RIT squanders chance for home ice in AHA playoffs

Before the game, RIT honored seniors Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73’s), Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes), Mark Logan (Calgary, Alberta/Brooks Bandits), Christian Short (Vaughan, Ontario/Surrey Eagles) and Gabe Valenzuela (Brampton, Ontario/North York Rangers). (Photo: Eakin Howard/RIT Athletic Communications)

By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA

For the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, Saturday night was a lot like picking the wrong curtain on Let’s Make A Deal.

Behind curtain No. 1: a first-round bye and then home ice advantage for the second round of the Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs.

Behind curtain No. 2: an all-expense paid trip to Bridgeport, Conn.

In losing 2-1 on senior night Saturday at the Gene Polisseni Center to Atlantic Hockey cellar-dweller Canisius, RIT ended up with curtain 2.

Welcome to spring break at Webster Bank Arena.

The Tigers finished the regular season with a 13-11-4 record in the conference and 15-15-4 overall. A pair of losses this week — 4-3 at Niagara on Wednesday and then Saturday’s loss — meant instead of hosting a best-of-three playoff series as one of the top four seeds, RIT ends up slotted fifth and goes on the road to play Sacred Heart (14-11-3, 15-15-4).

The time and dates haven’t been announced, in part because there are events scheduled Saturday and Sunday in the arena.

The matchup is a rematch up last year’s first-round playoff series, when visiting Sacred Heart upset the Tigers in three games.

Now, RIT goes on the road after losing to a team they, in theory, should have had no difficulty dispatching. Instead, Canisius scored midway through the first period, held the lead until Erik Brown’s tied it 4:27 into the third, then went back on top to stay on a goal by Felix Chamberland with 5:47 to play.

“Credit to them, then hung in there,” Tigers coach Wayne Wilson said.

The Tigers went 1-1 against Canisius, yet were 4-0 against league champion American International College.

“It’s whoever’s going to play their best hockey at the right time and right time — the only time — is coming up,” Wilson said.

The good news for the Tigers: The did earn the first-round bye. So while seeds six through 11 play next weekend, the top five have the week off.

“From Dec. 26 these guys haven’t had a weekend off,” Wilson said. “This will be a chance to refresh.”

Canisius goalie Matt Ladd was the primary reason RIT loss. He stopped 33 shots, including all 30 through two periods and six during a two-man advantage in the second period. Then the Tigers were only able to manage four shots in the final 20 minutes.

One of those shots was off the stick of Brown, who was able to jam home the end-boards carom after linemate Abbott Girduckis missed the net to the left. It was the team-leading 17th goal for the senior winger.

But the Golden Griffins regained the lead on Chamberland’s power-play goal at 14:13. It came on the tail end of a five-on-three man advantage after hooking penalty by Kobe Walker at 11:00 and a slash by Adam Brubacher at 12:46.

“They capitalized on our penalties whereas we didn’t capitalize on theirs,” Wilson said.

And thus, it’s off to Connecticut.

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