ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It has been a long draught for the RIT Tigers (4-5) in overtime games at home. The last time the Tigers won an overtime game on its home ice of Ritter Arena was March 7th, 1997 when they defeated the Canisius Golden Griffins 3-2 in the Division III ECAC West tournament.
RIT got over the hump tonight when Simon Lambert swatted in a rebound 3:11 in to the extra stanza to defeat the Mercyhurst Lakers (2-9-1) by a score of 3-2. Mercyhurst had fought back from a two goal deficit midway through the game to send it to overtime.
“I am disappointed,” said Mercyhurst coach Rick Gotkin. “I thought we had some really good chances there after we tied it and RIT was really back on their heels big time. I don’t think we played all that well until the third period.”
Play ran up and down the ice all game long. The teams combined for 92 total shots on goal, with RIT holding a 53-39 advantage.
The first period was evenly played as the teams jockeyed for an advantage, and both goaltenders made solid saves. RIT almost scored mid-period when Brent Patry tucked the puck just inside the upper right corner of the net while RIT was on a power play, but the referee immediately waved off the goal because the net was dislodged from its moorings.
It appeared that the teams would skate to the locker rooms for the first intermission scoreless, but with eighteen seconds left the Tigers scored on a great singular effort by defenseman Bobby Raymond. Just as an RIT penalty expired, Raymond broke out of the Tigers zone with the puck, carried it the length of the ice, dipsy-dooed Mercyhurst goaltender Matt Lundin and jammed it in.
The teams started the second period four-on-four, and RIT converted again to take a 2-0 lead. Matt Crowell took a quick wrist shot from the middle slot that eluded Lundin’s glove and found the net just :36 seconds in.
“It was persevering,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “The way things were going, we needed to be rewarded.”
Mercyhurst narrowed the margin at the 7:39 mark, taking advantage of a series of poor defensive decisions by the Tigers. Kerry Bowman began the play at center ice, carrying the puck around a pinching RIT defender and getting off two shots that were both saved by RIT goaltender Louis Menard, but Mike Gurtler collected Bowman’s second rebound and swatted it home to cut RITs lead to 2-1.
The second period was a shooting gallery at times, as both teams ripped off shot after shot from just about every angle. The Tigers outshot Mercyhurst 25-13, setting a new school record for shots in a period since turning Division I two seasons ago.
“Our second period, we threw everything at them,” said Wilson. “We were a bit torn how aggressive we wanted to be in the third period. We got a lot of shots, but not a lot of scoring opportunities.”
Mercyhurst carried play during most of the third period, pressuring the RIT defense, but the Tigers deflected each Laker opportunity.
However, with just over three minutes remaining, Mercyhurst’s Scott Pitt put a wrist shot from in close on net that Menard covered, but the Lakers crashed the net hard and Bobby Phillips poked the puck through Menard’s legs to tie the game 2-2 at 16:55.
An RIT icing with 1.5 seconds remaining in the third period put the faceoff deep in the Tigers zone, and Gotkin pulled Lundin for the extra attacker and took a timeout to make a plan. The Lakers won the ensuing faceoff and Matt Fennell got off a quick shot, but it was blocked by an RIT defender to send the game to overtime.