RIT put a halt to its five-game losing streak on Friday night in impressive fashion on at 84 Lumber Arena in a gritty 4-1 victory over Robert Morris.
Sophomore forward Abbott Girduckis led the way for the Tigers with two goals while goaltender Mike Rotolo turned away 34 of 35 Colonials shots. But perhaps the most impressive part of the win for the Tigers was a penalty kill that was successful on eight of nine attempts.
“It’s funny, I think we might have actually played better in some of our losses, but this is one of our grittier games in that we had to weather all the penalties we were taking,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “In some of the losses I thought we played better and deserved a better fate, and I thought at times we were a better team than some of our opponents. Tonight, I can’t say we’re a better team than Robert Morris, but maybe we were the grittier team.”
The Colonials held the edge in chances and shots throughout the first 20 minutes, outshooting the Tigers 17-7, but they could not get the puck past Rotolo, who was a brick wall until his team found its game. In the meantime, Girduckis scored an important first goal at 15:09 when he put the puck past Colonials net minder Dalton Izyk on a backdoor play to give the Tigers the early lead. It was the type of break the Tigers had been looking for during their losing streak.
“I thought that even though they controlled the first period, Mike Rotolo came up with some big saves for us,” WIlson said. “The penalty killing did a good job but we were up 1-0. We came in and said that we haven’t got many breaks this year and I thought it was a break for us that we had to capitalize on it.
“They rely a lot on their top line and power play to get momentum and energize their team and it was important to try to shut them down the best we could and we controlled them tonight. But, they could break out at any time and we know that.”
The Tigers then went to work on playing their game over the remaining 40 minutes as they won loose puck battles and found timely goals, including Liam Kerins’ game-winning goal at 14:47 of the second when he put a pass from Caleb Cameron past Izyk just a few minutes after Alex Tonge had tied the score for Robert Morris. The Colonials then seemed watch their game devolve into a series of missed passes, missed shots and forced and unforced turnovers.
“I didn’t think we played with a lot of energy, I didn’t think we were sharp in what we were doing,” Robert Morris Derek Schooley said. “After the first 20 minutes I didn’t think we competed as hard as we needed to, we didn’t play with as much energy, and RIT got better as the game went along.
“Mike Rotolo was outstanding tonight. It was a flat performance, it was a flat week of practice, and it was a flat game. We did not want to advance pucks behind them and we turned over too many pucks in the neutral zone. It’s a frustrating performance, we need to be better tomorrow night, we’re not going to win many games with a performance like that.”
The Colonials’ hopes for a comeback took a turn for the worse when defenseman Brady Norrish snuck a puck in the short side past Izyk on the power play at 5:07 of the third period. Rotolo then turned away a Spencer Dorowicz breakaway attempt to help seal the victory.
“The first 20 minutes we played well and we gave up the one goal but we were all real positive in the dressing room,” Colonials defenseman Eric Israel said. “And in the next 40, the wheels just fell off a bit. It’s been a habit we’ve had the last couple of weeks and we want to avoid that. We’re going to be ready to rock tomorrow night.”
Atlantic Hockey roundup
Air Force 6, at Bentley 1
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At Canisius 4, Army West Point 0
The red-hot Golden Griffins ran their winning streak to seven. Canisius goaltender Charles Williams stopped 29 shots for the shutout, his fourth of the season. Mike Sabatini managed two goals in the third period to pace the Griffins offense.
At Holy Cross 8, American International 2
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Sacred Heart 2, Mercyhurst 2
Justin Danforth’s goal at 17:25 of the third period gave the Pioneers new life and helped his team earn a point against the visiting Lakers. Brett Magnus and Brandon Wildung each stopped 32 shots for their respective teams.