Ice Griffs look to repeat playoff performance against rival RIT
By: Jay Ashdown
When the RIT Tigers come to HarborCenter for a two game series against the Canisius Golden Griffins, they will have one thing on their mind: revenge. After last year’s bitter sweep at the hands of the Ice Griffs, the Tigers come to Buffalo boasting a 5-3-2 record, as well as a locked and loaded roster.
Last year was a strange one for RIT. One of the most consistent programs in the Atlantic Hockey Association saw regular season success last year again, but struggled to put it together at the right time due to struggles in net. In 12 starts last year, the normally reliable Logan Drackett went 5-5-2. While his record wasn’t poor, his save percentage was an abysmal .869% and his goals against average wasn’t much better at 3.45.
Now that Drackett has graduated and is no longer with the program, RIT has turned to junior goaltender Kolby Matthews to try and carry the load for the Tigers. Fortunately for them, he answered the call very well. In eight starts this season, Matthews boasts a save percentage of .917% and a goals against average of 2.61. This type of goaltending with the offensive firepower RIT has is what makes them a dangerous team.
Leading the way offensively for the Tigers is Will Calverley. Calverley posted 25 points in 18 games last season, which was good for best in the conference last season in points per game. So far this season, it has been much of the same for the senior sniper. Calverley has eight points in ten games for the Tigers, with six of them being goals.
While Calverley is the star of the Tigers, they also boast tremendous depth. The Tigers can roll four lines on just about any team in the league; they get scoring up and down their lineup. Elijah Gonsalves and Jake Hamacher are two players who have no goals and only one point through nine games. Why should Canisius worry about them? Despite the rough start for both forwards, Gonsalves recorded 22 points in 20 games last season, while Hamacher put up 21 points in 20 games last season.
The fact that RIT is 5-3-2 with their second and third leading scorers from last season combining to not record a single goal and only one assist a piece should genuinely concern Griffs fans. It goes to show that RIT can rely on anybody on any given night to produce offensively for them and it’s why they’re one of the deepest rosters in the AHA.
RIT has always been an up-tempo team that likes to push the pace of play and keep teams on their heels, and they’re no different this year. They’ve played three series so far in conference play, and they’ve won three games with one loss and two ties. In the two ties, they lost one of the shootouts to Army, but won the other one against Mercyhurst.
“I think it’s hard to place whether a team is an offensive team or a defensive team,” said head coach Trevor Large. “I think RIT is a good team and that will get our entire focus. We need to play together. If we’re playing separated I don’t think it matters who we play, we need to play together if we want to win.”
The Tigers have also impressed in their non-conference schedule as well. Despite a 6-0 loss to No. 13 Notre Dame and a 5-2 loss to Colgate, they also beat that same Notre Dame team 3-2 in overtime the night prior and also boasted a 2-1 win over St. Lawrence.
Since RIT became a Division I program, the Tigers own a 26-21-2 lead in the series. However, the matchup between these two teams has been fairly even recently, with Canisius holding a 12-7-1 advantage over the last 20 games.
This weekend will see two games between two very good teams who both have a legitimate shot at an Atlantic Hockey title this season. These two teams are very even due to their offensive firepower as well as the performances they’ve received this season in net. Canisius has split all four series they’ve played in this season, and due to the evenness of both clubs, it wouldn’t be surprising if they split their fifth series of the season.