GENEVA, N.Y. — An endless stream of penalties was the theme as Hobart and RIT skated to a 2-2 tie in a key ECAC West contest Friday.
Less than a third of the game was skated with both teams at full strength. But don’t let that statistic fool you. It was an entertaining game with momentum flowing back and forth between each team.
“It was playoff hockey,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “It was two teams battling right down to the end. It was a very emotional, up and down game tonight.”
“It was great entertainment with a full building of fans,” echoed Hobart coach Mark Taylor. “I thought it was one of the most passionate games that we have played this season. I wish there were fewer penalties, but we probably had something to do with that as well.”
Both teams played the first four minutes of the opening period at full strength, and Hobart dominated. Unfortunately for the Statesmen, it was the last time during the period that the two teams were skating 5-on-5, as the officials escorted a parade of players to the penalty box.
“We were very tentative in the first period,” said Wilson. “We were a little disorganized on our power play.”
The first two penalties were assessed to RIT, the second as a result of a defenseman clearing a pesky Hobart player out of the crease with a crosscheck. Hobart took advantage, scoring just nine seconds into the resulting 5-on-3 power play. Edward Poirier setup behind the RIT net unchallenged, with the puck, a la the great Wayne Gretzky. Given time, he found Will Bodine alone near the inside hash mark of the left faceoff circle, and Bodine wristed the puck past Eliopoulos for the goal.
The next two penalties were assessed to Hobart, with the second from a poor line change putting too many men on the ice. This gave RIT its opportunity to tie the game, and the Tigers did. Michael Tucciarone chipped the puck over Papaevagelou’s shoulder and into the back of the net at the 7:45 mark.
Each team had several chances during the remainder of the period, some on the power play and some shorthanded, but both goaltenders withstood the barrage of shots to keep the game knotted at 1-1.
Even though there were two major penalties called in the second period, Hobart and RIT managed to increase the time spent at even strength by almost 50 percent. But the longest stretch of that was a mere 2:37 mid-period.
Three straight Statesmen penalties early in the period, including a major hitting from behind on Greg Gallagher, set Hobart on its heels. RIT converted on the two-man advantage at 6:16 off a faceoff deep in the Hobart zone. For the third straight time during the game, a goal was scored during a 5-on-3
Matt Smith won the faceoff for RIT, but the puck got caught up in a forest of skates. Linemate Jason Chafe dug it out and pushed it across to Michael Tucciarone alone in the slot. Tucciarone took his time and flipped it over Papaevagelou’s shoulder to score his second goal of the game, and give RIT a slim 2-1 lead.
Papaevagelou was called on to make several big saves during the remainder of the RIT power play to keep Hobart in the game, and he made at least two unbelievable saves.
Hobart had a chance to tie the game later in the second when RIT’s Tony Bifulco earned a major penalty of his own. However, even though the Statesmen were able to set up in the Tigers zone and apply pressure, they couldn’t get the puck past Eliopoulos.
The third period was a mirror of the first, with four minutes of full-strength play followed by a continuation of the parade to the penalty box throughout the remainder of the period. However, during the stretch of even play, RIT was stronger.
Hobart kept plugging along. The players have an added confidence playing at home, particularly when they are trailing late in a game. You can almost feel their confidence in their ability to come back. And once again, they did.
Hobart’s Edward Poirier put a blast from the top of the slot on net, and it deflected over Eliopoulos’ shoulder for the goal at 16:36. The RIT players complained about a Statesman camped in the crease, but to no avail, and the game was tied 2-2.
“Our guys never quit,” said Taylor. “We have been doing well with our backs to the wall. We are kind of used to that. I saw a lot of teamship out there tonight.”
Both teams created great scoring chances in the overtime period, but the goalies were equal to the tasks and maintained the tie as the final buzzer sounded.