Second-period Smith goal stands as winner for RIT in semifinal win over Canisius

RIT players celebrate their semifinal win over Canisius (photo: Omar Phillips).

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester Institute of Technology held off Canisius for a 2-1 win in the semifinals of the Atlantic Hockey tournament on Friday.

Brad McGowan and Danny Smith scored for the Tigers, who led 1-0 after the first period and 2-1 after the second.

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“Canisius had a great game plan and limited our chances,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “We didn’t get a lot around their net.”

The Tigers’ best period was the first, when they outshot Canisius 12-6 and had several good chances that were steered away by Golden Griffins goaltender Keegan Asmundson, who finished with 25 saves.

“They came out with some energy as you would expect with a big crowd wearing orange,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith.

RIT eventually found the back of the net with 23 seconds left in the first period. Matt Garbowsky generated a turnover and found McGowan, who fired a wrist shot that got by Asmundson.

The second period featured a goal by each squad. Canisius tied the game at 10:07. After a flurry in front of RIT goalie Jordan Ruby, the Tigers were unable to clear the zone and a shot by Doug Jessie bounced off a teammate and landed on the stick of Shane Conacher, who put it over Ruby for the equalizer.

The game winner for RIT came at 15:15 of the second. Danny Smith went hard to the net and never broke stride, putting in a rebound of a shot by Andrew Miller.

“It was a breakout that went over to Miller,” said Smith. “It was kind of a shot-pass that ended up on my stick, and I wasn’t going to miss that one.”

Replays showed that RIT was offside on the goal, but a camera malfunction allowed for no official review.

“They came to us before the game and said that offsides were not reviewable,” said Dave Smith. “We watched the video and it was offsides.

“There was good communication before the game between the teams, the officials and the league,” added Smith. “It was very close. I can’t fault anybody. It is what it is. We wish it didn’t happen; we wish they hadn’t scored. We wish the camera was working.”

Canisius outshot RIT 28-27 for the game, including 22-15 over the final two periods. Ruby finished with 26 saves.

There were only three penalties called in the contest. Canisius got its lone power play with five minutes left, but two big saves by Ruby denied the Golden Griffins the equalizer.

“That was huge,” said Wilson. “Our penalty kill has been outstanding and we knew we were going to kill a penalty at some point. That’s what happens in hockey — you have a situation like that with the game on the line.”

RIT forward Caleb Cameron came out of the box and nearly scored on a breakaway, but he was taken down by Ryan Schmeltzer. The officials conferred and did not award RIT a penalty shot, instead imposing a minor for holding with 2:42 to play.

“I wouldn’t have taken the penalty shot anyway,” said Wilson. “I wanted to run the clock down. The players wanted a penalty shot but I wanted the penalty.”

Attendance at Blue Cross Arena was 3,525, the second-largest crowd to see a semifinal. The record is 3,933 in a 2008 semifinal game between RIT and Air Force.

The Tigers advanced to play Mercyhurst, which upset Robert Morris 4-3 in overtime in the first semifinal. Both lower-seeded teams won their semifinal games.

“[Mercyhurst] is an outstanding team with 10 seniors who are all great players and a great mix [of players],” said Wilson. “It’s going to be a dogfight.”

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