Unlike last night, the RIT Tigers (14-8-2) were able to hold on to a single goal lead heading in to the third period to defeat the Connecticut Huskies (9-15) by a final score of 4-2. RIT’s Matt Smith chipped in two goals and added an assist on the game winning goal to lead the Tigers on the scoreboard.
“Every single game is a dogfight,” said RIT coach Wayne Wislon. “Part if it is us battling around the net. We had to kill a lot of penalties tonight and battle through that as well.”
The opening half of the first period was entertaining up and down the ice hockey as the teams jockeyed for an advantage. RIT finally found a chink in the UConn armor midway through the period and took a 1-0 lead. After moving the puck around the perimeter, Brent Patry launched a strong shot from the point. Jesse Newman got his stick on the puck and deflected it high over Huskies goaltender Beau Erickson’s shoulder for the goal at 9:59.
The second half of the first period was frustrating for both players and fans as a steady parade of participants to the penalty box interrupted the flow that the game had established earlier. Six straight penalties were called, evenly split between the two teams, during the last ten minutes of the period.
While each team was able to generate offensive pressure while on the ensuing power plays, neither team was able to put the puck in the back of the net and the score remained 1-0 Tigers lead at the end of the period.
A Husky power play carried over in to the second period and UConn converted on the opportunity to tie the score 1-1. UConn worked the puck down the left side of the zone, and all of the RIT defenders collapsed towards the puck.
That left Husky Cole Koidahl open near the right side of the crease, and he tapped home a pass from Matt Scherer forty two seconds in to the stanza for the goal.
RIT struck back, on a power play of its own, just over two minutes later to retake a one goal lead. Matt Smith parked himself at the top of the Husky crease while his linemate Steve Pinizzotto worked the puck in the far corner. Pinizzotto held on until a passing lane opened and fed Smith who one-timed home the puck at the 3:04 mark.
The pace of penalty calls lessened as the second period went on, allowing both teams to establish a better flow to the game and also generate more offense. But it was the goaltenders time to shine as both Menard and Erickson shutdown the shooters.
Erickson made a particularly spectacular save with just thirty seven seconds remaining in the period when he whipped out his glove to snag a hard shot from Rob Tarantino to keep the Tigers lead at only 2-1 as the period ended.
Amid a bit of controversy, RIT extended its lead to 3-1 with a power play goal at 2:45 of the third period. Dan Ringwald sent a soft shot from the right faceoff dot that deflected off linemate Simon Lambert’s skate near the top of the crease. After a conference, the referees declared that Lambert didn’t kick at the puck, and therefore it was a goal.
“We weren’t playing great, but we were battling to try to find a way to keep us in the game,” said UConn coach Bruce Marshall. “Whether it was kicked in or wasn’t kicked in, who knows.”
Husky goaltender Erickson made another spectacular glove save off a shot from RIT’s Ricky Walton at 6:25.
“[Beau Erickson] has really stepped it up the last couple of weeks,” said Marshall. “Tonight, the game may have gotten out of hand a little earlier if he hadn’t made those saves. The guys are starting to believe in him.”
The Tigers extended their lead to 4-1 midway through the period when Smith ripped in his second goal of the game at 8:58.
UConn tried to take advantage of an RIT penalty with four minutes remaining, but Menard made two strong saves when called on to keep the Tigers lead intact.
Husky coach Marshall pulled goaltender Erickson with 1:37 remaining to gain an extra attacker. The ploy worked at 19:30 when Matt Scherer swatted the puck in to the net off a scramble in front of the Tiger net. But 4-2 was as close as UConn could get as the final buzzer sounded.