RIT Hockey falls at home to Air Force
ROCHESTER, NY – Despite allowing a Division I program-record low 13 shots on goal, the RIT men's hockey team (8-9-2, 7-5-1 AHA) fell to visiting Air Force (10-10-3, 5-8-2 AHA) at the Gene Polisseni Center on Friday night.
Erik Baskin and Trevor Stone scored first period goals for Air Force, while goaltender Billy Christopoulos made 25 saves on 26 shots.
Myles Powell (Courtenay, British Columbia/Cowichan Valley Capitals) scored with 7:24 left in the third period for RIT. Logan Drackett (Calgary, Alberta/Calgary Canucks) took the loss in net, stopping 11 shots.
RIT out-shot Air Force, 26-13. RIT held the Falcons to just three first period shots and five each in the second and third periods. The 13 shots allowed were one fewer than the previous Division I team record of 14, set on Dec. 3, 2016 at Niagara.
Air Force was 0-for-3 on the power-play, while the Tigers were scoreless on their only power-play attempt of the evening.
"A hard-fought defensive battle was the type of game we were expecting," said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. "It was tough to generate offense, but we did a very good job defensively as well. I was disappointed with the loss, but not with our effort. We are going to have to dig down and play a little better tomorrow."
Air Force scored a pair of goals on just three shots in the opening period to take a 2-0 lead.
RIT, who had just four shots on goal of its own in the period had a golden chance about seven minutes in, as Mark Logan (Calgary, Alberta/Brooks Bandits) slipped behind a fallen defender and came in all alone on Christopoulos. Logan deked to the backhand and tried to slide the puck between the goaltender's pads. The puck scooted past a sliding Christopoulos and was slowly heading towards the goal line before Jake Levin swept it away, keeping it scoreless.
The Falcons would get on the board 10:32 into the game, as Baskin one-timed a drop pass from Ben Kucera off the left post and in for his 10th goal of the season.
Air Force would add to its lead with 3:28 left in the period, as Stone wristed a low shot from the high slot off the rush past Drackett and off the left post and in for his third goal.
Neither team would score in another closely contested second period of play in which RIT held a 9-5 edge in shots.
Shawn Cameron (Sherbrooke, Quebec/Cumberland Grads) had a golden chance to get RIT on the board in the opening minute of period, streaking in on a shorthanded breakaway. He tried to beat Christopoulos with a backhand, but the Air Force goaltender stayed right with him and made the arm save.
Moments later, Abbott Girduckis (Belleville, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) took a feed from Erik Brown (Keene, Ontario/Kemptville 73's) and wired a one-timer from the slot that Christopoulos kicked aside.
RIT's penalty-killing unit was called upon to kill off a major penalty early in the third period and did a great job, limiting the Falcons to just two shots. RIT seemed to be energized and picked up the pace, firing 13 shots on goal over the final 20 minutes.
Powell got the Tigers on the board with his eighth goal of the season with 7:24 left in regulation. Dan Willett (Bayville, NY/Bloomington Thunder) fired a shot towards the Air Force net that glanced off a Falcons defender right to Cameron in front. Cameron slid a cross-crease pass across to Powell who was all alone on the left side. Powell slid the puck in to make it a 2-1 game.
RIT kept coming and had a handful of excellent chances, but not finish. With 1:54 left, Drackett was pulled for the extra attacker. Christopoulos made a key save on Girduckis from the slot and stopped a last second shot by Powell to preserve the win.
Tonight's game was the third of four meetings of the regular season between the two squads. On Nov. 17, Air Force earned a 4-3 win, while RIT rebounded for a 3-2 win the next night in Colorado Springs. Ryan Kruper (Sherwood Park, Alberta/Sherwood Park Crusaders) broke a 2-2 tie with a power-play goal late in regulation to lift RIT to the victory.
Air Force leads the all-time series between the two schools, 29-21-4. A remarkable 31 of 49 meetings between the two schools since RIT moved to Division I in 2005 have ended in ties or one-goal.
RIT and Air Force conclude the weekend series Saturday night from the Gene Polisseni Center at 7:05 p.m. It is free admission for all children ages 12 and under.