Published March 23, 2012
Victory on Ice

The purple-clad supporters of Niagara University were barely visible on Friday, March 16, 2012, the night of the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) semifinal game between the Purple Eagles and the Tigers. Orange and brown dominated the stands of Blue Cross arena, forcing NU’s fans to cluster in a tiny corner of the room. Energy was running high, as the winner of the night’s match would determine who was to face Air Force in the championship game the following day.

The first period opened with a roar of support as the men took to the ice. The normally rowdy crowd was particularly intense that evening. No progress was made over the first 20 minutes, however, and the first period ended without either team scoring. The second passed in largely the same manner, with neither side taking even a single point. The competition steadily grew fiercer as time ticked away; both shots and penalties increased for both teams. It was becoming clear that the teams were on level footing and would be fighting hard for any points they could earn. The lack of progress was clearly taking its toll on the crowd, as the initial surge of energy seemed to have ebbed away.

With the start of the third period, some were beginning to lose hope that the game would end in a tie, until the tension was broken suddenly by a goal from RIT first year Marketing major Matt Garbowsky. That single goal was all it took to revitalize the crowd; cheers exploded and flags were run around the arena in celebration. The men kept up the assault, determined to advance their lead further. Ten full minutes passed without another goal. Just when it was looking like a 1-0 victory for RIT, Niagara slipped in a goal with a little over six minutes left, ending the game in a tie.

Sudden death brought an overwhelming sense of tension over the crowd. This was it. A single goal would determine who moved on to the championship. At first it was looking like the tie-breaker period would progress in the same fashion as the first two periods, with a few close calls for RIT’s defense in particular. Three minutes in, fourth year Biomedical Sciences major Taylor McReynolds managed to slip the decisive goal past Niagara’ defense, taking the game and the semifinals.

Victory against Niagara meant RIT could advance to the finals of the AHA Championship against the first-seeded team. This is the second year in a row that the final match has seen Air Force and RIT as its competitors, with the final match last year ending in a loss for the Tigers. This year, the team faired similarly, losing to the Air Force 4-0. However, the Friday’s win remained particularly important for RIT, as it signaled the first time the Tigers have beaten the Purple Eagles in over 15 years.

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