ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RIT and Plattsburgh played a seesaw affair tonight to renew their long standing rivalry. Neither team was able to take control of the game until Plattsburgh finally pulled away with an empty net goal by Dave Friel at the 18:44 mark of the third period.
However, like most of this season, the victory didn’t come easy for Plattsburgh. RIT pulled back to within just a single goal deficit just eleven seconds later. Darren Doherty scored off a faceoff deep in the Cardinals zone, as RIT was skating with an extra attacker after pulling their netminder.
The Tigers pulled the goaltender again in the last minute of play, but were unable to score again to tie the game. Plattsburgh held on for a wild 5-4 win.
“Like most game with Plattsburgh, it came down to doing the little things right, and some mental toughness,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “They did it, and we didn’t.”
Early in the first period, it was RIT taking the body and Plattsburgh taking the puck. The Cardinals were much better at moving the puck forward in to the attacking zone, while it seemed at times that RIT was content to throw the big checks.
Even with those strategies, it was RIT that struck first 4:18 in to the game. Plattsburgh turned over the puck as they were trying to break out of its own zone, and the puck squirted out to the high slot. Michael Tucciarone was there for the Tigers, unmarked, and rifled a one-time shot past Cardinals netminder Craig Neilson for the goal.
RIT’s goal was short-lived, however, as the Cardinals took advantage of a similar mistake in the Tigers’ zone just fifty seconds later. A sloppy Tiger clearing pass ended up on Plattsburgh’s Shane Remenda’s stick low in the slot. Remenda crashed the RIT net and poked the puck past RIT goaltender George Eliopoulos for the goal at 5:08.
That goal gave Plattsburgh even more momentum, and the Cardinals were buzzing the RIT net. They took their first lead of the night at 7:38, when T.J. Cooper one-timed the puck through traffic down the slot for Cardinals second goal of the night.
Two goals in the first eight minutes of the game had the RIT crowd wondering why people have been talking about Plattsburgh’s difficulty in scoring goals so far this season.
The fans at the game saw a little of Plattsburgh’s frustrations later in the first period. Sloppy Tiger defense gave the Cardinals several first rate scoring changes, but bad luck and some stellar goaltending by Eliopoulos kept Plattsburgh from widening its lead.
The Cardinals almost scored a shorthanded goal in the waning seconds of the period, as it appeared to trickle almost over the goal line. But Eliopoulos drew the puck back out, and the referee gave the washout sign. The period ended with Plattsburgh holding a 2-1 lead.
RIT changed its strategy during the intermission, and played the puck more in the second stanza. It paid off during the first half of the period, as the Tigers tallied a pair of power play goals to retake the lead.
The first goal was set up 1:48 in to the period as Ian Fazzi weaved the puck around a Plattsburgh defender near the blue line. Fazzi wristed the puck low towards the crease in front of the net, and Ricky Walton was there for RIT to deflected it past Neilson for the goal.
The Tigers scored on their third power play of the period as well to retake the lead 3-2. Tucciarone scored his second goal of the game at 9:42 with a quick wrist shot that found the top left corner of the net over Neilson’s blocker.
Unlike the first period, RIT’s one-goal lead last for a little over four minutes this time. Plattsburgh tied the game up 3-3 at 13:54 off an odd-man rush. Ryan Busby carried the puck behind the RIT net and then around the far side before he spotted linemate Paul Kelly on the far post. Busby hit Kelly with the pass and Kelly finished the play to score the goal.
The remainder of the period saw both teams with a handful of quality scoring opportunities, but the goaltenders answered the call each time.
Early in the third period, neither team was able to mount much offense as play got a little sloppy. By mid-period, Plattsburgh had gained a bit of an edge, and started to carry play and establish a presence in the Tigers zone.
Plattsburgh had another great chance with 3:29 remaining in the tied contest while skating shorthanded. The Cardinals had pinned RIT deep in its own zone, when Plattsburgh chipped the puck toward the goal. The puck squirted between Eliopoulos’ pads and settled just short of the goal line. As players from both sides scrambled towards loose puck, but Eliopoulos jumped on it first.
However, less than a minute later, the relentless Plattsburgh penalty killing paid dividends. Paul Kelly picked the pocket of RIT defenseman Ian Fazzi deep in the Tigers zone. Kelly skated laterally across the slot, got Eliopoulos to commit, and roofed the puck over the sprawled netminder to score a shorthanded goal at 17:28 for his second goal of the game.
After what had been a rather sedate third period, the last two minutes of play were a wild affair. RIT pulled goaltender Eliopoulos with 1:27 remaining, but Plattsburgh’s Dave Friel scored an empty net goal just eleven seconds later to build the only two goal lead of the game.
RIT narrowed the lead back to a single goal at the 18:55 mark with an extra attacker goal by Darren Doherty, but that was as close as the Tigers could make it. Plattsburgh was happy to skate off the ice with a 5-4 win.