Atlantic Hockey Semifinals RIT forces Game 3 against Sacred Heart
BRIDGEPORT — The night before was almost too easy for the Sacred Heart University men’s hockey team. The Pioneers had little difficulty Wednesday in routing RIT, scoring a season-high in goals and winning by a season-best margin.
Now the Pioneers were one victory away from the Atlantic Hockey semifinals, and three from an NCAA Tournament berth. One problem, though: After Wednesday, the RIT Tigers were wounded cats, and weren’t about to let that happen again in Game 2 of the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
RIT scored three goals on its first five shots Thursday and evened the series with a 7-3 victory at Webster Bank Arena to set up a third and deciding game Friday at 7 p.m. at the Arena.
“RIT is a proud team and I knew we’d see their best tonight,” SHU coach C.J. Marottolo said. “They had a great start and really put us behind the 8-ball.”
After suffering a bad loss 24 hours earlier — SHU’s nine goals Wednesday were the most allowed by RIT all season, and the five-goal margin was the Tigers’ most lopsided loss — the fourth seed Pioneers (16-16-4) should have expected a rejuvenated effort from the Tigers. RIT (16-16-4), the No. 5 seed, won two of the past four Atlantic Hockey Tournament championships, reached the Frozen Four nine years ago and went to the NCAAs three years ago.
Sure enough, the Tigers came out determined to extend this series with three first-period goals before taking a 5-0 lead.
“We were determined after (Wednesday),” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “There were so many things out of character in Game 1 that it was easy to forget and put in the rear-view mirror.”
Shawn Cameron, Ryan Kruper and Chris McKay all beat SHU’s first-year goalie Josh Benson in the opening 16:06, knocking the Pioneers’ No. 1 goalie out of the game. Benson was replaced by senior Brett Magnus.
“I don’t think (Benson) was seeing the puck well tonight,” Marottolo said. “It just wasn’t his night.”
It was clear this wasn’t SHU’s night after RIT’s Alden Dupuis’ goal made it 4-0. Then, 35 seconds later, SHU appeared to finally score when Stamford’s Colin Bernard beat RIT goalie Logan Drackett on a wrister. But the referee ruled that Drackett had been interfered with in the crease. No goal.
“The refs made the right call,” Marottolo said.
A short time later RIT made it 5-0 when Cameron went in alone and sent a backhander past Magnus.
SHU rallied on goals by Alex Bates, Ryan Steele and Todd Goehring to cut it to 5-3, but Hamacher and Adam Brubacher (empty net) scored late for RIT.
So it comes down to one game for a berth in next weekend’s AHA semifinals in Buffalo. Now the momentum belongs to RIT . . . for whatever that’s worth.
“It’s winner take all,” Marottolo said. “It’s what you live for.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
RIT’s Shawn Cameron had two goals and an assist but Tigers goalie Logan Drackett made the difference with 44 saves as the Pioneers outshot RIT 47-19.
“Our goalie (Logan Drackett) played well and theirs didn’t; it was vice versa the night before,” — RIT coach Wayne Wilson on the difference between Thursday and Wednesday’s 9-4 SHU win.
RIT 7, SHU 3
RIT 3 2 2 — 7
SHU 0 1 2 — 3
First period: RIT — Shawn Cameron (Zach Salloum) 8:03; RIT — Ryan Kruper (Jake Joffe) 10:52; RIT — Chris McKay (Alden Dupuis) 16:06. Second period: RIT — Dupuis (Cameron, Jake Hamacher) 13:05; RIT — Cameron (Hamacher) 15:27; SHU — Alex Bates (Jason Cotton) 18:50. Third period: SHU — Ryan Steele (Vito Bavaro) 2:39; Todd Goehring (Cotton, Matt Tugnett) 12:14; RIT — Hamacher (Erik Brown) PPG 16:48; RIT — Adam Brubacher (unassisted) SHG 19:02. Goalie saves: RIT — Logan Drackett 44; SHU — Josh Benson 2, Brett Magnus 10. Records: RIT 16-16-4, SHU 16-16-4