Courtesy of RITAthletics.com
BRIDGEPORT, CT – Sophomore forward Jake Hamacher (Corona, CA/Dubuque Fighting Saints) snapped a 1-1 tie with 2:21 remaining in regulation and added an empty-net goal to lift the No. 5 seed RIT men’s hockey team (17-16-4) to a 3-1 win over fourth-seeded Sacred Heart University (16-17-4) in the winner-take-all game three of the Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals from Webster Bank Arena Friday night. RIT wins the series two games to one.
RIT will play a yet-to-be determined opponent in the Atlantic Hockey Semifinals from Harborcenter in Buffalo on Friday, March 22. Sacred Heart is eliminated from postseason play.
With the game tied at 1-1, RIT had to kill off two Sacred Heart power-plays midway through the third period. The game seemed destined for overtime before Alden Dupuis (Edmonton, Alberta/Bonnyville Pontiacs) created a turnover behind the Sacred Heart net and dished a perfect saucer pass out to the slot, where Hamacher was open to roof a one-timer over the shoulder of Brett Magnus for his 13th goal of the season with 2:21 left.
Sacred Heart pulled Magnus for the extra attacker in the final minute and Hamacher clinched the game and series with 20 seconds left. Dupuis blocked a centering pass to Shawn Cameron (Sherbrooke, Quebec/Cumberland Grads), who floated a clearing pass down the ice to Hamacher, who won the race to the loose puck for the empty-net tally.
Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73’s) scored a second period power-play goal for the Tigers, his team-leading 18th of the season and 70th of his career. Goaltender Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks) was outstanding in net, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 23 over the first two periods to earn the win, his 14th of the season.
The line of Dupuis, Hamacher and Cameron combined for 18 points in the three-game series. Dupuis led all players with eight points (three goals, five assists) and was plus-6.
Jason Cotton scored Sacred Heart’s lone goal, while Magnus made 18 saves between the pipes.
Sacred Heart out-shot RIT, 32-21. The Tigers scored on their lone power-play chance of the evening, while holding the Pioneers scoreless on two attempts with the man-advantage.
“It was just great resilience on our part, especially with how we started the series,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “We showed great character, our penalty killing was spectacular, Dracks (goaltender Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks)) played great, and we got the big timely goal. I can’t say enough about the leadership of our captains and how they rallied us together.”
The Pioneers opened the scoring just 2:15 into the game, as Cotton slammed in a loose puck in front after Drackett made two saves, but RIT could not clear the rebound. Play was stopped for a lengthy review to see if the rush was offsides, but was determined to be a good goal.
Drackett kept it 1-0 with 16:24 remaining in the opening period, making a nifty glove save on Cotton, who got behind the RIT defense. Jake Joffe (Toronto, Ontario/Toronto Jr. Canadiens) had a golden chance in close halfway through the period off a Pioneers turnover, but Magnus was there to make the save. Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes)teed up a one-timer from the slot later in the period which was turned aside.
Drackett continued to shut the door on the Pioneers in the second period and RIT would tie the game at 1-1 with 14:20 left in the middle stanza on the power-play, as Brown tipped in a shot by Dan Willett (Bayville, NY/Bloomington Thunder) past Magnus for his team-best 18th goal of the year and 70th of his collegiate career. Adam Brubacher (Elmira, Ontario/Powell River Kings) also assisted on the goal.
Sacred Heart had a golden chance on a 2-on-1 rush, but Jordan Kaplan hit the side of the net from in close with what looked to be a tap-in. Drackett would have 23 saves after two periods, as Sacred Heart held a 24-11 edge in shots.
Drackett would make a key save on Mike Lee during Sacred Heart’s first power-play of the game with 11:07 left in regulation. The RIT goaltender would deny Ryan Steele from the slot 20 seconds later. Drackett robbed Todd Goehring on a backhand in tight with 7:34 left.
Sacred Heart scored six unanswered goals over the second and third periods to take game one over the Tigers, 9-4. Last night, the line of Dupuis, Cameron and Hamacher led the RIT attack by combining for 10 points and a plus-10 rating in a 7-3 win to even the series.
RIT leads the all-time series between the two schools, 27-13-2. Tonight marked the seventh meeting of the season between the two schools and 12th meeting over the last 13 months. It was the second straight season that RIT and Sacred Heart met in a decisive game three of a postseason series, with the Tigers coming out on this year after Sacred Heart won in 2018.
The Tigers are now 3-3 all-time decisive game threes in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament and 3-0 all-time in quarterfinal game threes. It was RIT’s first road win in a game three. RIT has now won all eight quarterfinal series they have played in when receiving a first-round bye and will play in its eighth AHA Semifinal game in 12 seasons. Overall, the Tigers are 32-18 in the postseason at the Division I level and 29-15 in the AHA Tournament.