ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RIT’s annual Brick City Homecoming and Family Game at Rochester’s downtown Blue Cross Arena has quickly become one of the key sporting events in the Flower City.
Saturday night, a sellout crowd of 10,556 witnessed another thrilling game between their hometown Tigers and St. Lawrence University.
This time, they went home happy.
Adam Hartley tied the game with nine seconds left in regulation, sending the capacity crowd into a frenzy. Then 14 seconds into overtime, Adam Mitchell raised the decibel level even higher with the winner for a 6-5 victory.
“(Cameron) Burt made a nice soft pass to me, I somehow got the puck on my stick, and it went into the back of the net,” Mitchell said of the game winner. “I thought I was in on a breakaway and then the defenseman came and I tried to get it on my backhand. I kind of lost it and I tried to bring it back to shoot and I lost it again. And then I got enough wood on it to get it into the net. (St. Lawrence goaltender Matt Weninger) had no idea what I was doing and neither did I. It kind of worked out better, perhaps.”
“We weathered some storms they brought and then we brought some good moments,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “We talked during the break before overtime, let’s use that momentum.”
“Our defenseman made a poor play on the play,” St. Lawrence associate coach Mike Hurlbut said of the OT winner.
The tying goal came after RIT withstood a five-minute major against Nolan Descoteaux for contact to the head. With their goalie pulled, the Tigers poured the pressure on. They were rewarded when Hartley found a loose puck in front of the net after a rebound from Burt’s shot and buried it while being hit from behind.
“I give Burt credit because he was on his last breath there,” Hartley said. “It came to me. It hit my left skate. I kicked it and I think it hit my right skate and I just kind of shoveled it in there. The puck seemed like it went so slow to the line. I was counting in my head how many seconds it was going to take. When it went across, it was pure joy.”
“The defense was on the wrong side of the man in front of the net,” Hurlbut said.
It appeared St. Lawrence took control of the game when they scored twice in the first seven minutes to break a 3-3 tie. Patrick Doherty did the honors within a 1:41 span.
The first one came unassisted at 5:09. The second on a quick turnaround one-timer over the Shane Madolora’s glove at 6:50.
However, RIT would not fold. On an ensuing power play, Bryan Potts at the backdoor tipped in a crossing pass from Burt to cut the lead to one.
“At times we played very well,” Hurlbut said. “Typical RIT, they never give up. They played with a lot of every with the crowd behind them.”
“A game like this does a lot of things positively, mentally,” Wilson said. “One, surviving a five-minute major. Two, scoring that last-minute goal. And then winning it.”
The star of the game was Burt, arguably the fans’ favorite player. He scored the Tigers’ first two goals and then assisted on the final three. When the fans ran around the rink with RIT flags, one fan had a large cardboard cutout of Burt.
“I didn’t have the year I wanted to have last year,” Burt said. “I worked hard over the summer. I just wanted to come back and be a better team player and do what I have to do for the team to win it.”
Feeding off the energy from the capacity crowd, RIT scored first at 3:23. Burt fired in a rebound from Daniel Spivak’s shot from the point, beating Weninger over the shoulder.
RIT nearly made it 2-0 seconds later on an odd-man rush, but the Tigers fired it wide.
The momentum continued RIT’s way when they got the first power play of the night, but that momentum quickly disappeared when St. Lawrence scored in the shorthanded situation at 8:29. Kyle Flanagan finished off a perfectly executed a two-on-one with a one-timer past Madolora.
This was Madolora’s first goal he let in this season after 73:29 of shutout hockey.
St. Lawrence took the lead 5:05 into the second on the power play on Flanagan’s second goal. He was allowed to walk in front from behind the net, beating Madolora around his stick side.
Five minutes later, RIT tied the game on their own power play goal with Burt one-timing a crossing pass from Brad McGowan.
A few minutes later, RIT had their second lead of the game when Potts followed up his own rebound to stuff it in.
It appeared RIT had a two-goal lead late in the period when a shorthanded break initially appeared to go in, but it rippled the outside of the net instead. Play continued and the Saints came back during the power play to tie the game with 57 seconds left in the period.
The tying goal was a result of constant pressure culminating in Kyle Essery firing in a rebound after Jeremy Wick’s initial shot from the right point.
Then, the dramatic third period unfolded followed by the quick overtime winner. It was RIT’s first regular season victory in the downtown arena since moving to Division I.
“It’s a nice change showing the crowd a win for once instead of a 4-4 tie or a 3-2 loss in my freshman year,” Hartley said.
Local soccer superstar Abby Wambach, who knows a thing or two about thrilling games, dropped the ceremonial puck before the game.
RIT (1-0-1) travels to Canisius Thursday for an Atlantic Hockey game. St. Lawrence (0-4-0) returns home next weekend for ECAC match ups against Union and Rensselaer.