried to break out of their own zone.
“I wanted our guys to keep going deep into the Manhattanville zone,” said Wilson. “We didn’t want to give their breakout much room.”
Manhattanville pulled Chrapala with 25 seconds remaining, but Tiger Mike Tarantino cleared the puck into the open net with four seconds left to seal the 4-2 victory.
The first period resembled two prizefighters duking it out. As quickly as one team threw a big punch to gain an advantage, the other counterpunched.
The Valiants pinned RIT in its zone as the period began, and took an immediate lead. Scott Goheen swatted the puck past RIT goaltender George Eliopoulos from in close just :49 into the contest, and the Manhattanville bench erupted.
RIT swung back with a goal of its own to tie the contest 1-1. Just after a Tiger penalty expired, RIT broke into the Valiant zone 3-on-2. Mike Tarantino carried the puck across the blue line and dished off to Brian Payant skating down the right wing. Payant settled the puck and wristed it over Chrapala’s glove for the goal at 5:33.
The Tigers kept up the pressure, but the Valiant defense held firm and Chrapala denied an RIT flurry right in front of him midway through the period. Following that flurry, the Valiants retook the lead of the game 2-1. Goheen carried the puck into the Tiger zone, towards the bottom of the right faceoff circle. He looked left and spotted Brad Olson at the far corner of the RIT net. Goheen passed the puck over to Olson, who tapped in the easy goal at the 12:07 mark.
Penalty trouble for Manhattanville allowed RIT to retie the game 2-2. After a whistle, Manhattanville already had one player headed to the box when Tyler Resch dumped a Tiger skater to the ice. Referee Jeff Fulton signaled an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for Resch, and RIT found itself the beneficiary of a 5-on-3 power play.
It didn’t take long for RIT to convert. From deep in its own zone, RIT skated up ice and Ryan Fairbarn finished the rush with a goal at 15:56.
“In the end, RIT deserved to win the game,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal. “We took an extraordinarily selfish penalty to give up a goal.”
Manhattanville had a great chance on a 2-on-1 rush as the seconds of the first period wound down, but Eliopoulos made the save and the period ended tied 2-2.
For the second period in a row, Manhattanville opened by putting all kinds of pressure on the Tiger net. It paid dividends early on, but in the second stanza the RIT defense held firm.
“We wanted to pressure when we could pressure,” said Levinthal. “And then we wanted to set up the 1-2-2 forecheck.”
After three minutes of a Valiant advantage, RIT evened play and the two teams battled from there. The Tigers got a flurry of shots around the eight-minute mark, but Chrapala scrambled for the saves to keep the game tied.
Play opened up mid-period, as the teams skated end to end, but couldn’t keep that pace for long, and it slowed around the 13:00 mark as the teams paused for a breath of air.
Manhattanville once again established a territorial advantage as the period wound down, getting traffic in front of Eliopoulos for several shots. But Eliopoulos and the RIT defense blocked the shots and cleared the rebounds.
The second period ended just as the first, with a 2-2 score on the board.