ROCHESTER, N.Y. — If RIT commits a penalty, the opposition may be better served to decline it. The Tigers scored two shorthanded goals against Mercyhurst and now lead the nation in man-down scores with seven. They came into the game tied with Northeastern and Niagara at five in that category. This helped lead RIT to a 6-2 victory over Mercyhurst.
“I thought it was a good effort tonight against a potent offensive team,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “They can score against the best of them.”
The first shorthanded goal broke the ice at 13:53 of the first period. RIT’s forechecking forced the puck to remain in the Mercyhurst zone after a clear. Justin Hofstetter threw a bouncing puck towards the net where Brent Alexin swooped in at full speed, picking up the puck alone in front. Ryan Zapolski slid across the crease to stop it, but he was too late as Alexin shot it under him.
After Mercyhurst nearly scored 14 seconds into the game, RIT took control of the first period, at times buzzing around the Lakers’ net. However, the Tigers only had the one shorthanded tally to show for it.
The Tigers next shorthanded goal made the score 4-0 at 13:49 of the second period. Jesse Newman stole the puck as Mercyhurst attempted to break out of their zone. Newman brought it in and from the left slot area, placed a perfect shot into the nearside upper corner.
“Our penalty kill has been scoring goals, but we’re giving up a lot,” Wilson said. “We’re very aggressive, and that leads to opportunities.”
RIT scored twice within 46 seconds early in the second period to break the game open, taking a 3-0 lead.
The first goal began when Anton Kharin raced down the left side, sending a shot towards Zapolski. Zapolski made the save, but left a fat rebound in front of the net. Taylor McReynolds raced down the middle, and despite have a defender draped on him, still managed to poke the puck into the net at 4:05.
Before the home crowd could settle down, RIT made it 3-0 at 4:51. Tyler Brenner stole the puck from a Mercyhurst defender in the slot area, and easily walked in, putting it behind Zapolski.
Mercyhurst finally got on the scoreboard before the second period was up. Mike Gurtler shoved one in from close range at 14:39. Then, Mercyhurst finally did what a team is supposed to do on the power play — score, instead of being scored upon. Paul Ginand fired a shot in after a set up pass from Brandon Coccimiglio, cutting the lead to 4-2 after two.
RIT stymied the comeback with their own power play score at 4:23 of the third period. Hofstetter’s shot from the left point changed direction thanks to grazing a defender’s skate, fooling Zapolski.
Mercyhurst’s last opportunity to get back into the game came midway through the final period when they had about a minute-and-a-half of a two-man advantage. However, RIT’s penalty kill did such a good job out hustling the Lakers, Mercyhurst never got a shot on goal.
“The five-on-three was critical,” Wilson said. “I was contemplating taking a time out to settle them down.”
RIT finished the scoring with a late tally at 18:38. A two-on-one developed deep in Mercyhurst’s zone, and Newman easily beat Zapolski for his second of the night.
Jared DeMichiel got the win with 37 saves.
“He hasn’t had a lot of playing time,” Wilson said. “But now’s he working hard and deserving of his playing time. He was solid. The two goals weren’t his fault. The second one was on a backdoor shot and the first was a scramble in front.”
Mercyhurst went one for seven on the power play. Meanwhile, RIT went two for seven … while shorthanded.
RIT and Mercyhurst came into this game as part of a five-way tie for second place. Thanks to this being the only league contest of the night, RIT (7-9-1, 6-4-1), who only won their second Friday game this season, is now in sole possession of second place while Mercyhurst (7-9-1, 5-3-1), who saw their six-game winning streak end, is now two points back.
These two teams play each other again tomorrow night at 7:00.
“Still, we have to do a better job tomorrow,” Wilson said.