Courtesy of RITAhtletics.com
BUFFALO, NY – The No. 5 seed RIT men’s hockey team (17-17-4) had its 2018-19 season come to an end, falling to No. 6 seed Niagara University (17-18-5), 1-0 in overtime from HarborCenter on Friday night. Niagara will face top-seed American International College in the 2019 Atlantic Hockey Championship Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
Niagara’s Ludwig Stenlund scored the lone goal with 12:57 remaining in overtime. He got free in front of the RIT net and took a feed from Johnny Curran, before slipping the puck between the pads of Tiger goaltender Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks) for his 23rd goal of the season.
Adam Brubacher (Elmira, Ontario/Powell River Kings) had three chances on a power-play to begin overtime that were all denied by Niagara goaltender Brian Wilson. His last chance from the high slot came through a screen, but Wilson fought it aside into the corner. Jake Hamacher (Corona, CA/Dubuque Fighting Saints) came flying down the wing moments later, but had his hard shot turned aside.
Both goalies were tremendous on the evening, as Wilson turned aside all 32 RIT shots and Drackett made 26 saves on 27 Niagara shots. The two teams traded plenty of scoring chances for 67 minutes of hockey before Niagara ultimately advanced.
“It was an exciting game that had a little bit of everything,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “I thought both teams played really well, but Niagara made the extra play at the end which was the difference.”
Neither team scored in an intense opening period in which RIT held an 11-7 edge in shots on goal and had several golden chances, but could not solve Wilson.
Nick Bruce (Fall River, Nova Scotia/Johnstown Tomahawks) had a golden chance just over two minutes in that was denied by Wilson. Hamacher had a loose puck in front hop over his stick. Wilson had to come up big later in the frame, as he was handcuffed on a long shot by Zach Salloum (Orleans, Ontario/Ottawa Jr. Senators) before sticking the pad out to deny Gabe Valenzuela (Brampton, Ontario/North York Rangers)from the doorstep on the rebound. Wilson would also deny Will Calverley (Scarborough, Ontario/Chilliwack Chiefs) on a dangerous chance with just over three minutes left.
Drackett would make a great save, getting across to rob Stenlund on a one-timer from the slot on a Niagara power-play with just over a minute left in the period. He then denied Stenlund in close 30 seconds into the second period.
Both teams would fire eight shots on goal in the second period, as the defenses tightened up, not allowing much in the way of quality chances.
Calverley would have a great chance from in close with a minute left in the second that was stopped by Wilson. Drackett would deny Kris Spriggs in a tip-attempt seconds later.
Drackett came up big on Reed Robinson 3:30 into the third period, stopping a partial breakaway. He then denied Stenlund on two chances in tight with 11:45 left. Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73’s) had a good chance from the slot off a face-off win with just over two minutes left that Wilson turned aside with the blocker.
Niagara was 0-for-2 on the power-play, while RIT went 0-for-1.
RIT and Niagara split the season series, 2-2-1. Niagara leads the all-time series between the two schools, 20-12-4.
Overall, the Tigers are 32-19 in the postseason at the Division I level and 29-16 in the AHA Tournament. RIT is now 5-3 all-time in AHA Semifinal appearances.
Tonight marked the first time RIT had played to a scoreless draw after 60 minutes since Oct. 8, 2011 vs. Niagara at Ritter Arena.
American International defeated No. 8 seed Robert Morris, 3-2 in overtime in the first AHA Semifinal. The winner of Saturday’s championship game will receive an automatic berth into the 2019 NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Championship.