BY JONATHAN SKUZA
HENRIETTA, N.Y.– Multiple blown leads and mistakes by RIT made the Tigers settle for a 4-4 tie against Mercyhurst Friday evening. The Lakers won in a shootout in six rounds 2-1.
“I never thought it was our game to win,” RIT’s head coach Wayne Wilson stated. “When you start off the game and give up two breakaways and two-on-ones and they get two goals. Our game plan was to prevent easy goals. No odd-man rushes.”
RIT started Friday’s contest very well with a goal 3:34 into the game. Andrew Petrucci put a shot on net while on a rush that squeaked by Merchurst’s Tyler Harmon to get the Tigers the early lead. Just over three minutes later, Elijah Gonsalves found Caleb Moretz in the slot and Moretz fired home a beautiful shot to move RIT out to a two-goal lead.
After the first-period media timeout, the tides turned on the Tigers. Mickey Burns cut the Tigers’ lead after he was able to take advantage of a bad turnover by the RIT defense at Mercyhurst’s blue line. The Lakers continued to pressure the rest of the period and it led to them tying the game after Tommy Bannister set up Eric Esposito with a goal.
RIT was able to get some momentum back near the halfway mark of the second period when Gianfranco Cassaro took the puck around the net and fired it home to give the Tigers the lead again.
That momentum shifted away from the Tigers as they found themselves in some penalty trouble. Steven Agriogianis capitalized on a two-man advantage with a blast from the point to the tie for the Lakers.
“I don’t know if there’s anything more odd-man than breakaways in the first or two-on-one and then we want to stay out of the box and we gave them a five on three,” Wilson stated.
RIT was able to snatch back the lead fairly quickly with a short-handed goal by Tyler Mahan 31 seconds after the Laker’s powerplay goal. Mahan created a turnover at the blue line and broke down the ice on a breakaway and buried the puck to give the Tigers momentum again.
Mercyhurst returned the favor in the third period with a short-handed goal of their own. Marko Reifenberger took advantage of RIT’s first full powerplay to tie the game for the Lakers.
The game intensity picked up as both teams fought hard to secure a victory in regulation and overtime, but neither team was able to break through.
“We just didn’t generate enough,” Wilson said. “We didn’t work hard enough to get more powerplays and for the five-on-three our penalty killing is good, but if you give up a five-on-three against a skilled team, they’re going to score.”
RIT will look to avoid the series sweep as they will play the series finale on January 14.