ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RIT survived a back-and-forth contest against Mercyhurst, winning 5-3. Freshman Chris Haltigin led the way with his first two collegiate goals along with his sixth assist of the season. Jared DeMichiel, making his fourth consecutive start, made 31 saves for his third straight win.
“I think we’ve been playing very well down the stretch,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “To do well against Air Force and Mercyhurst, two teams picked to finish ahead of us, is a great accomplishment.”
RIT led 1-0, fell behind 2-1, tied it at two, fell behind again 3-2, and then scored three unanswered goals to settle it once and for all. RIT’s sweep over Mercyhurst gives the Tigers a four-point lead for second place, but they are still far behind (seven points) Air Force.
“I know they can score a lot of goals,” Wilson said. “I was hoping that a one-goal lead wasn’t going to go to two or three. They can play. They got some very good players on their team. I thought though on five-on-five we did a very good job of controlling play. Where they got back into it and got some shots were on the power play where they moved it around pretty well.”
RIT continued the momentum from Friday night, quickly getting on the scoreboard to take the early lead at 1:29. Haltigin from the left faceoff circle let go of a relatively soft wrist shot that fooled Matt Lundin.
At exactly the midway point of the period, Mercyhurst tied the game. Kirk Medernach, left unmarked at the doorstep, whiffed at a backhander. However, he did barely nick the puck, sending it over to Pitt, also left unmarked at the doorstep, who did get good wood on his forehand, beating DeMichiel.
At 17:03, Mercyhurst took their first lead of the weekend thanks to a giveaway in RIT’s zone. Mike Gurtler threw the puck at the net from the top of the right face off circle. Somehow, it fooled DeMichiel, beating him on the short side.
That first lead of the weekend didn’t last long, as RIT tied it 1:04 later. After the initial shot from Anton Kharin was stopped, Dan Ringwald’s rebound attempt also was stopped by Lundin. However, Taylor McReynolds was able to jam in the rebound.
Mercyhurst retook the lead on a power play at 3:51 of the second period. Just after one penalty expired on a five-on-three, a wide open Matt Pierce quickly one-timed a shot from the slot area, leaving DeMichiel with no chance as it went high stick side.
RIT re-tied the game later in the period at 12:19 when Kharin’s persistence paid off. First, he entered the zone and fired a shot off the post. Shortly afterwards he picked up a loose puck and raced into the zone down the right shot. This time, his short side shot stayed inside the post for the score.
RIT retook the lead at 13:48 on Haltigin’s second goal of the night. Thanks to their speed, a late developing two-on one resulted in the goal. Tyler Brenner on the left side passed it across to Haltigin, who was speeding down the right slot area. Haltigin easily one-timed it past Lundin, despite Lundin getting a piece of it.
“He’s been very good,” Wilson said of Haltigin. “He got rewarded today with two goals, but I’m not going to start evaluating him whether he is a good or bad defenseman on his points. He’s on our second power play; he looks very comfortable.”
The clinching goal came at 8:01 of the third period when Andrew Favot’s redirection appeared to have surprised Lundin.
DeMichiel was then called upon to stop Mercyhurst’s charges in their attempt to get back into the game.
“I really don’t want to say number one, number two and all that,” Wilson said of his two goaltenders. “But obviously he’s the hotter of the two goalies, so he is going to get the nod right now. He’s played tremendous in some very difficult games.”
RIT (8-9-1, 7-4-1) goes on their winter break, returning to action for a pair at Bentley on January 2-3.
“If you let your guard down against any team in our league you’re in trouble,” Wilson said. “Anyone can beat anyone, and you just have to concentrate on the present, and the present right now is enjoy. It makes the break that much more enjoyable when you win two.”
After a seven game unbeaten streak including six wins in a row, Mercyhurst (7-10-1, 5-4-1) now has to recover after losing two straight. They don’t get much time to do so as they play a home-and-home series against Canisius this coming weekend.