By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
On a night when RIT honored the most celebrated team in program history, the Frozen Four team from 2010, the current edition of Tigers hockey did their best to steal back the spotlight.
Trailing 4-1 after two periods, the Tigers rallied for a 5-4 victory over Canisius in front of 3,463 raucous fans on Saturday night at the Gene Polisseni Center.
“We weren’t letting this crowd down, we weren’t letting down the alumni,” said sophomore right winger Kobe Walker, who scored the winning goal with 4:50 to play.
His breakaway goal, a laser into the top right corner of the net, capped a crazy scoring spree that turned the three-goal deficit into the one-goal victory.
The four goals came in a span of just 3 minutes and 32 seconds. The first three in that stretch were scored in 94 seconds.
Which, if you’re into distant coincidences, was the time span between RIT’s three second-period goals in the 2010 NCAA Regional finals against New Hampshire that turned a 1-1 tie into 4-1 comfort zone.
“We caught something,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said of the comeback. “We talked between periods about what a great character win this would be.”
Of course, to enjoy a comeback victory, there first must be a spark. It didn’t come until 8:22 remained, when Elijah Gonsalves scored his fourth goal of the season.
On the next shift, Shawn Cameron scored his 13th goal, zinging a seemingly harmless wrister from the top of the right circle that somehow eluded goalie Jacob Barczewki.
“It happened quick,” Gonsalves said. “We kept getting pucks behind their D, we kept battling them, we kept outskating them.”
And they kept scoring. Gonsalves tied the score at 13:12, slam-dunking the rebound of a Jake Hamacher shot from the high slot for his first two-goal game as a collegian.
“I can’t even describe the feeling, the fans,” Gonsalves said. “We scored one goal after the other. It felt like we could have beat anybody tonight.”
Walker’s winning goal came when he hauled in Darren Brady’s stretch pass in the neutral zone, outraced the defense and roofed a shot from the hash marks.
“I wanted to get it up there and I just kind of ripped it and found the back of the net,” Walker said of his seventh goal, which provided a sweep of the home-and-home weekend set with Canisius.
When the final horn sounded, the Tigers celebrated, then made their way to the southwest corner of the Gene to salute the Corner Crew.
And moments into the salute, the 2010 team, joined them.
“It’s kind of a special moment when you’re a hockey player here to salute the corner crew,” Wilson said.
The dual salute was special in itself, with the team that put RIT hockey on the map celebrating a stirring victory by the current edition of Tigers hockey.
The reunion night brought a special feel to the building and the comeback victory was the perfect encore.
“With that team in the building, you want to represent RIT, you don’t want to disappoint the players that came before you,” Wilson said.
The victory moved the Tigers (13-10-3 overall, 9-6-3 in Atlantic Hockey) into a three-way tie for fourth in the conference at 31 points.