ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The RIT Tigers opened their first season as a Division I team by defeating Waterloo in exhibition play, 5-4, thanks to four power play goals. Like a typical game against a Canadian college team, the penalty-box door hinges got a workout. Each team was called for 14 penalties, including a major and game misconduct against RIT, resulting in 23 total
“Every year brings some challenges,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “I’m very, very excited about playing this year.”
He wasn’t that excited in the first minute of the game as Waterloo got on the scoreboard first at the 1:06 mark. RIT goaltender Jocelyn Guimond, who made his RIT debut after having to sit out a year due to prior junior hockey play, stopped a succession of shots before Kevin Hurley finally put it by him from just outside the crease.
Waterloo already played two games coming into this contest, so its team was ready to go. The Tigers, on the other hand, needed about five minutes to knock the rust off, but when they did, they started to apply pressure on the Warriors’ net. On their first power play, RIT did everything right except score. That would foreshadow what was to come later in the game.
First, however, RIT used an even strength goal to tie it up at 10:41. Marc Hyman’s shot from the right point was stopped by Curtis Darling, but Darrell Draper, unmarked on the side of the net, pounced on the rebound and easily put it in.
After a few more power plays, RIT finally converted on one to take a 2-1 lead late in the period. Jesse Newman from behind the net made a quick pass to Matt Smith standing right in front of the goal. Smith had no problem beating Darling.
RIT dressed six freshmen as Wilson recruited players with Division I talent. Two of those who made their presence known in their first game were Newman and Brennan Sarazin. They each registered four assists.
Two defensemen ended up seeing a lot of ice time as the Tigers lost two blueliners during the course of the game. Hyman suffered a minor injury late in the first, and he sat for precautionary purposes since it was an exhibition game. Stephen Burns was lost early in the third period when he was handed a five-minute major and game misconduct for
hitting from behind. This meant that freshmen Justin Hofstetter and Bobby Raymond saw a lot of ice time.
“Very happy with our freshmen getting them acquainted with college hockey,” Wilson said. “I think they adapted very well.”
The offense also helped out as it scored three more power-play goals to take a 5-1 lead. The first came midway through the second period. Simon Lambert in the faceoff circle received a pass from the corner by Newman. Lambert ripped a shot that powered its way through the five-hole.
In the final minute of the middle stanza, RIT took a 4-1 lead on Smith’s second goal. RIT got off two shots that Darling saved, but the third one by Smith inside the near post finally found the back of the net.
RIT appeared to have the game easily locked up when they scored with a two-man advantage for a four-goal lead. At 7:46 of the third period, Brent Patry from the slot area wristed a shot that beat Darling high on the glove side.
Despite all this success on the power play (4-for-13) Wilson wasn’t overly excited. “We’re very conservative at this point,” he said of his special teams. “Looks successful from a statistical standpoint, but it wasn’t really smooth.”
What turned out to be even less smooth was RIT inability to seal the victory with ease. Reminiscent of last year’s Elmira nightmare, Waterloo scored three times in the last eight minutes, twice in the final 22 seconds. All these goals came against George Eliopoulos who replaced Guimond halfway through the game and who was also in net
against Elmira that fateful night.
The first Waterloo goal came while shorthanded. Eliopoulos let out a lazy rebound, and the trailer, Hurley, who nobody picked up, put it in. The Warriors made it 5-3 on a two-man advantage with 22 seconds left. Shene Hart caught the rebound with his glove on the side of the net, placed the puck on the ice, and poked it in.
Ten seconds later, Hart cut the lead to one on another power play goal, unassisted. Luckily for the Tigers, they were able to keep the puck out of their own zone for the final 12 seconds.
“Disappointed at the end with our discipline,” Wilson said. “You can’t take one foolish penalty against a quality team, never mind four or five.”
RIT outshot Waterloo 56-38. The most impressive number was the attendance as the Ritter Arena was full with standing room only this for an exhibition game that wasn’t advertised very heavily.
“Really excited,” Wilson said of the crowd, which was obviously excited to see the team in its Division I debut. “I think we are capable of having crowds like this all season. Great to see it.”
They will have to wait a couple of weeks for another strong home crowd as first RIT travels to Quinnipiac on October 14 for a tournament where they play the host the first night. Bentley and Air Force are the other two teams in the tourney.