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Niagara slayed some demons with this win. Last season, Niagara lost to RIT in OT in the semifinals. It's also important for Niagara to get pushed and still come out on top. And that's what happened in this series. Ultimately, it was Marc Zanette scoring his 10th of the year, in overtime, that gave Niagara the series win. It looks like the Purple Eagles will make the NCAAs no matter what. But it will try to do so as Atlantic Hockey tournament champs in Rochester next weekend, starting with a semifinal game against neighborhood rival Canisius.
Niagara was getting dominated early, but allowed just one goal. The Purple Eagles wound up pulling it out despite allowing two RIT power plays in overtime. “I was proud of the way our guys played this weekend,” said RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson. “I thought we played very well in the first period, but needed to get the two-goal lead. Both games in the series were incredibly physical, very well played and could have went either way. Give Niagara credit, they were able to get the job done each night.”
When healthy, Giancarlo Iuorio has been the difference maker time and again for Niagara this year, and he was again Friday. Playing against the team that knocked them out in OT last year, the Purple Eagles had all they could handle from RIT again. But in the end, thanks to two goals from Iuorio, Niagara got the Game 1 win and improved to 11 in the Pairwise.
Seven different players scored as RIT earned the rout, and a trip to the quarterfinals, where it will face top-seeded Niagara.
Canisius' sweep of the weekend gives it the 7 seed and puts RIT in 8th, though both teams get home ice in the first round, so it's not a big difference. “It was a complete effort from everybody tonight,” said Canisius head coach Dave Smith. “Our focus was excellent and once again, we scored timely goals today. We showed a great amount of character to grind out a crucial victory.”
RIT’s Matt Garbowsky broke a 1-1 tie with six seconds left in the second period. “RIT played a very good defensive style tonight,” AFA head coach Frank Serratore said. “This was a game when you just waited for one team to blink and we blinked with that turnover late in the second. This time of year you have to be able to win a 2-1 win and tonight it was them. We only scored one goal tonight and it was a 5-on-3. We needed to find a way to manufacture a goal tonight and we didn’t get it done.”
With three points on the weekend, Niagara is No. 17 in the Pairwise. It would almost have to win out to make it as an at-large bid to the NCAAs, but it's still possible.
St. Lawrence won the 1,000th game in the program's history, getting a split of the two-game weekend set with RIT.
RIT swept Sacred Heart on the weekend, but played a more thorough game Saturday than Friday. "I thought we were more consistent tonight than last night, start to finish," said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. "Our freshmen have really begun to step into their roles and play well for us and were great all weekend. Our power-play continues to produce for us and has been really good all season." ... RIT has just one game left this calendar year, but it's a big one with Niagara, which is currently unbeaten in the league.
Canisius got a split of its weekend, after getting shut out by Robert Morris on Friday. It defeated RIT in Rochester for the first time in eight games. “It was an aggressive, hard-earned victory tonight that we will look to build on in the future,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “We did a good job of limiting their chances and when we got the 4-3 lead, we played our best hockey to earn two hard points.”
Josh Watson got the shutout as RIT earned its first win since beating Michigan to open the season.
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