COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Playing a tight defensive game, the RIT Tigers rallied with a late goal in the third period, then scored the game-winner at 4:22 of overtime to beat the No. 10 Air Force Falcons 3-2 before 2,046 at Cadet Ice Arena.
Andrew Favot got the game-winner for the Tigers off a transition rush that started in the Tigers’ zone. Favot, Matt Crowell and Jesse Newman raced up the ice three-on-two, with Favot on the right side. Crowell threaded a pass cross-ice to Favot near the blue line and Favot raced in. At the hashmarks, Favot held it, getting Falcons’ defenseman Kevin Wright to commit to a sliding attempt at knocking the puck away. Favot stepped to his left into the slot and ripped a perfect wrist shot top-shelf right corner past Falcons’ netminder Andrew Volkening.
“It was a lucky play,” said Favot. “We broke out of our zone. Crowell made a nice move at center ice to dish me the puck and it turned out to be a two-on-one. I kind of had my head down, hoping and praying that he slid past me, and I just put a shot on net and it went in. I like that shot, short-side glove, but to be honest I had my head down and just hoped it went in.”
RIT out to the lead early with a power-play goal. Justin Hofstetter picked up the puck behind his own net and raced up along the right side boards. As he reaches the lower part of the right circle in the offensive zone, he fired a wrist shot that beat Volkening five-hole.
The Falcons hit the first of several posts late in the first period when Matt Fairchild rang one off the crossbar while on a power play. Later in the period, Wright also hit a post from down low.
“Both teams played great games, hard-nosed, a lot of skill, a lot of great plays at both ends,” said Demichiel. “It was just fun to watch and fun to be involved with. Every time we play Air Force, you know it’s going to be a battle out there, and tonight was no different.”
Early in the second period, Jeff Hajner made it a third post for the Falcons when he rang one off the near post from the right circle while on a power play.
When they weren’t hitting the post, the Falcons were making Demichiel look good. Brent Olson got a partial breakaway while short-handed, racing up the left-side boards, but lifted his backhand right into Demichiel’s mid-section.
It appeared that the Tigers would take the lead into the third period, but a late penalty on Hofstetter gave the Falcons a chance, and they capitalized. Olson took a draw in the right circle and won it back to Scott Mathis at the right point. Mathis took two strides the middle of the ice and fired a wrist show, and Jacques Lamoureux, stationed right outside the crease, deflected it over Menard’s left pad at 19:18.
Carrying momentum from the late goal into the period, the Falcons seized the lead at just 22 seconds of the third. A bouncing puck went up the slot and Hofstetter raced Wright for it. Wright slapped at the puck and it appeared to deflect off Hofstetter’s stick to the left side, where Hajner deflected it out of the air and into the open net.
RIT appeared deflated by the goal, and the Falcons started buzzing, trying to build on the lead and drawing several penalties. They had three and a half minutes of five-on-three power play time at the midway point of the period, but were unable to convert. Demichiel made several excellent stops to keep the game close.
“I just said ‘My team’s going to let me see the puck, I’m going to stop them, and we’re going to get a goal.’” said Demichiel. “I don’t mind power play shots. I’m here to stop the puck, and I’d rather be facing 50 shots than five shots. I could tell the boys were pretty excited on the bench with a few of the saves, and I could feel we were buzzing at the end, and we came through in the clutch.”
“If we’d have scored on the power play to make it three, it would have been over, but we let them hang around and when you let people hang around, sometimes it comes back to haunt you, and that’s what happened tonight,” said Falcons’ coach Frank Serratore. “I told our guys the only way that they were going to be able to get back and score goals was on the power play or if we gave them out-numbered situations. We didn’t manage the game very well. We had one of our power play lines take a long shift, which resulted in them getting a rush and tying the game with two minutes left.”
Despite the constant pressure, the Tigers kept pushing back, and managed to get the equalizer late. Dan Ringwald raced up the left side boards and fired a sharply-angled shot on Volkening from the bottom of the left circle. Volkening made the save with his left pad, but the puck rebounded to Brennan Sarazin in the slot, and he fired it into the wide open net at the 18:00 minute mark.
“It was just a guy driving to the net and picking up a rebound, and that gave us a big lift,” said Tigers’ coach Wayne Wilson. “The third period, it was really our penalty killing that won us the game. Our goaltender played great. We lined up real well, we had an idea what we thought they were going to do. We’re very happy to get out of here with two points.”
The overtime was very back and forth. With under two minutes left, Falcon Mike Phillipich had a golden opportunity to get the win when he got a pass at the left post with time to make two stick-handling moves, but Demichiel played the angle well and Phillipich’s shot went into the left corner.
“I don’t know if you know Don Cherry, but as he says, ‘Goalie makes a big save one end, go down and score the other end,’” said Favot. “Without him, this game could have been a blowout but he stood on his head and really helped us out.”
Despite the Falcons’ great start this season, Serratore was clearly disappointed after the game, and refused to say there was anything to be gained from the loss.
“The only thing you learn from losing is losing,” said Serratore. “Right now, this is a very gut-wrenching loss and I haven’t thought too much about the future. I wish I could blow them off that fast.”