|The RIT men’s hockey team raise their sticks to the Corner Crew after a resounding 7-1 victory over AIC during the second game of the AHA Tournament on March 9.
A playoff series with two closely ranked teams made for an exciting weekend for RIT hockey fans. The number eight seed Men’s Hockey team faced the number nine seed American International College (AIC) Yellow Jackets in the first round of the American Hockey playoffs on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9 at Ritter Arena.
At Friday’s game, the Tigers did not have decisive possession of the puck during the opening minutes. Play remained matched until the Yellow Jackets received two minor penalties, just over a minute apart, giving RIT a five-on-three power play. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Tigers captain and fourth year Business major Chris Saracino scored the first goal of the game.
The Yellow Jackets nearly caught up six minutes later in a tense penalty kill situation, where the Tigers had two penalties and only three men on the ice. The penalty kill lasted until the end of the first period, but the Tigers prevailed and held the score at 1-0. The roaring applause at the end of the period validated their efforts.
The second period started with a heart-stopping rebound around the Tigers’ net, but the own goal was narrowly avoided. RIT recovered both men from the penalty box and shots between the two teams were once again evenly matched.
Three minutes into the period, the Yellow Jackets scored on a breakaway. With about a minute left, it appeared that the Yellow Jackets would score another breakaway goal, but Tigers goalie and second year Psychology major Jordan Ruby made a big save. Then, with just 13 seconds left in the period, first year Biomedical Sciences major Josh Mitchell scored for the Tigers, bringing the score to 2-1.
The intensity of play picked up in the last half of the third period as the Yellow Jackets swarmed the Tigers’ net. Ruby came through and stopped the puck, along with the Yellow Jackets’ momentum. With about a minute left, the Yellow Jackets pulled their goalie out to gain a one-man advantage and the pressure mounted both on the ice and in the stands. RIT called a timeout with 32 seconds left to break the pace of the game. Once play resumed, the Tigers were able to keep the lead and win the game.
The second game of the series was marked by some close shots that were deflected by the Tigers’ goalpoasts as well as a remarkable seven goals for the Tigers. The second goal for RIT was scored with 41 seconds left in the first period and one Tiger in the penalty box and was made by first year Biomedical Sciences major Dan Schuler. According to RIT hockey fan and first year Computer Engineering major Eric Tevelson, this goal “sparked” all of the remaining goals in the game. It was a decisive 7-1 victory.
Tigers head coach Wayne Wilson explained the disparate scores: “When you’ve got nothing to lose, you can take a lot of chances, and that can either hurt you or help you. In our case, they took a lot of chances and we were able to get more goals from it, so it helped us.”
The game scorers were not the only big contributors to the win. Wilson said, “I thought Jordan Ruby in net made very timely saves.” This included another breakaway save in the second period of Saturday’s game. Wilson added, “Chris Saracino was, I thought, a warrior all weekend; he played really, really hard on defense.”
Wilson felt good about the win, saying, “We were very patient, so I thought that was good for us. Even though we scored a lot of goals, our focus was on playing good team defense, and that worked out well for us.”
The Tigers’ next matchup will be against the number one seed team in Atlantic Hockey, Niagara University. The games will be played at Niagara on Friday March 15 through Sunday March 17. Wilson said, “I’m looking forward to trying to knock Niagara off. You know, it’s a great challenge for our team…They don’t ‘wow’ us. We respect them, for sure, but it’s not something that we feel like we’re going in overwhelmed or anything. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”