In a game which saw the storyline change constantly, American International College held on to defeat RIT, 5-4.
The original storyline was the goaltending situation for RIT. With Mike Rotolo out with an injury since January 3 and Christian Short going down last weekend against Air Force, the Tigers were left with their third string “practice” goalie.
Sophomore Nick Amato made his first collegiate start.
“It’s not something I expected,” Amato said of the start. “But I’ve always been prepared for it. Obviously, I haven’t played in a game in 11 months.”
The first goal against Amato would not have been stopped by any goalie. A defensive breakdown allowed Marc Dubeau to be wide open in the right slot. After receiving a pass from David Gandara, Dubeau easily lifted it over Amato’s glove.
RIT tied it up at the end of the period one second after its power play expired when Erik Brown deflected a slap shot from Alex Kuqali.
Another AIC goal where Amato could not be faulted gave the Yellow Jackets a 2-1 lead after two. It came on a two-on-one where Shawn McBride passed from left to right to Johno May. May delayed the shot ever so slightly before putting it in at 1:18.
AIC scored two more open look goals in the third period. First, Debeau kept the puck on yet another two-on-one, firing a wrister past Amato.
Then, Dudley was open on the left side, putting it in near side to take a 4-1 lead.
Now the storyline was last place AIC looking to upset RIT.
“There were parts of that game we were outplayed,” AIC coach Gary Wright said. “With that said, the two points are important to us.”
“I thought in general five-on-five we did not play strong enough,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “When we had a couple of chances, we were very lackadaisical around their net.”
The teams traded goals to maintain a three-goal margin. Brad Shumway one-timed a shot past Alex Murray, only to have Johnny Mueller backhand a rebound in 33 seconds later.
The storyline was becoming a third period scoring fest. That story quickly changed to one of a miracle comeback attempt.
With about five minutes left, RIT pulled Amato, and the Tigers put tremendous pressure on AIC.
“I thought we came to life five-on-four and six-on-five,” Wilson said.
“They really pressed us when they pulled the goalie,” Wright said. “The fans were really getting into it. It was kind of a charged atmosphere. Our goalie was stalwart tonight and played extremely well.”
Murray wound up with 45 saves and was named first star of the game.
RIT scored twice with the extra attacker. Abbott Girduckis slapped it in after receiving a pass from behind the net, then, Todd Skirving slammed a rebound home.
The goalie remained out, and RIT nearly tied it with just seconds left.
The final storyline was simply an entertaining game.
The two teams square off again Saturday night, and Amato will once again get a chance to go from practice goalie to Division I game-winning collegiate goalie.
“We need a little more fire under us tomorrow night,” Wilson said.