ROCHESTER, N.Y. — One would never know this game meant nothing for RIT.
The Tigers already clinched first place in Atlantic Hockey heading into the last weekend of the regular season against Canisius, which came in fighting for a quarterfinals home ice spot. Yet, it was RIT that scored early and often to blow out the Golden Griffins, 8-0.
“We typically don’t play well after exams,” RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said. “We didn’t have as much to play for, so I was a little concerned for that. And they had a lot to play for. Surprise, surprise. We’ve been in fights all year long, and then we get one like this.”
RIT immediately got on the scoreboard, scoring twice in the first 2:35. Tyler Brenner did the honors first at 1:25. He followed up his own rebound, which inexplicably was left by a Canisius defenseman, and shot it past Dan Morrison.
Mike Janda followed that up with a rebound shot from the right circle to make it 2-0.
Another Canisius mistake enabled RIT to expand the lead to 3-0. The Griffins defense gave the puck away in front of their net, and Jeff Smith was right there to fire it in for his first collegiate goal.
“It came quick and early,” Wilson said. “What can I say? It was one of those games where the puck bounced well. I thought we skated very well. I thought we were moving our feet, got pucks to the net.”
RIT picked up where they left off in the second period. At 2:37 the score became 4-0. Hartley picked up a long rebound on the right side along the boards, and quickly released a cannon of a shot that blew by Morrison.
Midway through the period, Cameron Burt made it 5-0. He took advantage of a rebound off the back boards, easily depositing it into the net.
Four minutes later, Mark Cornacchia upped the lead to 6-0. He was helped by the fact that Taylor McReynolds, who made the pass from the back of the net, was pushed into Morrison, causing McReynolds to fall on top of the goalie, temporarily pinning him down. This left the net wide open for Cornacchia to put the puck in.
The game kept getting more lopsided, as RIT out shot Canisius in the middle stanza, 19-5.
The game got ugly after the first third period goal which made it 7-0. These teams already have a history between, as they were involved in a major brawl two years ago.
After Janda scored his second of the night, Canisius captain Peter MacDougall ran him into the boards. Janda hit the boards head first, remaining on the ice motionless for a period of time. RIT players immediately tried to go after MacDougall, but the referees quickly got between them. They just as quickly sent MacDougall off the ice with a boarding major and game misconduct.
Janda returned to action later in the game.
After a minor was called, RIT made it 8-0 with the two-man advantage. Chris Haltigin one-timed a blast from the right face off circle.
The shutout was shared by Jared DeMichiel who made 20 saves and then was taken out with 9:12 left in the game to give Jan Ropponen some playing time. Ropponen stopped two shots.
“I asked him,” Wilson said. “It’s incredible that he would put Jan ahead of personal goals. Seven shutouts in 28 games would be just completely remarkable. I think it’s good for everyone. He gives up quite a bit in the shutout, but what he does for Jan is tremendous. I’m forever grateful for that. That will go a long, long way. Much more than if I had to say he had seven shutouts that year. Just what he did, I’ll remember a lot longer.”
Mercyhurst beat Connecticut, 5-1, eliminating Canisius from third place contention. The last quarterfinal home ice spot and fourth place now comes down to Canisius and Air Force.
RIT (21-11-1 overall, 21-5-1 in Atlantic Hockey) hosts Canisius (15-13-5, 13-10-4) again Saturday night.
“We got to prepare for a much more difficult game tomorrow night,” Wilson said.