BUFFALO, N.Y. — Canisius and RIT renewed their longstanding rivalry tonight after a seven year hiatus. RIT dominated the series when the two teams played in the Division III ECAC West conference, but tonight it was expected that the more experienced Canisius players would win easily. The upstart Tigers had other plans, however, jumping out to a 3-0 lead early in the first period.
“This was a good game for us,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “I told our guys that we have to play life or death every game. You can get down really quick, and you have to be ready to go every time.”
The third period was more evenly played and Canisius made a late charge, but RIT held on to a 5-3 victory.
The first period started at a blistering pace, with Canisius carrying play into the RIT zone for nearly the entire first minute. However it was the Tigers who garnered the first scoring chance when Jesse Newman and Darrell Draper skated towards the Golden Griffins net on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Newman wristed a shot towards the five-hole from in close, but Canisius goaltender Dan Giffin was there to close the door.
RIT drew first blood a few moments later and after that it was all RIT for most of the remainder of the period. Newman carried the puck into the Canisius zone and found linemate Simon Lambert streaking down the right slot unmarked. Lambert ripped off a quick shot that eluded Giffin for the first RIT goal at 4:16.
This gave the Tigers even more of a jump and they capitalized twice more over the next four minutes. Stephen Burns scored on a blast from the left point at 7:42, and then Matt Smith whacked in a power play goal during a scramble in front of the Canisius net at 8:45 to stake RIT to a 3-0 lead.
“I thought RIT played very well,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “RIT capitalized on their chances early and never looked back.”
Midway through the opening period, the pace of play settled down a couple of notches and Canisius tried to dig out of the momentum hole that they jumped into. One of the Golden Griffins best offensive opportunities of the period came at the 13:22 mark. RIT defenseman Marc Hyman bobbled a pass at the right point in the Canisius zone and Billy Irish-Baker tore past him for Canisius and was off to the races. Billy Irish-Baker whisked down the left wing and slapped a shot high towards the near post. But RIT netminder Jocelyn Guimond tapped it wide with his blocker to deny the opportunity, ending the period with RIT leading 3-0.
Canisius carried a power play over into the second period and used it to regain a little momentum. The Golden Griffins dominated the first five minutes territorially and finally tallied at 5:04. Chris Angelo chipped the puck off another stick and over Guimond’s shoulder for the goal to narrow the RIT lead to 3-1.
The Golden Griffins didn’t hold the momentum long as their frustrations continued to mount towards the middle of the period. Things finally boiled over for their head coach at 7:49 when David Kasch was hauled down skating towards the RIT net but no penalty was called. Smith yelled some words at referee Jeff Fulton who proceeded to tag him with a bench minor unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“I thought there was a progression of things there that were not on our side,” said Smith. “I made a stupid penalty that cost us a goal. Tonight wasn’t our night.”
This gave RIT a 5-on-3 power play for over a minute. Canisius was able to kill the front end off, but the Tigers scored on the resulting 5-on-4 power play to re-establish their three goal lead. Brennan Sarazin one-timed in a pass from Tristan Fairbarn at 10:33 for the goal.
The Tigers got into a little penalty trouble of their own mid period, giving Canisius 3:31 straight of power play, including twenty nine seconds spread across two different 5-on-3 opportunities. However, the RIT penalty killing unit performed flawlessly, frustrating the Canisius breakout and scoring a shorthanded goal of their own by Brent Patry at 12:08.
Canisius kept plugging away through the remainder of the second period, but were unable to chip into the 5-1 RIT lead and further.
The Golden Griffins got a grade-A scoring chance just 58 seconds into the third period when Michael Cohen blew past RIT defender Justin Hofstetter at the Canisius blue line. Cohen skated into the RIT zone alone, but Guimond stuffed two scoring chances from in close.
The two teams traded opportunities during the middle of the period, including over a span of almost five minutes of non-stop action, in what was perhaps the most evenly played portion of the entire game.
Just as a power play ended at 15:27, Canisius was able to score to narrow the margin slightly. Andrew Dawe redirected in a blast from Brandon Irish-Baker while standing in the low slot to make the score 5-2.
The Golden Griffins chipped in another goal at 17:01 when the puck trickled over the goal line following a scramble at the side of the Tigers net. Billy Irish-Baker was credited with the goal, and in just under two minutes the RIT lead was narrowed to 5-3.
“Our guys have pride and didn’t want to lose,” said Smith. “I think their intensity came through in the end and we just need to find a way to play it out for 60 minutes.”
Canisius poured on more pressure as the third period wound down, including pulling the goaltender with 1:09 remaining, but was unable to tie the game.