ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Special teams ruled the first period of Saturday’s ECAC West league contest between RIT and Elmira. The first seven goals of the contest were all scored by special team units. RIT scored a power play goal just fifty-one seconds in to the game and it was off to the races. By the time the first even strength goal was scored early in the third period, RIT was on the positive end of a 5-3 score.
And special teams came back in to play in the last two minutes of the game. After a scrum, RIT ended up with a four minute power play with two minutes remaining in the game. But instead of being able to ice the game, the Tigers goaltender fell apart and Elmira scored two shorthanded goals in the last minute and a half of the game to tie the score 6-6.
After killing off the remainder of the penalty in overtime, Elmira was able to gain a faceoff deep in RIT’s zone. Off the faceoff, Jarret Konkle dug the puck out of the corner and spotted linemate Jason Cassells in front of the net. Cassells was unmarked and wristed the puck through RIT netminder George Eliopoulos’ five-home for the game winning goal 2:41 in to overtime.
“We knew that we had to win,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “The guys played with a good sense of urgency in the last four minutes of the game. I wish we played all sixty minutes like that. They worked very hard. We haven’t quite all year long.”
With that goal, Elmira overcame a 6-4 deficit in the final two minutes of the third period to win the game 7-6 in overtime.
“That is the craziest game I have ever been a part of,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We were very loosey-goosey and thought we had it made. They played the full 65 minutes and we only played 58.”
Elmira came out with strong pressure in the third period, trying to tie the game. But two defensive mistakes allowed RIT to extend its lead.
The first one came at 8:36 when the Tigers led a broken rush up ice. Elmira tried to wrist the puck out of its own zone, but the player fell while making the play. RIT took control of the puck and ended up with a 2-on-1 advantage in front of the Soaring Eagles net. Michael Tucciarone finished the play by scoring at 8:36 to extend RIT’s lead to 5-3. Amazingly enough, this was the first full strength goal by either team all night long.
Another defensive mistake by Elmira gave RIT a 6-3 lead. Bryan Payant took advantage of a turnover in front of the Elmira net to score at the 13:11 mark.
Elmira tallied late in the third period in one last desperate attempt to tie the game. Andrew Morris sent a knuckleball from the point towards the net that handcuffed Eliopoulos and went in to the back of the net.
Emotions in this last regular season meeting between these two rivals finally boiled over with two minutes remaining in the contest. A scrum along the boards erupted in a mixture of grabbing, pushing, and wrestling. Unbelievably, RIT ended up with a power play out of the scrum, but in an odd fashion.
“The referee gave Elmira the option of being down one man for four minutes or two men for two minutes,” said RIT Wilson. “I’ve never heard of that option before, in all my years of hockey.”
“I’ve never heard of that option either before tonight,” said Ceglarski. “But if the referee made a mistake, then it just adds to the lore of the RIT Elmira rivalry. If not, I’m glad that I made the choice I made.”
But Elmira scored quickly scored a shorthanded goal to pull within a single goal deficit. Ashton McLean scored a shorthanded goal on a shot from the blue line at 18:44.
And then MacDonald scored another shorthanded goal on a rush in to the zone at 19:14 to tie the game 6-6.
Special teams ruled the first six minutes of the opening period. RIT scored a power play goal just :51 seconds in to the contest when Matt Smith chipped in a rebound that had squirted to the far post of the Elmira net.
Elmira killed off a second RIT power play that started less than a minute later. But the Soaring Eagles first power play turned out to be an advantage for RIT instead of Elmira. The Tigers broke out of their zone with a 2-on-1 breakaway and Rob Tarantino finished the rush with a backhanded shorthanded goal at 5:19.
However, Elmira did get on the scoreboard on its next power play opportunity. Jarrett Konkle wound a slapshot from the top of the left faceoff circle through a crowd of bodies and over Eliopoulos’ blocker. The Elmira power play goal at 6:03 cut the RIT lead to 2-1.
The RIT power play rolled again late in the first period to build on the Tigers lead. Elmira’s Chris Mann pushed the Soaring Eagles net off the moorings during a big scramble in front of goaltender Fargo. The referee tagged Mann with a Delay of Game penalty, and RIT converted with a goal just fifteen seconds in to the 5-on-3 power play advantage. Matt Smith scored his second goal of the period after one timing a cross slot pass from Michael Tucciarone at 14:39.
“We got off to a slow start, and made some miscues, and RIT is too good of a hockey team to do that against,” said Ceglarski.
Less than a minute later, RIT scored again while skating 4-on-4 to take a 4-1 lead. Brad Harris tallied this score at 15:27 after Elmira gave up a bad giveaway deep in its own zone.
But the Soaring Eagles weren’t about to throw in the towel yet. The Soaring Eagles were battling behind the RIT net, when Craig MacDonald gained control of the puck and was allowed to skate out in front of the net. Just as an RIT defender got to him, MacDonald slid a backhander past Eliopoulos for the goal at 17:55.
With that goal, the wild first period ended with RIT enjoying a 4-2 lead.
The second period saw a steady stream of penalties continually break up the flow of the game. But unlike the first period, when six special team goals were scored, only a single goal was tallied in the second period. Of course, to stay with the theme of the night, the score came on the power play.
Konkle tallied his second goal of the game at 18:39, with a blistering slapshot from the top of the slot that found the upper right corner of the net. This cut Elmira’s deficit to only 4-3 as the second period wound down.