In front of a sold out Blue Cross Arena crowd of 10,556, the largest collegiate sports crowd in Rochester history, the RIT Tigers and Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks fought to a 4-4 draw. The game consisted of momentum swings, a long delay, an action-filled overtime, the tying goal with 1.3 seconds left in regulation, and two disappointed coaches.
“From our perspective, it was not a well-played game,” Mass.-Lowell coach Blaise MacDonald said. “We looked sluggish and sloppy most of the game. I felt we played our best hockey in the third period.”
“I thought we were a little bit tentative in the first period, a little nervous,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “I thought we had a good checking second period. The third period for the most part was good. I was just really disappointed in the way we played in the last minute of the third period and the overtime.”
With RIT clinging to a 4-3 lead, Mass.-Lowell did them a huge favor when David Vallorani committed a goaltender interference penalty with 2:04 left in the third. Mass.-Lowell was forced to pull its goalie just to get back to five-on-five skating.
With strong determination and hard work, Scott Campbell managed to stuff the puck just inside the post with only 1.3 seconds left in regulation.
Riley Wetmore, whose grandfather used to work the penalty box for many, many years during Rochester Americans games, created the play to tie the game.
“I didn’t know there was 1.3 seconds left,” Wetmore said. “I was just trying to get it in front of the net.”
“I think we were all concentrating on where the puck was and nobody was watching behind us,” said RIT’s Tyler Brenner, who scored two goals himself. “The guy snuck in the backdoor.”
“The guy walked across and he slid it through the five-hole,” RIT goaltender Shane Madolora said. “I should have had it. I didn’t get my paddle all the way flat on the ice.”
“I felt we just totally relaxed when the puck went behind the net,” Wilson said. “You get what you deserve. The same thing happened in overtime. We left guys wide open.”
“Any shot can go in,” MacDonald said.
RIT originally took the 4-3 lead with 5:08 left in the third. They put extreme pressure down low, using sheer will and hustle to force the puck in front where Brenner shot it in.
Brenner gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 10:01 of the final period with their second power-play goal. He redirected a pass from down low past Marc Boulanger. There was a lengthy delay afterward because over-exuberant fans behind the visitor bench smashed a pane of glass.
The delay took some momentum out of the Tigers. Sure enough, Mass.-Lowell tied the game about two minutes later. Michael Scheu knocked in a rebound from the slot area after some confusion by the RIT defense.
Lowell came out the better team at the start of the game, and it paid off at exactly the four minute mark soon after RIT successfully killed the first penalty of the night.
Wetmore scored the game’s first goal on an innocent looking play. He skated down the right side, and with a defender close by, lazily sent a backhander that snuck through the pads and goal post on the near side.
RIT tied the game on their first power-play opportunity at 12:58. Adam Hartley fired a shot from the right faceoff circle that Boulanger got a piece of, but not enough. It barely trickled over the line, ever so slowly.
The second period saw the Tigers come out flying, beating Mass.-Lowell to every loose puck, throwing the body around, and peppering the net. However, they could not get the go-ahead goal, and the tide turned when RIT committed three consecutive penalties, including two by Taylor McReynolds. This string left RIT down two men for 1:46.
RIT was able to kill off all the penalties despite intense pressure from the River Hawks. Shortly afterward, Mass.-Lowell committed a penalty of their own, but they, too, killed it off.
Finally, both teams got a goal 50 seconds apart while even strength on rebounds. First Mass.-Lowell took the 2-1 lead at 13:31 when David Vallorani smacked in a rebound from in close on an initial shot which Madolora had trouble handling.
RIT came right back to tie the game when Mike Colavecchia fired in a rebound from the left faceoff circle into the near upper corner.
The evening wasn’t just about setting attendance records and having the city welcome the Tigers back for the first time since their improbable run to the Frozen Four last year. It was also a time to help a fellow hockey player, Craig Charron.
Charron played many years for the local AHL team, winning a Calder Cup in 1996, and before that played his college hockey at Mass.-Lowell. He is fighting cancer, and the Tigers wore special black uniforms that will be auctioned after the game to help raise money to offset his medical bills.
“It was a great evening to be a part of as an RIT alum to see the support of this program and the first class way everybody conducts their business,” MacDonald said.
This was the only game of the weekend for RIT, who is now 0-2-1. Next weekend, they travel to Rennsselaer and Union.
Mass.-Lowell registered their second tie of the weekend and are now 0-1-2. They next host Providence and Northeastern.