ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RIT entered the weekend having won just twice in its first 13 games. The Tigers doubled that number, completing a sweep of Sacred Heart, 5-2. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart remains winless on the season.
Josh Watson made 25 saves for the win while Sacred Heart’s Eric Delong scored his 100th career point.
“It helps mentally the fact it takes pressure off of us not winning in awhile,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “I thought the game was harder tonight than it was last night. But we were more consistent.”
“I thought we played OK for two periods,” Sacred Heart coach CJ Marottolo said. “Then, they really exposed us on the penalty kill. I thought that’s what won the game for them, was their power play.”
RIT dominated the early going. They made good on their play, scoring with one second left on their first power play at 7:21. Brad McGowan from the corner fed Alexander Kuqali, who was all alone in front of the goal. He easily redirected it past Fredrik Melander.
Despite other Tigers’ opportunities, they were unable to extend the lead in the first period. The Pioneers improved their play, as they wound up evening the shots on goal after the first 20 minutes.
The freshman Swede, Melander, playing in just his third game, made some big saves to keep Sacred Heart within striking distance in the second period. Strike they finally did at 14:28 to tie the game on a nice, in-close short passing play. It went from right (Ben Ketchum) to middle (Delong) to left (Brian Sheehan), who shot it into the wide open near side as Watson was unable to keep up with the transition.
“Our goalie did a good job keeping us in; Freddy weathered the initial storm,” Marottolo said.
RIT quickly regained the lead two minutes later after constant pressure in the zone. Ben Lynch, from the high slot, one-timed a centering pass from Brad Shumway.
A slashing call gave RIT a power play and another goal a minute later. Greg Noyes had the puck on the side of the net, but he whiffed on his first attempt and hit the post on his second. However, the puck came out on the opposite side, where Mike Colavecchia whacked it into the virtual empty net for a 3-1 lead which is how the period ended.
The Tigers started to put the game away 2:32 into the third. Chris Saracino skated around the net and then fed Adam Hartley at the right slot, who fired a one-timer slap shot past Melander.
However, Sacred Heart would not go away. On a power play, Delong ripped a blistering shot from the top of the left faceoff circle which blew by Watson’s glove at 11:01. It was Delong’s 100th career point, making him the 12th Sacred Heart player to reach the 100 point plateau.
“He epitomizes what we’re trying to be,” Marottolo said. “He’s been an unbelievable kid first of all off the ice. He has an incredible work effort, and he’s an incredible leader.”
The goal provided Sacred Heart with momentum, but after some pressure, that momentum quickly disappeared with a tripping penalty. It evaporated when Saracino blasted home a slap shot from the middle of the blue line at 13:42, giving RIT a three-goal lead again. It gave RIT their third power play goal in six attempts.
“Power play was good throughout the year, and it was good again tonight,” Wilson said.
RIT (4-8-3, 3-5-2) has one more game this semester, playing at Niagara on Wednesday.
Sacred Heart (0-14-2, 0-11-2) is almost done for the calendar year. They resume a seven-game road trip playing at Rensselaer on New Year’s Eve.