ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the second straight night, it took overtime to decide the Atlantic Hockey Association Quarterfinal game between the RIT Tigers (19-11-6) and the Holy Cross Crusaders (10-19-7). Matt Smith scored a hat trick, including the game winner 4:17 into overtime, for the second game in a row to give RIT the 5-4 victory and send the Tigers to the Atlantic Hockey Final Five next weekend.
Ricky Walton started the play for the Tigers that eventually turned into the game winning goal. Walton collected a bouncing puck behind the Holy Cross net and sent the puck around boards to Brent Patry at the right point. Patry took a slap shot that Smith deflected into the net for the game-winning goal.
“We were fighting for territory and for ice all night,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “Both games were entertaining for the fans. There was a lot of emotion in the games. Our league showed that there is good hockey here.”
Smith now has the only two hat tricks since RIT moved to Division I two seasons ago, scoring one last night and the other tonight.
“He’s been scoring goals all year,” said Wilson. “That’s what he does best. He’s the guy willing to take on the responsibility to be the hero or the goat.”
RIT took advantage of its first power play of the game, and only power play of either team in the first period, to take the lead. Just like last night, Matt Smith opened the scoring for the Tigers at 3:12. Sean Murphy held the puck in the slot, passing it down low to Simon Lambert, who spotted Smith at the far crease and got him the puck to give RIT the 1-0 lead.
Despite being on the short end territorially for the first half of the period, Holy Cross took advantage of a poor RIT play at the Tigers’ blue line to tie the game 1-1. Dale Reinhardt controlled a turnover and broke into the RIT zone two-on-one. Reinhardt got off a wrist shot just as he was tackled by a Tigers’ defender which eluded RIT goaltender Louis Menard at 8:19.
Holy Cross evened out play as the period went on, and almost took the lead about twelve minutes in when RIT got caught on a long line change, but it was the Tigers who retook the lead at 15:43 when Matt Crowell swatted in a rebound off a shot from Andrew Favot.
The Tigers extended their lead to 3-1 early in the second period when Matt Smith scored his second power play goal of the game. Smith’s goal at 1:07 was almost a carbon copy of his goal in the first period, with Lambert and Murphy assisting again.
With a two-goal lead, RIT seemed to go on auto-pilot and Holy Cross took full advantage, scoring three straight goals in a seven minute span to take a 4-3 lead.
Cal St. Denis got the Crusaders going at 5:16 when he carried the puck into the zone down the right boards, cut laterally across the slot, and found an open lane to beat Menard blocker side.
Rob Forschner kept the roll going for Holy Cross just thirty eight seconds later, taking a pass from Matt Werry and putting it in the net from a tight angle at 5:54.
Forschner put the Crusaders ahead for the first time in the game at 12:34, swatting in a rebound, and just like that Holy Cross was in control of the scoreboard and the game. The Crusaders kept RIT away from the Holy Cross net the entire middle part of the period, keeping RIT without a shot on goal from the five minute to thirteen minute mark of the second period.
“You have to be able to handle the highs and lows in single elimination playoff hockey,” said Wilson. “I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”
The Tigers fourth line tied the game 8:32 into the third period off a faceoff deep in the Crusaders zone, just to the right of Holy Cross goaltender Adam Roy. Anton Kharin won the faceoff into the corner, where Darrell Draper dug the puck out and passed to Jesse Newman, who one-timed the puck into the goal.
The teams played a frantic pace for the remainder of the third period, but neither team was able to get the puck past the goaltenders and the game headed to overtime for the second straight game.