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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The opening weekend of the National Football League consisted of a rematch of the prior Super Bowl contenders.
The opening weekend of the Atlantic Hockey Conference consisted of a rematch of the prior conference championship game between RIT and Robert Morris.
“Ironic,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “The schedule is done in the middle of last year, so we knew we were coming here in the middle of January of last year. It’s ironic that it just happened to be a rematch of the championship game.”
“It grabs your attention a little bit more as a player,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said.
Unlike pro sports, college sports can change drastically in one year due to graduation. RIT brought back a healthy number of players while the Colonials lost a large core of their regular season championship team.
“Two different teams,” Schooley said. “A lot of freshmen on our team. We graduated a lot of guys.”
It didn’t matter, as the teams split the weekend.
After RIT won Friday night, 6-3, Robert Morris returned the favor in a wild come-from-behind 6-5 win.
One sentence can best describe the game — power-play goal scoring streaks.
RIT scored three consecutive extra-man goals, the latter two 45 seconds apart, to take a 3-1 first-period lead. After two even-strength scores in the first half of the second, it appeared it was going to be easy sailing for the Tigers.
“We got three power-play goals, and it gave us a false sense of security,” Wilson said. “I thought we did pretty good five-on-five; we got some goals, and then we imploded.”
That’s when Robert Morris went on its own streak, scoring four straight power-play goals within 1:52, the first three while up two men.
“Our power play was outstanding,” Schooley said. “We got some momentum. Our power play just kept going. I don’t think I’ve been a part of that — down 5-1, and then within two minutes, it’s tied 5-5.”
Center Brady Ferguson and defenseman Eric Israel were involved on every one of those goals, each scoring one and assisting on three. For good measure, Ferguson got the game-winner at 5:46 of the third with a “rare” even-strength tally, as well as the opening goal in the first (which Israel assisted on).
“I got the easy job,” Isreal said. “I just give it to them and they do all the work for me. It was a fun couple of minutes.”
Wilson said, “It’s bad enough letting up four power-play goals, but when three of them are five-on-three, when do you learn your lesson? And we didn’t.”
The Colonials played all three goaltenders over the weekend, two each night. Freshman Francis Marotte came on in relief to get his first career win with 27 saves.
These two rivals know how to raise their game.
“More feistiness, more on the line,” Wilson explains. “A league game does that and then when we play a good opponent in the league, it brings it out even more.”
If you want to see this excitement again, mark your calendars for February 3-4, 2017, when these teams meet up again at Robert Morris, and possibly yet again in the playoffs.
ATLANTIC HOCKEY RESULTS
Holy Cross 4, at Niagara 4
Michael Laffin scored with the extra attacker at 18:40 of the third period to give Holy Cross a 4-4 tie against Niagara. T.J. Moore scored the first three goals, all in the first period, for Holy Cross in a back-and-forth game.
Bentley 5, at New Hampshire 1
Bentley cruised to a 5-1 win despite getting outshot 33-21, as Jayson Argue got the win. New Hampshire went 0-for-7 on the power play.
Canisius 1, at No. 1 North Dakota 4
Canisius scored first against the top-ranked team in the country to lead after one. However, North Dakota scored a pair in each of the final two periods for the 4-1 win.
Air Force 3, vs. Ohio State 3 (Icebreaker Championship)
Air Force continued to surprised everyone at the Icebreaker Tournament, tying Ohio State, 3-3, in the championship game. The Buckeyes needed two goals in the third period to salvage the game. The tournament was decided with a shootout, which Air Force won, 1-0.