Courtesy of RITAthletics.com
SPRINGFIELD, MA – Seniors Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73’s) and Gabe Valenzuela (Brampton, Ontario/North York Rangers) became the 11th and 12th players in RIT’s Division I history to reach the 100-point milestone for their collegiate careers, leading the men’s hockey team (8-8-2, 6-6-2 AHA) to a 6-3 win over American International College (9-9-1, 9-5-1 AHA) from the MassMutual Center Friday afternoon.
Brown reached the milestone with a power-play goal 5:46 into the opening period, while Valenzuela hit the century club just 52 seconds into the third period. Brown tied a career-high with four points on two goals and two assists, while Valenzuela also scored twice. Will Calverley(Scarborough, Ontario/Chilliwack Chiefs) and Shawn Cameron (Sherbrooke, Quebec/Cumberland Grads) also scored for the Tigers, while Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) and Adam Brubacher(Elmira, Ontario/Powell River Kings) added two assists in the win.
Goaltender Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks) made 30 saves to pick up his ninth win of the season for the Tigers, who extended their unbeaten streak to four games (3-0-1) and moved into a tie for third in the league standings with 16 points.
Blake Christensen, Martin Mellberg and Justin Cole scored for the Yellow Jackets, while Brennan Kapcheck and Shawn McBride added two assists apiece. Zackarias Skog took the loss in net, stopping 21 shots.
American International out-shot RIT, 33-27. RIT was 2-for-3 on the power-play, while the Yellow Jackets finished 1-of-5 with the man-advantage.
“I thought our strong special teams were critical for us today,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “We showed some poise when AIC rallied and I liked how we finished the game.”
Valenzuela and Brown gave RIT the early 2-0 lead with power-play goals 46 seconds apart. With RIT on a two-man advantage, Valenzuela tapped in a shot by Brown that Skog got a piece of right before it went over the goal line exactly five minutes into the game to make it 1-0, while Brown swept home a rebound at the side of the net to make it 2-0 and give him 100 career points. Adam Brubacher (Elmira, Ontario/Powell River Kings), who also assisted on Valenzuela’s goal, fired a shot that Skog stopped with the rebound laying in front. Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) swept it over to Brown, who had an open net for the goal.
Drackett was called upon to make several big saves late in the period when RIT was forced to kill off a major penalty. Drackett and the Tigers penalty-killing unit came up big in the second period as well, successfully denying the Yellow Jackets on two more power-play chances.
Valenzuela tallied his 100th point and gave RIT a 3-0 lead just 52 seconds into the third period, taking a feed from Brown and slipping a shot through the legs of Skog for his seventh goal of the year.
The Yellow Jackets responded with goals from Christensen and Mellberg just 1:10 apart moments later to get right back in the game, cutting the RIT lead to 3-2.
Calverley made it 4-2 Tigers with the eventual game-winning tally at the 7:04 mark, taking a feed from Kobe Walker (Lloydminster, Alberta/Lloydminster Bobcats) and sliding a shot between the legs of Skog for his fourth goal of the season. Andrew Petrucci (Toronto, Ontario/Toronto Patriots) also assisted on the goal for his first collegiate helper.
Once again however, the Yellow Jackets would answer 1:36 after Calverley’s goal, as Cole buried a rebound off a scramble in front after an offensive zone face-off win.
RIT’s penalty-killing unit was called upon to make a big stop to protect the one-goal lead with 6:44 and did just that. The Yellow Jackets would take an offensive zone penalty with 5:27 left, putting the two teams at 4-on-4. Alden Dupuis (Edmonton, Alberta/Bonnyville Pontiacs) won the ensuing offensive zone draw right to Cameron, who rifled a shot past Skog for his fourth goal of the season to make it 5-3 and give the Tigers their two-goal lead back.
Brown would put the game away with an empty-net tally in the final seconds off a feed from Girduckis to close out the season. The goal was Brown’s team-best ninth of the season and 61st of his RIT career. He now has 102 points as a Tiger.
Today was the third of four meetings between the two schools in 2018-19. RIT won both prior meetings at the Gene Polisseni Center on Nov. 9-10 by scores of 2-1 and 5-2. Drackett made 53 saves in the two wins. Dupuis had a goal and an assist in the 2-1 win on Nov. 9, while Brown and Jake Hamacher (Corona, CA/Dubuque Fighting Saints) scored two goals apiece in RIT’s 5-2 victory the following night.
RIT leads the all-time series between the two schools, 33-6-3. Brown leads all active Tigers against AIC with 14 points in 11 career games.
The Tigers and Yellow Jackets wrap up their regular season series on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. from the MassMutual Center.