ROCHESTER, N.Y.— The Sacred Heart University men's hockey team battled back to force overtime but was edged out by RIT as Abbott Girduckis sunk the game-winning goal 23 seconds into the extra period to give RIT the 5-4 victory.
The Pioneers (11-20-4) outscored the Tigers (15-18-2) 4-1 in the final two periods of regulation but were unable skate away with the win in game one of the Atlantic Hockey first-round series at the Gene Polisseni Center.
Juniors Stephen Hladin and Mike Crocock along with freshmen Matt Tugnutt and Marc Johnstone all found the back of the net in regulation. Crocock forced SHU's seventh overtime game of the season with his goal at 15:53 in the third.
Senior Kory Kennedy led the seven Pioneers in the assist column with a multi-assist showing. Kennedy along with Hladin and Crocock earned multi-point games. Junior Brett Magnus recorded 28 saves in goal for SHU.
The Tigers got out to the roaring start with back-to-back power play goals by Adam Brubacher and Gabe Valenzuela to take the 2-0 lead just under the halfway mark. Brubacher added the third straight RIT goal with his second of the game. SHU recorded four power-play chances in the period but all 11 shots on goal were denied by Logan Drackett.
The second stanza belonged to the Pioneers as SHU picked up two scores in the first five minutes as Hladin and Tugnutt brought the score to 3-2. RIT pushed the lead back to two off the wrist shot by Dan Willett. SHU capped the three-goal period as Johnstone chipped in the rebound goal at 10:55 in the period.
RIT controlled much of the final period outshooting SHU 11-5 with a little over five minutes remaining. The Pioneers caught a break as Crocock buried the open rebound goal at 15:53 to tie the game at 4-4.
The Tigers came out strong in the opening seconds of overtime as its tenacious forecheck forced the Pioneers turnover that led to Girduckis burying the game-winner just 23 seconds into overtime.
How They Scored…
1:13 – 1st Period: RIT 1, SHU 0: The Tigers took advantage of an early SHU penalty with strong puck movement on the power play as Myles Powell sent the pass across the ice to Brubacher for the one-timer from atop the right circle for the one-timer.
9:11 – 1st Period: RIT 2, SHU 0: On the power play again, Erik Brown sent the pass from below the right circle to Chase Norrish at the high slot. He sent the puck towards the net on the floating pass. Valenzuela cut across the zone and deflected it past Magnus for the two-goal lead.
13:00 – 1st Period: RIT 3, SHU 0: The Tigers had a strong possession in the Pioneers zone as Alden DuPuis sent the backhanded pass out to Brubacher at the top of the zone. The defenseman sent the wrist shot from the blue line that deflected off a SHU defender and trickled past the outstretched Magnus.
2:47 – 2nd Period: RIT 3, SHU 1: The Pioneers had the breakaway opportunity after the failed Tigers chance. Ruslan Rakhmatov fed the pass out ahead to Kennedy as he raced through the neutral zone and went wide on the left side into the RIT zone. He drew Drackett out of position with the sprawling save. The puck rebound out wide as Hladin was on the trail to chip in the rebound to get SHU on the board.
4:38 – 2nd Period: RIT 3, SHU 2: Kennedy got the pass in neutral ice again from Vito Bavaro as he worked into the RIT zone yet again, sending the puck to Tugnutt along the end line. The rookie sent the shot on goal as it banked off of Drackett's back and into the back of the net to cut the deficit to one.
7:36 – 2nd Period: RIT 4, SHU 2: The Tigers broke the Pioneers run as Powell worked the puck from the top of the slot to Norrish at the right point. He sent the pass cross-ice to Willett who was looking to draw the SHU defense. The defenseman snuck the wrist shot by Magnus along the left post.
10:55 – 2nd Period: RIT 4, SHU 3: After the Pioneers power play expired, Johnstone sent the pass from the half-wall out to Crocock from the right point. His shot was redirected by Austin McIlmurray as he crossed the zone but Drackett got his right pad out to deny the shot. Tthe rebound went out wide for Johnstone to finish off the play and cut the deficit back to one.
15:53 – 3rd Period: RIT 4, SHU 4: The Pioneers finally broke through in the third period as Hladin dropped into the RIT zone. He set up shop looking for a play as he fired the slap shot on goal but was blocked by an RIT defenseman on the left side. The puck deflected out to the right side as Crocock raced through the zone and buried the open look.
0:23 – Overtime: RIT 5, SHU 4: The Tigers won the opening faceoff and sent the puck into the Pioneers end. Ruslan Rakhmatov played the puck behind the net looking to clear it. Valenzuela came from behind and checked it away. Brown was there to pick up the puck and sent it back into the slot. Girduckis fired the one-timer that beat Magnus.
Key Stats & Notes…
- SHU has lost its last two playoff games in overtime, falling to Bentley 3-2 in double overtime in game three of the AHA 1st Round on March 5, 2017.
- The Pioneers were 0-for-7 on the power play as opposed to RIT's 2-for-4 night.
- RIT outshot SHU 33-28 on the night.
- Bavaro reached 30-points for the season with his 14th assist of the year, he is the first sophomore since Eric Delong back in 2010 to reach the 30-point mark.
- Kennedy recorded his second multi-assist game of the season and Crocock earned the first multi-point game of his career with one goal and one assist.
The Pioneers look to keep playoff hopes alive in game two of the best of three series tomorrow night from the Polisseni Center.