STORRS, Conn. — RIT entered Friday night’s game at Connecticut with a 12-game unbeaten streak in Atlantic Hockey play while also boasting the leagues top defensive team, allowing just 2.24 goals per game, a stingy number by almost any means.
But for Connecticut’s struggling attack, two goals a game could qualify as an offensive outburst, as the lowly Husky offense has mustered just seven goals in its past nine games entering its first home conference game of the new year.
Those numbers stayed true to form as an early shorthanded goal and an ineffective UConn offense helped RIT push its conference winning streak to 13 games with a 4-0 win over the Huskies at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
“We came out a little sloppy, I didn’t think we were very sharp,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson, who notched his 200th career win in the midst of his eleventh season at RIT. “Our penalty killing was very strong and Jared DeMichiel was strong in net.”
Tigers forward Sean Murphy was called for hooking 1:42 into the opening period, setting off a disastrous series for the Husky power-play unit. Just seconds into the shorthanded situation, Mark Cornacchia stole the puck from Justin Hernandez near center ice and coasted up the right wing before beating UConn’s Garrett Bartus at the left post for a 1-0 lead at 1:53.
“[UConn] is a team that hasn’t won a lot and is much better than their record shows, but I just think they are a little fragile right now,” Wilson said. “They get a power play and we score a shorthanded goal and I think it was maybe a bit of a psychological plus for our team.”
The Tigers were called for another penalty 16 seconds later, giving the Huskies an extended 5-on-3 power play. But Connecticut couldn’t capitalize, spending much of the 1:33 with a two man advantage trying to keep the puck in RIT’s half of the ice.
“I thought the timing of our goals were important not only scoring that shorthanded goal but stopping that 5-on-3 earlier in the game too,” Wilson said. “So we didn’t let them get any momentum. I thought they played very well and I thought it was a very even game. We capitalized on some of our chances and they didn’t.”
UConn appeared to tie the game in the latter half of the first. Marcello Ranallo swung behind the back of the net before dumping the puck off to Daniel Naurato, who blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle that briefly set off the goal light. But play continued, as UConn head coach Bruce Marshall declined to ask for a review.
“You’ll know when it goes in,” Marshall said. “I don’t think that really had anything to do with it. We still need to put it in the back of the cage and we really haven’t been doing a lot of that this year.”
The Tigers had a near miss halfway through a power play at 12:27 in the second. Dan Ringwald, who entered the night with 15 points in 10 career games against UConn, blasted a shot from the right faceoff circle that a diving Bartus was able to turn away.
The Tigers took advantage of another Husky special teams breakdown in the second period. Midway through a penalty kill, Connecticut forward Michael Coppola skated down the ice as part of a 2-on-1 advantage.
But instead of passing the puck, he drilled a shot that went wide and enabled RIT to collect the puck and drive towards a UConn zone down two skaters on the penalty kill. The Tigers turned what seconds ago seemed to be a breakdown on the power play into a 2-0 lead as Stevan Matic drilled in his first conference goal and fourth overall of the season at 8:13.
“One of the things we talked about as a team, we need to stay out of the box,” Marshall said. “We obviously didn’t do that and it wore us down. Even after being down 1-0 we were still battling and generating shots but we didn’t score on our opportunities and that killed us.”
Tyler Mazzei made in 3-0 with a power play goal at 1:55 in the third. A crowd of skaters converged around the UConn net and Bartuswas left vulnerable after sprawling to his left to save a shot and wound up laying on his back for several seconds, leaving the right post wide open.
RIT capped off the scoring when Brent Alexin added an empty netter at 19:02.
Bartus turned away 27-of-30 shots, while DeMichiel stopped all 25 Connecticut shots.
“It’s nice I guess,” Wilson, who helped the Tigers transition to Division I in 2005, said of his 200th career win. “I guess if you’re here long enough you hope to get some of those wins. I’m pretty proud of that. When you win the game and its your 200th, that makes it that much more enjoyable.”