NEW HAVEN, Conn.— The Sacred Heart University men's ice hockey team broke a 3-3 tie with 52 seconds remaining off the goal by junior co-captain Mike Crocock before skating away with the 5-3 win over RIT on Sunday afternoon at Ingalls Rink.
The Pioneers (11-17-4, 9-13-4 AHA) tallied three goals in the final period to snap the Tigers four-game win streak and work the weekend series split.
Crocock's game-winner was his first goal of the season. Sophomore Zach Tsekos registered two goals in the big final period for SHU. Fellow sophomores Vito Bavaro and Austin McIlmurray recorded the first period goals for the Pioneers.
Sophomore defenseman Ruslan Rakhmatov led the Pioneers with two assists on the day. Classmate Jason Cotton had the game-winning feed to Crocock late in the third period. Freshmen Alex Bates and Marc Johnstone also registered helpers in the win. Brett Magnus recorded 22 saves in goal for the Pioneers.
The win also keeps the Pioneers in the pack to fight for playoff seeding with just two more regular season games left to play.
The Pioneers struck first after being held scoreless for just the second time all season last night. McIlmurray opened things up with the breakaway goal just 1:09 into the first. RIT quickly responded off the goal by Mark Logan at 2:13. Bavaro gave the Pioneers the 2-1 lead with his breakaway goal at 6:54 in the frame.
The second period was back and forth with the Tigers owning the 9-7 shot advantage. RIT tied things up again on Erik Brown's fifth goal of the weekend at 16:16.
SHU kicked things off in the third period as Tsekos chipped in the loose puck at the doorstep just 1:32 into the frame. The Tigers offense didn't back down as Myles Powell netted the power play goal at 4:37 to tie it at 3-3.
With the final minute approaching, the Pioneers went on the rush through the Tigers zone. RIT attempted to clear but Crocock knocked down the puck and skated down behind the net. The defender didn't pick him up as he raced for the wrap-around goal beating Christian Short on the far post for the game-winner. Tskeos' empty net goal with 27 seconds remaining sealed the game for SHU.
How They Scored…
1:09 – 1st Period: SHU 1, RIT 0: Rakhmatov broke up the Tigers play early in the first period. He sent the puck out to his linemate Bates on the left side. The freshman banked the pass off the halfwall out to McIlmurray in transition. The sophomore crashed to the net as the lone man in. He was able to push the puck past Short's right pad as he was falling down to put SHU on the board.
2:13 – 1st Period: SHU 1, RIT 1: The Tigers answered shortly after SHU as Matt Abt sent the pass from the left point out to Chris McKay. The defenseman queued up the slap shot from the right point. Logan cut across the zone to lay his stick on the puck as it deflected into the back of the net.
6:54 – 1st Period: SHU 2, RIT 1: The Tigers coughed up the turnover on the behind the back pass as Bavaro was on the trail. The sophomore picked up the puck and raced in on the breakaway. He fired the wrist shot past Short for the early lead for the Pioneers.
16:16 – 2nd Period: SHU 2, RIT 2: The Tigers went on the rush towards the tail end of the first period. Chase Norrish hit Gabe Valenzuela with the puck in the neutral zone as the three-on-three rush developed. He sent the puck out left to Brown who fired the wrist shot but was blocked. Brown didn't let up as he buried the rebound past Magnus.
1:32 – 3rd Period: SHU 3, RIT 2: Rakhmatov picked up the pass off an RIT clear in the Pioneers zone. He raced through the neutral zone and into the Tigers end. His pursuit was denied by Short as Johnstone was digging at the doorstep. Tsekos was also at the doorstep to nudge the puck into the back of the net.
4:37 – 3rd Period: SHU 3, RIT 3: RIT ran the set play from as Dan Willett sent the puck from the left point to Shawn Cameron at the right circle. His threw the puck on net looking for Powell but was knocked down by a Pioneers defender. Powell didn't let up his pursuit and buried home the loose puck.
19:08 – 3rd Period: SHU 4, RIT 3: The Pioneers controlled the puck in the Tigers zone as the final minute approached. Crocock picked up the puck along the left point as RIT looked to relieve some pressure. The defenseman raced around to behind the net and wrapped around the other side sending the puck on goal. The game-winner bounced past Short's blocker side and off the far post to break the tie.
19:33 – 3rd Period: SHU 5, RIT 3: The Tigers looked to pick up the equalizer on the extra attacker chance in the final seconds. RIT looked to keep the puck in the Pioneer zone along the blue line. Tsekos read the play and made the stellar stick-check to poke the puck free. He continued with the puck and followed it in for the breakaway empty net goal.
Key Stats & Notes…
- McIlmurray became the fourth Pioneer this season to reach double-digit goals with his 10th of the season.
- Tsekos earned the first multi-goal game of his career and is his fourth multi-point game of the season.
- Crocock's tally was the second of his career, with the first coming back on March 3, 2017, at Bentley. He also reached double-digit points for his career with 10.
- Magnus recorded his 34th career win which pushed him to fourth all-time in among Pioneer goaltenders.
Four big points on the line for Atlantic Hockey playoff seeding are on the line next weekend. The Pioneers will close out the 2017-18 regular season at Army West Point, beginning Friday, February 23 at 7:05 p.m.