BUFFALO, N.Y. — The RIT Tigers scored two goals in the final five minutes of the third period and extended their winning streak to 11 games by defeating rival Canisius 4-3 Sunday night at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Though Canisius led for the majority of the game, RIT’s tying goal in the third period changed the momentum and gave the visitors a spark. The Tigers then converted on another opportunity with less than three minutes remaining to steal the game back and improve their record to 15-4-1 in Atlantic Hockey.
“It was an exciting, fast-paced, intense game from start to finish,” Canisius head coach Dave Smith said. “RIT got a power-play goal to get the game tied and then a harmless rush ends up the game winning goal. It could have gone either way but I thought it was a really great college hockey game.”
Canisius jumped out to an early lead at 5:27 of the first period, putting bodies in front of RIT goaltender Louis Menard. A John Patera shot from the top of the right circle deflected in front for the game’s opening goal. Josh Heidinger and Adam Brace received assists on Patera’s first goal of the year.
RIT bounced back at 13:14, capitalizing on the Griffins’ failure to clear the puck from the zone. Andrew Favot gained possession and dished it in front to Jesse Newman, who slipped it past Canisius goaltender Dan Morrison.
Canisius answered with 2:40 left to go in the first period. A Ryan Klusendorf pass from along the right boards found Pat Kenney at the far side of the net. Before Menard could shift over, Kenney tapped the puck into the open side of the net.
“Canisius really took the play to us in the first period,” RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said. “They carried things and did a very good job and got us on our heels.”
The Griffins earned a two-goal lead less than two minutes into the second period. Peter MacDougall skated into the Tigers’ zone, fighting to gain control of the puck and get around the defender. With just his right hand on the stick, his pass across found Derek Danowski, who dished the puck into the open side of the net for the 3-1 advantage.
But RIT climbed back with a power-play goal. The Griffins were whistled for three straight overlapping penalties, giving the Tigers a five-on-three advantage for 1:14. While still two men down, MacDougall was sent to the box for tripping, giving RIT a second five-on-three when the first expired. Alan Mazur ended the first two-man advantage early, blasting a shot from inside the right circle seconds after the face-off at 12:26.
After the goal, the Griffs still needed to kill 1:08 of five-on-three time. Both Dave Cianfrini and Patera were key during this sequence, blocking shots to help their goalie. Patera acted as goalie and stopped a point-blank shot with Morrison struggling to get back into position just after the first penalty expired.
Canisius had a chance to change the momentum back as Ryan Klusendorf sprang from the penalty box. He skated across the ice to the right wing as Canisius cleared the puck off the boards to the neutral zone. Klusendorf picked the puck up at the red line, and as the Tigers rushed to get back he sent a shot from the right circle but Menard squeezed his pads together and held on.
The Griffins would get their own power-play opportunities in the closing minutes of the second period. Adam Brace’s deflection of a Dave Cianfrini shot from the point went just wide of the net. In the last 10 seconds of the period, Josh Heidinger slipped past the defense into the RIT zone but was taken down as time expired, giving Canisius a 36-second five-on-three to begin the third period.
Menard made a key save with his team down a man when Dave Kostuch broke in behind the defense. The goalie covered the lower portion of the net and kept the puck from crossing the goal line.
Brennan Sarazin scored his 13th goal of the season at 14:52 of the third period for RIT’s second power-play goal of the night. Tyler Brenner sent a pass to Sarazin between the circles and he slipped the puck through the moving goalie’s legs to tie the game at three.
Just over two minutes later, a 3-on-2 rush for RIT resulted in the game winner. Sarazin passed the puck from the left wing across to Mike Janda, who tipped it into the open side of the net.
“It was a real test for us,” RIT senior defenseman Justin Hofstetter said. “We had a lot on the line, not only a winning streak but we’re battling for first place. These are points we need to add and we’ve played clutch all year.”
RIT ended the game 2-for-7 on the power play while Canisius did not convert any of its five chances with the man-advantage.
“On the surface you want to win or be even in the special teams and they got us two-nothing tonight,” Smith said, “so the special teams need to be better.”
Canisius (9-10-4 overall) returns to the Buffalo State Sports Arena Friday and Saturday night to host Sacred Heart at 7:05 p.m. RIT will host the U.S. Under-18 national team Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.