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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It appeared Rochester Institute of Technology would not only lose once again to Air Force in the Blue Cross Arena but would be shut out once again.
If it happened, it would have been the fourth consecutive time in Atlantic Hockey tournament play, translating to 12 periods of Air Force keeping the Tigers from turning on the red light.
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“I didn’t think we played a very good hockey game,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “I felt we were a little bit lethargic. I thought our fourth line, particularly Andrew Miller, was really moving his feet, so we moved him up and he scored. I felt maybe we should have moved him up a lot earlier than that. We found a way to win the hockey game when maybe we didn’t play our best.”
Both RIT goals were the result of poor defensive mistakes by Air Force.
On the first goal, Air Force was skating out with the puck when Miller stole it at the blue line. The quick turnaround produced a two-on-one break for RIT. Skating through the right circle, Miller kept it, wound and fired a shot past Shane Starrett for just his fourth goal of the season.
“I knew I had a good shot,” Miller said. “When I got an opportunity, it gave our team a chance to win it.”
In overtime around the 12-minute mark, RIT poured a lot of pressure on Air Force. This produced a turnover behind the net which Mitchell picked up. He fed Powell at the right circle, and he didn’t hesitate to let go of a one-timer that snuck just inside the far post.
“It was a long shift,” Powell said. “We kept grinding them. Josh did a great job there, and I just tried to find an opening. He got the puck and made a great pass. I wasn’t quite sure [if it went in] because I think it deflected off a shin pad. I didn’t know if it went in right away and then everyone was celebrating. I hadn’t scored in a while, so it was good to get that one that wins the game.”
The extra period saw a number of opportunities and close calls by both teams as both goaltenders came up with big saves.
After a scoreless first period, it appeared Air Force notched the first goal at 5:47 of the second period. However, the referees ruled it went in off a Falcons player’s hand. They reviewed the play to be sure and upheld the call.
Air Force finally did get the first goal of the game at 12:03. After strong pressure and a few shots, Evan Feno backhanded a loose rebound in the crease.
“A 2-1 game, but an exciting game,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “There was nothing boring or drab about it. We played pretty well. The bottom line is, when you only score one goal, the margin of error is awful thin. We’ve had a lot of luck in this building. We won a 1-0 game against a really good RIT team in 2011. We went to the well once too often.”
Mike Rotolo made 36 saves for the win, some key saves at key moments.
“The difference was Rotolo in the net,” Serratore said. “We had some two-on-ones, we had some flurries, we had a number of chances to get that second goal. Had we gotten that second goal, I think that’s all we would have needed. But he stood tall. He was the difference in the game.”
Air Force ended its season at 20-12-5.
RIT (17-14-6) plays for the Atlantic Hockey championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament Saturday night against Robert Morris.
“I think they are very deep, very dangerous,” Wilson said of his next opponent. “They are a good hockey team. We’ll have our hands full. No championship is going to be easy.”