ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It was a tale of two games as the Air Force Falcons (5-3) battled with the RIT Tigers (3-4). During the first half of the game, the teams combined for a total of seven goals, but then in the second half the offenses were shutdown. RIT came out on top when the goal scoring was available and then withstood the Air Force counterattack to win 4-3.
“Our power play and penalty kill were probably the difference tonight,” said Tigers’ coach Wayne Wilson. “We were able to shut [Air Force] down when they really needed it.”
Unlike last night’s game, which was a goaltender duel, the first half of tonight’s contest was ruled by the offense.
RIT got the scoring started just 2:22 into the first period on a two-on-one. Tyler Mazzei carried the puck into the zone, found Mike Janda across the slot, and Janda finished the play, scoring to give RIT the early 1-0 lead.
“We’ve given up the first goal in every league game this season,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “Thats got to stop.”
The Tigers struck again just over a minute later on the power play when Dan Ringwald’s shot from the top of the slot deflected off an Air Force defender and into the net at 3:44.
“After losing last night, RIT came out with a huge sense of urgency and we couldn’t handle them,” said Serratore. “They did a lot of damage.”
Play settled down somewhat until RIT scored again at 12:12 to take a 3-0 lead. Matt Smith tallied the goal with a wrist shot from the right faceoff dot.
That was the end of the night for starting goaltender Andrew Volkening, as Serratore pulled Volkening in favor of Ian Harper.
The netminder swap worked, spurring the Falcons to get on the scoreboard. Eric Ehn sprung into the RIT zone, passing to linemate Josh Frider, and Frider whipped the puck towards the net, deflecting it off the lone RIT defender and past Tigers’ goaltender Louis Menard.
“When the game settled in, we were able to handle RIT a little better,” said Serratore. “They came out with a tremendous amount of energy and tried to break us, but there is no quit in service academy kids.”
Just over a minute later, RIT struck back on the power play, again on a wrist shot from Matt Smith over the Harpers left shoulder, to restake the Tigers to a 4-1 lead.
Serratore took his timeout after RIT’s fourth goal, trying again to settle his troops, and it worked for the second time. The Falcons converted on a five-on-three power play late in the period to finish the offensively-oriented first period with RIT up 4-2.
The goal came off the stick of Ehn, who finished off a nice cycling power play by banking the puck off goaltender Menard’s skate and into the back of the net at 18:42.
Air Force carried the offensive onslaught into the second period, further chipping away at the RIT lead. While skating four-on-four, Ehn won a faceoff deep in the Tiger zone and fed it back to Michael Mayra, who walked around an RIT defender and beat Menard low glove side at 4:32 to narrow the score to 4-3.
After that, the defenders and goalies for both teams finally asserted themselves and the offenses started to take a back seat for the remainder of the period.
“Louis Menard had a very good game,” said Wilson. “He was probably a little disappointed in himself giving up three goals.”
The tale of two games continued in the third period, as both goaltenders came up with big saves to shutdown the offenses.
Air Force pulled its goaltender for the last 1:54 of the contest, but RIT withstood the flurry of pressure and held on for the victory.