The RIT men’s hockey team (3-3-1, 1-2-1 AHA) went to Erie, Pa., to take on the Mercyhurst University Lakers (2-5-2, 1-2-1 AHA) at their Ice Center. The Lakers defeated the Tigers on Nov. 2, 2018 by a score of 4-3. On Nov. 3, 2018 the two teams went into overtime, only to finish at a 2-2 draw. Due to the draw, both teams earned a point in the standings.

This series was the first time the Tigers have met the Lakers in the 2018–2019 season. It also marks the 30th anniversary since the two teams first faced.

Confidence, But No Guarantees

Last week, the men’s hockey team split their first conference series against the Robert Morris University Colonials, but had their minds set on taking over Mercyhurst this weekend. Before this weekend's games, fourth year Accounting major and forward for RIT, Gabe Valenzuela, shared his thoughts on how confident the team was about heading into the series.

“I think the boys feel really good,” he stated. “I think the main thing is that even though we won against Colgate pretty big, we can’t be complacent. That’s what happened last Friday [loss against Robert Morris]. We have to make sure we come into every series wanting to get the sweep.”

First year Business Exploration major and forward for RIT, Will Calverly, got some playing time in last week’s contest against the Colonials. He also believed that RIT was ready for Mercyhurst.

“I think this team prepares for everything. We spent all week on how to beat Mercyhurst. This team is prepared every day to get better and do whatever we got to do to win on the weekend,” he said.

“I think this team prepares for everything. We spent all week on how to beat Mercyhurst. This team is prepared every day to get better and do whatever we got to do to win on the weekend.”

Failed Comeback

A slow start to the first game was prevalent early, as the Tigers and the Lakers had their own momentum shifts. According to RIT Athletics, it wasn’t until after 15 minutes passed in the first period when the first goal was scored. Mercyhurst’s Wes Baker had a deadly shot that went off the pipe and into the net. RIT goalie and second year Business Management major Logan Drackett stood no chance as it was a well-placed shot.

The second period started very quickly for the Lakers, as Baker scored another goal — this time on a quick transition. The goal created a 2-0 lead for the Lakers.

Not long after, second year Business Exploration major and forward for RIT, Jake Hamacher, was able to score on a 3-on-1 break. His goal cut the lead, sparking motivation in our hockey team.

Late in the second period, fourth year Packaging Science major and forward for RIT, Abbott Girduckis, sniped a quick one past Lakers' goalie Stefano Cantali. The 2-2 tie only lasted a minute though, as Tommaso Bucci got space and scored past Drackett, giving Mercyhurst a 3-2 lead at the end of the second period.

At the start of the third period, Mercyhurst kept the momentum up as Baker scored yet another goal, giving him his first collegiate hat-trick. The Lakers took a 4-2 lead five minutes into the period.

Mid-way through the third period, third year Finance major and forward for RIT, Jordan Peacock, stole the puck and shot it right over the glove of Cantali — cutting the Lakers lead 4-3.

Eventually, RIT pulled Drackett and gained an extra skater, only to be stopped by the Lakers' defense. The Tigers lost the match 4-3 in a heartbreaker.

Our hockey team had a total of 28 shots compared to Mercyhurst’s 19. RIT had three powerplay opportunities, while Mercyhurst only had one. Both teams could not convert on the powerplay. Drackett saved 15 of 19 (.789) shots for the Tigers, while Cantali was able to stop 25 of 28 (.893) shots for the Lakers.

Dead-locked to a Tie

According to RIT Athletics, the second game of the series started off with the Tigers killing off two quick powerplays. The Mercyhurst Lakers were able to control the game, as they had a total of four powerplays in the first period.

Finally, with just eight seconds left in the period, Joseph Duszak scored for Mercyhurst on the fourth powerplay. Our team went to the locker room trailing 1-0 at the end of the first period.

In the middle of the second period, the Tigers committed yet another minor penalty. During the penalty kill, RIT's Hamacher was able to get into the Lakers' zone and fire a shot that deflected off a Lakers' stick and between the goalie’s legs. The short-handed goal tied the game at 1-1, giving our team hope. Hamacher earned his second goal of the series.

RIT finished the second period on the powerplay, having 38 seconds of advantage heading into the third period.

Mid-way through the third period, Taylor Best scored for the Lakers on a powerplay, giving his team a 2-1 lead.

With just two minutes left in the third period, RIT finally got an opportunity and went on a powerplay. With only one minute left in regulation, Drackett was pulled, giving the Tigers a 6-4 player advantage. Finally, fourth year Biomedical Engineering major and RIT forward, Erik Brown tapped in the game-tying goal, forcing overtime.

RIT and Mercyhurst could not find an answer in the overtime period, sending each team home with a 2-2 tie to finish off the series.

RIT had 30 shots in the game, while the Lakers had 29 shots. RIT capitalized on one of their five powerplays, as Mercyhurst scored on two of seven powerplays. Drackett stopped 27 of 29 (.931) shots for the Tigers. Similarly, Cantali stopped 28 of 30 (.933) shots for the Lakers.

Finally Coming Back to the Tiger Den

The men’s hockey team will be coming back to the Gene Polisseni Center on Nov. 9, 2018 and Nov. 10, 2018. They will be facing a difficult American International College Yellow Jackets squad (3-5-1, 3-2-1 AHA).

Following that series, the Tigers will have a peculiar, one-game meeting with the Canisius College Griffins (3-4, 3-3 AHA). That game will take place on Nov. 13, 2018 at the Gene Polisseni Center.

Hopefully the Tigers can use this home-advantage opportunity to roar their way back into the top of the Atlantic Hockey Conference.