RIT Steals Tie With Improbable Rally

The RIT men?s hockey team (5-6-2, 4-2-1 AHA) scored two goals in a 1:19 span late in the third period to rally from a 3-1 deficit and tie Sacred Heart (1-9-4, 1-5-4 AHA) 3-3 in front of 1,688 fans at Ritter Arena on Saturday evening.  Taylor McReynolds (Sherwood Park, Alberta) scored the game-tying goal with 29 seconds left in regulation.

With RIT trailing 3-1 late in the third period and on the power-play, defenseman Chris Saracino (St. Louis, MO) bombed a slap shot from the right faceoff circle that got past Sacred Heart goaltender Olivier St. Onge to make the score 3-2. Cameron Burt (Detroit, MI) assisted on the goal, Saracino's first of the season, that came with 1:48 left in regulation.

After a disputed icing call put the faceoff in Sacred Heart?s zone with 32 seconds, McReynolds cleanly won the draw back to Saracino, who fired a slap shot that McReynolds deflected from the slot and in past St. Onge to tie the game at 3-3 with just 29 seconds left in regulation.

Both goals were scored with RIT goaltender Jan Ropponen (Espoo, Finland) on the bench for the extra attacker.

In overtime, RIT had two golden chances to win the game, but could not finish. Andrew Favot (King City, Ontario) came in on a 3-on-2 and had a great look from the slot, but fired it just over the net. While shorthanded in the final minute, Mike Janda (Glen Ellyn, IL) found McReynolds streaking in the clear and fed him a breakaway pass. McReynolds walked in all alone, but the puck jumped off his stick as he was trying to shoot and he was unable to convert.

Up 2-1 heading into the third period, Sacred Heart expanded its lead to two goals, shorthanded, with 10:40 left, as Reid MacLeod converted a perfect feed from David Berube on a 2-on-1, roofing a shot just under the crossbar.

Saracino recorded a career-high three points on a goal and two assists for the Tigers. Burt added two assists. #Adam Hartley also scored for the Tigers.

Matt Gingera scored a pair of goals for Sacred Heart. Patrick Knowlton dished out a pair of assists, but also committed 26 minutes in penalties, including a fighting major and game disqualification for a scuffle with RIT?s Daniel Spivak (Thornhill, Ontario) as the game concluded.

The two teams combined for 97 minutes in penalties. RIT fired at least 40 shots for the second straight game, as they out-shot Sacred Heart 44-36. St. Onge, who was nearly unbeatable for the first 58 minutes of regulation, finished with 41 saves. RIT goaltender Jan Ropponen (Espoo, Finland) made several big stops, and ended his night with 33 saves.

RIT scored a pair of power-play goals for the second straight night, going 2-for-7. Sacred Heart was 0-for-6 with the man-advantage. RIT, who entered the weekend with one of the worst penalty-killing percentages in the nation, killed off all 13 Sacred Heart power-play attempts over the weekend.

Despite not getting the victory, RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson was pleased with how his team played and was able to come back.

?I thought we played better for 60 minutes tonight, than last night (a 6-1 win),? said Wilson. ?We controlled play in the end for a good majority of the game, and just weren?t rewarded. ?Sacred Heart played very well tonight as well. It feels great to get a point when down two goals so late in the game.?

Unlike last night, when RIT put the game away early with five first period goals, the Pioneers scored on the game?s first shift, just 18 seconds in, when Gingera was left wide open in front, walked around Ropponen and scored to give the Pioneers the 1-0 lead. Eric Delong forced a turnover behind the RIT net, and cycled the puck to Knowlton, who found Gingera wide open in front.

RIT had a two-man advantage for 1:26 just five minutes in, but could not find the back of the net.

The Tigers best chance came in the final four minutes, when Michael Colavecchia (Maple, Ontario) sprinted down the left wing around a Sacred Heart defenseman and centered to a wide open McReynolds, but deflected the puck off the right post with a wide open net.

The Tigers out-shot Sacred Heart, 15-8 in the opening period, but St. Onge was up to the task, keeping RIT off the scoreboard.

Both teams scored once in the second period, as the Pioneers held a 2-1 advantage after 40 minutes, with the Tigers holding a 30-20 overall edge in shots.

Gingera scored his second goal of the game just 3:27 into the second period, taking a nice saucer feed from Knowlton in the neutral zone, streaking in unassisted, and slipping a backhander between the pads of Ropponen to make it 2-0 Pioneers.

RIT cut the Pioneers lead in half 9:04 into the period, as Burt fed a perfect diagonal cross ice feed to Hartley at the right face-off circle, who blasted the puck past St. Onge for his seventh goal of the season. Saracino also assisted on the goal.

Burt nearly tied the game moments later, as he busted through a pair of Sacred Heart defenders and put a shot on that St. Onge stopped. The rebound came right to Burt in close, who tried the flip the puck over the goaltender in close, but St. Onge made a big glove save.

Ropponen made a pair of excellent saves on Gingera late in the frame that kept the game at 2-1.

RIT is now 10-4-2 all-time against the Pioneers. Burt now has 22 points (4-18-22) in just 11 career games against Sacred Heart.

Last night, the Tigers rolled to a 6-1 win, out-shooting the Pioneers, 48-23. Tyler Brenner (Linwood, Ontario) scored two goals for the Tigers, while Favot had three assists. RIT tied a team record by scoring five times in the first period.

RIT returns to action next weekend, as they travel to play AHA foe American International in a pair of games. Friday?s game gets underway at 7:05 p.m., while Saturday?s contest starts at 4:05 p.m.

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