Feb. 20, 2010

* Courtesy of RIT Athletics

ROCHESTER, NY - Tyler Mazzei (Kelowna, British Columbia) scored 1:10 into overtime to lead the RIT men's hockey team (19-11-1, 19-5-1 AHA) to its third Atlantic Hockey Association regular season title in the last four seasons, 3-2 over Air Force (12-13-6, 12-7-6 AHA) on Friday evening before a sellout crowd at Ritter Arena.

Chris Haltigin (Oakville, Ontario) dumped the puck into the Air Force zone, and allowed Andrew Favot (King City, Ontario) to beat an Air Force defenseman to the puck in the corner. Favot fed the puck out front to Mazzei, who tucked a tight angle shot from in close off Air Force goaltender Andrew Volkening for his ninth goal of the season.

RIT out-shot Air Force 32-26, including 14-7 in the third period and overtime.

RIT now has 39 points and holds a six-point lead in the Atlantic Hockey standings over Sacred Heart with three games to play. The Tigers hold the tiebreaker on Sacred Heart and will be the top seed in the upcoming Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs.

Cameron Burt (Detroit, MI) and Dan Ringwald (Oakville, Ontario) recorded a goal and an assist apiece for RIT. Favot dished out two assists. Tiger goaltender Jared DeMichiel (Avon, CT) was solid in net for the Tigers, stopping 24 shots for his 18th victory of the season.

DeMichiel made a huge stop on Matt Fairchild with 30 seconds left in regulation, sticking the left glove out, as the Air Force forward redirected a pass from in tight off a giveaway.

Kyle De Laurell and Scott Mathis scored for Air Force. Volkening was strong in net for the Falcons, stopping 29 shots.

Both teams scored a pair of power-play goals, all in the second period. RIT was 2-for-4 with the man-advantage, while Air Force was 2-for-5.

Air Force came into tonight's game with the top penalty-killing unit in the period, stopping 89.4 percent of their opponents attempts with the man advantage. They had allowed just 15 power-play goals all season before tonight's game.

"Our games have always been tight with (Air Force)," said RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson. "We're going to be in very similar games from here on out. We've got to continue to get better if we're going to win anything. Everyone has to be contributors. We've got enough motivation to play well."

Neither team got on the board in an opening period dominated by the defense. Both teams fired seven shots on goal.

RIT's two best chances came on its first power-play midway through the frame, when Haltigin and Alan Mazur (Burnaby, British Columbia) rung shots off the left, and right posts, respectively. Mazur's shot may have been deflected by Sean Murphy (Owatonna, MN) in tight. The goal light came on behind Volkening, but the puck clearly did not go in.

Air Force's best chance of the frame came later in the period, when Jacques Lamoureux fired a no-look backhand pass from behind the net to the high slot, where Tim Kirby's rocket of a shot went off the shoulder of DeMichiel and wide.

Both teams used the power-play to their advantage in the second period, tallying two times apiece.

RIT got on the board first, 7:34 into the period, as Burt's rocket from the high slot clanged off the post, off Volkening, and barely over the goal line for his 12th tally of the season. At first, the referee did not signal a goal, but after conferring with the goal judge, credited Burt with the goal. Chris Tanev (Toronto, Ontario) and Ringwald assisted on the goal.

Air Force answered right back 1:52 later on a 5-on-3 power-play, as Kyle De Laurell tipped in a point shot from Kirby past DeMichiel from in tight. Lamoureux also assisted on the goal.

RIT regained its one-goal lead at the 12:04 mark, as Ringwald completed a nice passing play, ripping a shot from the slot over the blocker of Volkening for his ninth tally of the year. Andrew Favot fed a pass down to Burt in the right corner, who one-timed the pass to an open Ringwald in the slot. Ringwald made no mistake for his 19th career goal.

Once again, Air Force responded, on the power-play with 4:21 left in the period, as Scott Mathis slid a perfect low shot from the left point past a screened DeMichiel for his second tally of the season.

Air Force leads the all-time series between the two schools, 12-11-2.

The Falcons are now 2-1-0 against RIT this season.

On Oct. 23, Air Force scored with 1:45 left in regulation to win 5-4. Just 24 hours later, the Falcons scored with one second left in overtime to defeat RIT, 3-2. It was the first and only time that RIT was swept in a weekend series in four years of AHA play.

Last year, the two teams were forced to share the regular season title at Ritter Arena to end the season. Both teams ended the year with 42 points in conference play.

The Tigers and Falcons conclude their season series on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Ritter Arena will be in a sea of white, as RIT SAAC sponsors a "whiteout", with free white t-shirts handed out at the door. RIT will go for its 20th win of the season.