College Hockey:
RIT and Niagara skate to 2-2 tie in snowy Frozen Frontier game

Niagara’s TJ Sarcona (21, left) and Hugo Turcotte (19) celebrate a goal in their tie against Rochester Institute of Technology on Saturday (photo: Omar Phillips).

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Institute of Technology and Niagara battled each other as well as the elements, skating to a 2-2 tie in an outdoor game played at Rochester’s Frontier Field.

The first two periods were played in a heavy snowfall that resulted in several play stoppages to clear the ice. The game-time temperature was 16 degrees.

“We just wanted to get the puck in, the way it was snowing out there,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We wanted to get the puck deep and shoot anything at the net.”

“As the snow was falling the first two periods, we were just trying to keep it simple,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “Just chip the puck past their ‘D’ and try to win some races.”

The heavy snowfall made for some protocol changes. The players stayed in their locker rooms for introductions and national anthems so the Zamboni and a squad of shovelers could keep going right up until the opening faceoff.

After a scoreless first period, Niagara got on the board first when Purple Eagles defenseman Vince Muto worked the puck down low and put a centering pass onto the stick of Matt Chartrain, who beat Tigers goaltender Mike Rotolo to make it 1-0 at 11:42 of the second period.

“We told them, ‘Get to the top of the crease and that’s where goals are going to come’, and they did,” said Burkholder. “[Chartrain, Rocky Gruttadauria and Phil Nasca] are an energy line, and they got us going.”

RIT gave the “Frozen Frontier” crowd of 4,760 something to cheer about with two rebound goals within a 1:38 span near the end of the period.

The first Tigers tally came on a power play with Dan Schuler putting home a rebound off a shot from the point by Greg Noyes. Just 98 seconds later, RIT gained the lead when Niagara goaltender Jackson Teichroeb stopped a slap shot by Mike Colavecchia, but left a rebound for Danny Smith to hammer home.

“In games like that, there’s going to be rebound goals and they scored two of them in the second and put us behind,” said Burkholder. “But I thought we responded in the third and in the overtime we took it to them, but couldn’t get the winning goal.”

As the conditions improved, so did the scoring chances, and Niagara got the equalizer with 8:15 left in regulation when Michael Benedict won a draw cleanly to Ryan Rashid, who wristed a shot past Rotolo to make it 2-2.

“I thought the Benedict-Rashid-(Dan)Kolenda line was the best line for us tonight,” said Burkholder. “It was nice to see them score a faceoff goal and get rewarded.”

Niagara dominated in the overtime, the eighth time in the last 11 meetings between the schools they went to an extra session. The Purple Eagles outshot the Tigers 6-0 in overtime, but couldn’t solve Rotolo, who made 34 saves in the contest. Teichroeb made 25 saves for Niagara.

“The way it was snowing in the first two periods, a tie was probably appropriate,” said Wilson. “Both teams battled hard for that point.

“I guess you’re hoping in a situation like that, you’re hoping the winner doesn’t come on some lousy, snowy play, and that worked out.”

Niagara goes into the holiday break at 3-11-2 (3-5-2 in Atlantic Hockey play) and next faces Bentley on Jan. 3. RIT (6-7-3; 5-3-1) is also off until Jan.3, when it travels to Connecticut.

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