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A pair of unlikely contributors on the Connecticut offense helped bring RIT’s 13-game unbeaten streak in Atlantic Hockey play to an end Saturday night at Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
Freshman Tom Janosz and sophomore Josh Bernard each scored their first collegiate goals and freshman Garrett Bartus turned away 30 shots to earn his first collegiate win in the Huskies’ 2-1 win over the Tigers.
“I wasn’t sure how we were going to respond tonight after last night” said UConn coach Bruce Marshall. “But I thought we came out and played pretty consistent and battled for 60 minutes, which is what we have to do. We did a better job of getting the puck in the net and creating scoring opportunities for ourselves.”
The win was the first for Connecticut (3-16-3, 2-11-3 AHA) since they beat American International 4-1 on November 7. It was RIT’s (12-8-2, 12-2-1) first conference loss since a 3-2 overtime defeat at Air Force on October 24.
Connecticut jumped ahead at 4:17. Daniel Naurato pushed the puck up the right wing before finding wide open Tom Janosz in the slot. RIT goalie Shane Madolora appeared to keep his eyes on Naurato, enabling Janosz to notch his first collegiate goal.
Tigers’ defender Alan Mazur was whistled for interference at 6:15, giving the Huskies an early power play and a chance to add to the lead. However, they were unable to do so, and averted a potential short-handed breakaway when RIT’s Brent Alexin ran into a Huskies’ defender after stealing the puck near center ice. Alexin’s stick smashed, allowing the Huskies to regain control of the puck.
The Tigers and the Huskies each failed to convert on a pair of power play chances as Connecticut ended the opening period with a 1-0 lead.
UConn’s Chris Waterstradt was sent to the box for hooking at 7:13 of the second and the large contingent of RIT fans perched over the Huskies’ zone started to come alive, as the Tigers went on a power play. Tigers’ defensive pair Dan Ringwald and Chris Tanev cycled the puck around the perimeter before Ringwald unleashed a blast from the point that Bartus was in position to save.
Connecticut successfully killed the penalty and pushed the lead to two at 10:36. Once again, Naurato streaked up the right wing before passing the puck to the left slot, where Bernard was there to give UConn a 2-0 lead.
“It was awesome,” Bartus said of his first collegiate win. “I thought this is one of the better games we’ve played since I’ve been here. Everyone is contributing; it makes my job easier.”
RIT continued to have solid scoring chances, but simply couldn’t convert.
In the waning minutes of the second, Bartus went diving to his right to make a save. The puck rebounded off his pad to the exposed left post, but no Tigers’ skater was in position to put it home. After a tripping call against Michael Coppola, the Tigers went on a power play for the final 1:33 of the second. With 55 seconds left in the period, Stevan Matic launched a shot from the point that trickled off Bartus’ pad and floated harmlessly past the back of the exposed net.
Finally, at 10:51 in the third, RIT was able to break through on one of its chances. Just 41 seconds into RIT’s sixth power play of the game, Mazur pulled the Tigers to within one, but it wasn’t enough, as Connecticut held off a late RIT power play in the closing minutes. The Tigers pulled Madolora, but the Tigers’ shots either went wide or dinged off the post of the empty net in a frantic ending to the third period.
“We hit a couple of posts with an empty net; we can’t make it easy on ourselves,” Marshall said.
Connecticut’s win came without assistant captain Jason Krispel, the team’s fourth leading scorer, who Marshall said hurt his ankle in the series opener Friday.
“They capitalized on the opportunities that they needed to win,” said Tigers’ coach Wayne Wilson, whose team began its impressive run with a 6-2 win over UConn on October 30. “They have the ability to frustrate you, and they have the goaltender to shut you down. We had some opportunities; we just didn’t have any puck luck, but to their credit they packed it in and did a good job defensively.”