UTICA, N.Y. — In their previous meetings during the regular season, Manhattanville won two very close one-goal games against RIT, with the Tigers taking the Valiants to overtime in their last game. However, the game tonight between these two teams in the ECAC West Semifinals wasn’t nearly as close.
Manhattanville scored three unanswered goals during the second period to take control of the game and never looked back on its way to a 6-2 victory. With the win, the Valiants advance to the ECAC West Finals at 1:00pm on Sunday against either Utica.
“We are glad we won, actually, more relieved that we won,” said Manhattanville coach Keith Levinthal.
RIT coach Wayne Wilson benched several players, in a rolling fashion of four per period, during the game due to unspecified off-ice violations of team rules during the previous two weeks that the Tigers did not play games. He also did not dress three players that had been regular starters, the most notable of which was co-captain Jason Chafe.
“There is no good time or bad time during the year to make a mistake,” said Wilson. “You have to take responsibility, no matter what aspect of your life that you do that. My guys took responsibility, and I have to give them credit for that.”
Each team started slow in the first period, trying to feel out the opponent and see how the game would proceed. It was almost three minutes into the first before either team notched a shot on goal.
Manhattanville jumped on the scoreboard first, on its second shot on goal, at 3:16. Jason Kenyon, holding the puck low in the zone, spotted linemate Jason Murfitt in the Tigers slot. Murfitt swatted at the puck and popped it past RIT goaltender David Wrisley for the power-play goal to give the Valiants a 1-0 lead.
This started an offensive run by Manhattanville that lasted almost five minutes and saw the Valiants outshoot RIT 10-0 during that timeframe. Manhattanville tallied its second goal during this onslaught, when Justin Rohr flipped a backhander past Wrisley at 4:47.
“We have had balanced scoring all year,” said Levinthal. “If you look at our lineup all year, we have had different guys in all year, but we are deep.”
The Tigers started to show some emotion mid-period and began to finish checks and work in the corners for the puck. The effort paid off at 14:07 when Ricky Walton put together a stellar singular effort to score. Walton carried the puck coast-to-coast, from his own goal line all the way into the Valiants’ zone, weaving around Manhattanville players until finally no one stood between him and the goaltender. Walton finished the play and wristed the puck past Manhattanville netminder Jay Chrapala for the goal to narrow the margin to 2-1.
It appeared that that score would hold up at the first intermission until the closing seconds of the period when Tristan Fairbarn poked in a rebound to tie the game 2-2. The Tigers goal came with only ten seconds remaining in the period, and gave RIT quite a jump heading in to the locker room.
The Tigers momentum didn’t last long into the second period, as Manhattanville scored to retake the lead just fifty seconds after the opening faceoff. RIT missed an opportunity to clear its zone, and Jordan Menzies made the Tigers pay with the goal to restake Manhattanville to the lead.
With that swing in momentum, the remainder of the period was all Manhattanville as the Valiants outshot RIT 27-7.
The Valiants extended their lead less than three minutes later when Murfitt poked in a rebound to score his second power-play goal of the game at 3:32 and rebuild Manhattanville’s two goal lead to 4-2.
During the middle of the period, Manhattanville seemed content to just dump the puck down ice, taking several icing calls in succession. Nevertheless, the Valiants extended their lead to 5-2 at 11:46 when Murfitt found B.J. Greaves skating down the left side. Greaves caught the pass and wristed it past Wrisley for the goal at 11:46 for the goal.
That score seemed to take the wind out of the Tigers, and the pace of the game slowed dramatically.
For the third straight period, Manhattanville scored a goal in the opening moments of the final period. It was Ross Oldcorn who collected a failed breakout pass at the RIT blueline, and he skated towards the Tigers net all alone. Oldcorn waited until Wrisley committed, and then steered the puck around his pads for the shorthanded goal at 2:44 to give Manhattanville the 6-2 lead.
“In the third period, we just wanted to keep things simple, and make sure that they didn’t get any odd man rushes,” said Levinthal. “We just wanted to have a nice quiet third period.”
RIT couldn’t find the will or the way to overcome the four-goal deficit during the remainder of the third period. It seemed that Manhattanville was content to ride its lead, only rushing up ice when there was a clear advantage. RIT did manage to outshoot the Valiants for the first time during the game, 14-10, in the third period.