The RIT men's hockey team (6-7-3, 5-3-1 AHA) extended its unbeaten streak to six games with a 2-2 tie against Atlantic Hockey Association foe Niagara University (3-11-2, 3-4-2 AHA) in the first outdoor game of both teams on Saturday evening at snowy Frontier Field in downtown Rochester.
A crowd of 4,760 fans braved the elements and cheered on the Tigers, as the game was part of the 2013 Greater Rochester Frozen Frontier.
The snow and wind was a major factor all evening, as neither team could generate a ton of quality chances in the inclement weather. The temperature was 16-degrees at the opening puck drop, with several inches of snow falling over the first two periods.
With RIT leading 2-1 in the third period, Niagara's Ryan Rashid snapped a shot past RIT goaltender Mike Rotolo off a clean face-off win by Michael Benedict with 8:15 left in regulation to force overtime.
In the overtime, Rotolo was excellent, turning aside all six shots he faced, including two big saves from point-blank range to preserve the tie and keep his six-game unbeaten streak intact. Overall, the hometown star stopped 34 of 36 shots and was named the game's first star.
Dan Schuler and Danny Smith scored second period goals 1:38 apart late in the second period for the Tigers, who erased a 1-0 deficit. Todd Skirving, Greg Noyes, Mike Colavecchia, and Andrew Miller added assists for the Tigers, who are now 5-0-1 over their last six contests.
Rashid and Matt Chartrain scored for Niagara, while goaltender Jackson Teichroeb stopped 25 shots.
Niagara was 0-for-5 with the power-play, while RIT was 1-for-6. Both teams had 11 shots on the power-play, but very few were of quality, as the snowy ice conditions did not allow for crisp passing.
"I thought it was a very hard fought, kind of a fitting end for this game, especially with the conditions over the first two periods," said RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson. "It was a great event for our players, our school, and the Rochester community. The weather definitely made for some tough play, but both teams adjusted well."
Neither team would score in a sloppy first period of play. The game was stopped for an extended period of time at each television timeout, as several volunteers shoveled snow off the ice.
Play opened up as conditions improved in the second period, as RIT would hold a 2-1 edge after 40 minutes of play.
RIT had to kill off 1:07 of a 5-on-3 early in the second period and were successful, as the driving snow slowed Niagara's attack. The Tigers then killed off the final 3:53 of a five-minute major for hitting from behind, given to Brandon Thompson.
Niagara owned the first half of the period due to power-plays, firing the first nine shots of the frame. Niagara would get on the board first at the 11:42 mark, as Chartrain would jam in a loose puck at the side of the net off a feed from Vince Muto on the rush.
That goal jump started RIT, as they fired the final nine shots of the frame and scored twice in a span of 1:38 to take a 2-1 lead.
At the 17:22 mark, Schuler slammed home a rebound in front after Todd Skirving got a piece of a shot from Greg Noyes on the power-play to tie the game at 1-1, sending the Tigers faithful into a frenzy.
Just 1:38 later, Mike Colavecchia broke into the zone on a 2-on-2 rush and fired a shot that was stopped by Teichroeb, but the rebound came right to Smith, who was able to bat the puck down with his glove and fire the shot in for his third goal of the season. Miller also assisted on the tally, giving him four points over his last five games.
Today's game was the 18th outdoor game in the history of NCAA Men's Hockey and first of 12 throughout college hockey this season.
RIT and Niagara has become one of the most competitive Division I rivalries, as eight of the last 11 meetings between the two schools have gone to overtime. RIT knocked Niagara out of the AHA postseason in 2012, while Niagara eliminated RIT last season. Niagara leads the all-time series between the two schools, 12-3-9, including 10-1-7 since 2005.
Earlier in the day, the RIT women's program also played in its first outdoor game, falling to No. 6 Clarkson, 6-2.
RIT is off until 2014, travelling to face University of Connecticut in a two-game road series on Jan. 3-4.