Elmira took advantage of two opportune bounces late in the first period, scoring a pair of goals to take the lead, and then held on for the remainder of the contest to win the ECAC West championship, 4-3 over RIT.
“It feels great,” said Elmira coach Tim Ceglarski. “Our seniors have been very close over the last few years and it was nice to see them get over the hump.
After seeing RIT narrow the lead to one in the middle frame, Elmira rebuilt its two-goal lead in the third period, continuing its trend of scoring both early and late in periods. Jason Cassells collected a clearing pass before it got out of the Tiger zone, and found Jarrett Konkle all alone in the slot. Konkle beat Tiger netminder Tyler Euverman high, right in the middle of the net to give Elmira a 4-2 lead 1:36 into the third period.
Down two goals with time passing quickly, RIT started to push everything up ice. This gave Elmira several first-rate chances as the Soaring Eagles took play down low in the RIT zone. But Euverman kept the Eagles from extending their lead.
Once again, RIT cut the Elmira lead back to a single goal midway through the period. The potent Tiger power play, ranked second in the nation entering the game, tallied at the 10:07 mark when Mike Tarantino slapped home a rebound lying on the edge of the Elmira crease.
Tiger coach Wayne Wilson pulled Euverman with less than a minute remaining in the game, but couldn’t score the equalizer as netminder Greg Fargo and Elmira stood firm.
“We asked Fargo to give us a chance, and he did that and more,” said Ceglarski.
Elmira had dominated play during the opening half of the first period, but it was RIT that got onto the scoreboard first. Mike Tarantino caught a long breakout pass from line mate David Bagley to start the play down the ice. Tarantino spotted Sam Hill skating down the slot and hit him with the puck, who then slid it past Fargo for the goal at the 9:16 mark.
Elmira continued to carry play, including benefiting from four power plays in the first period. Elmira finally capitalized late in the period, scoring two fluke goals in a :21 second span to take a 2-1 lead.
The first goal came on Elmira’s fourth power play of the period at the 17:39 mark. Dean Jackson flipped the puck from the middle of the slot towards the net. The puck bounced off of two players, the last being Tiger defender Matt Moore, and into the back of the net for the score.
Just 21 seconds later, the scene repeated itself. Jackson flipped the puck from a tight angle towards the net, it bounced off of Moore, and into the net for another Elmira goal.
Two bounces and the momentum of the game had completely changed.
“As soon as we got that second goal, I looked over at my assistant coach and said that is usually the kind of goal that comes back to bite us,” said Ceglarski. “Maybe that was an omen.”
The Soaring Eagles kept the momentum going as they entered the second period. Even though RIT started the stanza on a power play due to a scuffle at the end of the first period, it was Elmira that took advantage of the situation to score a shorthanded goal for a 3-1 lead.
Pierre Rivard was cherry-picking at center ice during the penalty kill, and Josh Piro spotted him as he went to clear the puck. Rivard skated into the RIT zone unmarked and deked around RIT netminder Tyler Euverman for the goal 1:07 into the second period.
“When you get into these situations, you want to bring your best game,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “But things got a little sloppy and Elmira played their best. The made their breaks by attacking the net.”
After bad luck late in the first period, fortune finally smiled on RIT a little less than a minute later. Euverman misplayed the puck behind his own net, and Elmira’s Jason Silverthorn collected the puck. As Silverthorn tried to wrap around, he knocked the net off its mooring and the play was whistled dead.
The Soaring Eagles continued to carry play as the second period progressed, but RIT started to show a little spark with about seven minutes remaining. The Tigers narrowed the margin at 13:56 when Mike Tarantino scored to make it 3-2.
Somehow Tiger defender Ryan Francke weaved a long pass from behind his own endline through a crowd to Tarantino, hanging just outside Elmira’s blue line. Tarantino caught the pass, skated in alone, and slid the puck through Fargo’s five-hole for the goal.
That goal gave the momentum back to RIT, which put pressure in the Elmira zone. But the Tigers couldn’t get the tying goal before the second period ended.
The All-Tournament Team was Greg Fargo, Elmira; Ryan Fairbarn, RIT; Mike Tarantino, RIT; Pierre Rivard, Elmira; and Mike Clarke, Elmira. The tournament Most Valuable Player was Elmira’s Dean Jackson.