BRIDGEPORT, CT – The No. 5 seed RIT men’s hockey team (15-16-4) fell on the road at fourth-seeded Sacred Heart University (15-15-4), 9-4 in game one of the best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series from Webster Bank Arena Wednesday evening. Game two will take place Thursday night at 7:05 p.m.
Sacred Heart led 3-2 after one period of play and scored six unanswered goals, four in the second period and two more in the third. Seven different Pioneers scored goals. Jordan Kaplan led the way offensively with four points on two goals and two assists. Matt Tugnutt added two goals, while Austin Magera, Ryan Steele, Vito Bavaro and Marc Johnstone added a goal and an assist apiece. Josh Benson made 22 saves in the win.
Alden Dupuis (Edmonton, Alberta/Bonnyville Pontiacs) scored twice for the Tigers, while Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) and Nick Bruce (Fall River, Nova Scotia/Johnstown Tomahawks) also tallied. All three goaltenders saw time between the pipes. Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks) made the start and made 13 saves on 18 shots in 31:48 of play. Ian Andriano (Barrie, Ontario/Ottawa Jr. Senators) played the rest of the second period and Christian Short (Vaughan, Ontario/Surrey Eagles) made seven saves in the third period of play.
Sacred Heart out-shot RIT, 31-27. RIT was 0-for-2 on the power-play, while RIT did not take a penalty the entire evening for the first time as a Division I program.
“We were out of sync right from the get-go,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “We didn’t play with any grit or determination all evening, even when we got down big. It was a disappointing effort, collectively. We have to put tonight aside and be much better tomorrow night.”
The two teams combined for five goals and 30 shots on goal in a wild first period of the postseason.
Sacred Heart jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead with goals 1:07 apart. Kaplan converted a rebound at side of the net after a shot by Ruslan Rakhmatov came off the back boards and right to Kaplan in tight. Bavaro gave the Pioneers a 2-0 lead just 5:06 into the contest, taking a feed from Nick Boyagian on a 2-on-1 rush and sliding it past Drackett for his eighth goal of the season.
Wilson called his timeout right after the 2-0 goal, which seemed to settle down the Tigers. RIT would regroup and cut the Pioneers lead to 2-1 with 9:25 left in the period, as Dupuis whistled in a shot after a face-off win by Shawn Cameron (Sherbrooke, Quebec/Cumberland Grads) for his eighth goal of the season.
The Pioneers would regain their two-goal lead with 4:49 remaining in the period, as Alex Bates took a perfect feed from Jason Cotton in the slot and fired a point-blank shot in for his second goal of the season.
RIT would respond once again, as Girduckis slammed in a rebound at the doorstep for his 11th goal of the season after Benson made the initial save on a blast by Adam Brubacher (Elmira, Ontario/Powell River Kings). that was tipped in front by Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73’s).
Sacred Heart would break the game wide open with four goals in a stretch of 10:01 during the second period to lead 7-2 after 40 minutes of play. Kaplan scored his second goal of the game with 10:59 left in the period, taking a second fortunate carom off the back boards and beating Drackett to the post to make it 4-2. Magera gave Sacred Heart a 5-2 lead with 8:12 left, redirecting a shot by Rakhmatov past Drackett.
Andriano replaced Drackett after Sacred Heart’s fifth goal. Tugnutt and Steele scored 2:49 apart late in the period to make it 7-2 after 40 minutes of play.
Johnstone scored 19 seconds into the third period, while Tugnutt added a shorthanded marker with 6:47 left to make it 9-2 Pioneers. Dupuis scored his second of the game, ripping in a pass from Willett for his second of the night with 2:41 left. Bruce scored on a wrap around off a feed from Kobe Walker (Lloydminster, Alberta/Lloydminster Bobcats) with just under a minute remaining for his second goal of the year to close out the scoring.
RIT leads the all-time series between the two schools, 25-13-2. Sacred Heart has won four of five season meetings this season.
Game two will be Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. from Webster Bank Arena. RIT needs to win to keep its season alive. RIT is 7-1 all-time in game two of Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinal series and 2-1 when facing elimination in a game two.