BY CHUCKIE MAGGIO
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The RIT Tigers men’s hockey team had nearly every ingredient they needed to upset No. 14 Northeastern on Saturday night: a crazy Brick City Homecoming crowd, a 3-0 lead midway through the game and a steady goaltending effort.
The Tigers lacked a staple, however: discipline. They committed eight penalties, including a too many men on the ice infraction that led to the game-tying goal with less than three minutes left in regulation, and ended up tying the Huskies 3-3 in front of 8,835 fans at the Blue Cross Arena.
The Huskies outscored Sacred Heart 14-3 last weekend but couldn’t replicate that success against Tigers goaltender Logan Drackett, firing 41 shots on goal but requiring 37 minutes to get the first puck past him.
When junior Lincoln Griffith found the net after some nifty passing from Ryan Shea and Zach Solow to end the scoring freeze, the stage was set for a third-period comeback led by Garret Cockerill and Dylan Sikura. Sikura earned the secondary assist on Cockerill’s goal to cut the deficit to one with 10:45 to play, while Cockerill had the beautiful game-knotting assist to a wide-open Sikura to send the game to an eventual overtime.
The Tigers’ trips to the penalty box were partly responsible for their undoing, and the Huskies craftily cashed in.
“Yeah, we played a good team tonight and it kind of shows what type of team we are to give up the lead 3-1,” senior defenseman Matt Abt said. “We took way too many penalties in the third period and eventually that stuff’s gonna catch up to you. Against a team that skilled, you can’t be taking penalties like that.”
Video courtesy of RIT Athletic Communications.
RIT coach Wayne Wilson was more blunt than Abt, saying his team “self-destructed a little bit” with the penalties. There will likely be a new addition to the next practice plan.
“Not necessarily the plays… and not even the penalty-killing,” Wilson said. “But too many men on the ice, (and) we were offside because we were lazy coming off the ice on another play as well; just, changes. And hey, maybe that’s just the beginning of the year and that’s a good learning lesson for the rest of the year because we didn’t practice line changes, really.”
Though they missed an opportunity for a statement win, the Tigers proved they can play with nationally-ranked squads- and convert chances themselves. The first two goals they scored were on rebounds, while the third was a tip-in by junior forward Erik Brown. Brown lit the lamp twice in the second after Myles Powell got things started 50 seconds into the period.
“I think getting pucks and people to the net has got to be more of a priority,” Wilson said. “I think sometimes we’ve always been a little bit too much of a finesse team, and we’ve gotta get away from that a little bit and get some ugly goals.”
Brown earned the first star of the game, but Drackett may have improved his chances of earning the to-be-determined starting goalie spot. Wilson made it cleared that he wants to give each of his netminders a chance, but making 41 saves in the grandest atmosphere of the regular season is one way to make the most of your shot.
“Obviously the team played really well and they weren’t really high-quality shots,” Drackett said, “but still, it was good to get my feet under myself and kind of get the game going, get the ball rolling.
“But again, the team and our (defensemen) played really well so the shots… were just easy saves for me to get under my feet.”