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Tigers Earn Clutch Tie With Mercyhurst

Jeff Smith scores with two minutes left to keep Tigers unbeaten streak alive
The RIT men's hockey team (15-8-3, 12-4-3 AHA) had its five-game winning streak snapped, but extended its unbeaten streak to six games after a hard-fought 2-2 tie against Mercyhurst (14-10-4, 11-4-4 AHA) in front of a sellout crowd of 2,100 fans at Ritter Arena on Saturday.

Jeff Smith (Spokane, WA) scored the game-tying goal with 2:03 remaining in regulation to help RIT earn the tie after Mercyhurst scored two quick goals early in the third period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

In overtime, Mike Colavecchia (Maple, Ontario) had RIT's best chance with a little over a minute left, as he skated in over the Mercyhurst blueline, and ripped a hard slap shot that goaltender Jordan Tibbett snared with the left glove.

Down 1-0 heading into the third, defenseman Nick Jones scored consecutive goals 2:53 apart in the first four minutes of the third period to swing the momentum and give the Lakers a 2-1 lead.

Jones tallied his first of the game just 44 seconds into the period, as took a feed from Nardo Nagtzaam in the slot and wired a shot over the glove of RIT goaltender Shane Madolora (Salinas, CA), just under the crossbar to tie the game at 1-1.

In nearly identical fashion, Jones was left all alone in front.  At the 3:37 mark, as he took the pass from Daniel Bahntge, and once again, beat Madolora over the glove for his eighth goal of the year.

The Tigers struggled to generate many chances in the 11 minutes following, as Mercyhurst threatened to up the lead, but Madolora made a handful of big stops to keep it 2-1.

Tibbett made two incredible saves inside the final five minutes of regulation, first robbing Colavecchia in front with a sprawling glove save, then thwarting Matt Garbowsky (St. George, Ontario/St. John's Collegiate) at the side of the net.

Smith was able to corral a loose puck behind the Mercyhurst net after Cameron Burt (Detroit, MI) created a turnover, and beat Tibbett on a wraparound for his fifth goal of the season and second in the last two games.

Burt's assist gives him 126 career points, moving him past Dan Ringwald (Oakville, Ontario) and into third place all-time in scoring at RIT in its Division I era.

Chris Haltigin (Oakville, Ontario) also scored for RIT, extending his point-scoring streak to six games with his second goal of the season with 1:36 left in the second period. He has a goal and eight assists and is plus-8 over that stretch.

Madolora was brilliant in net for the Tigers, stopping 34 shots, including several quality chances to earn the game's first star. He has allowed just four goals over his last six games is in the top-five nationally in every major goaltending category.

Tibbett stopped 37 shots in just his second start of the year for Mercyhurst and was named the game's second star. Nagtzaam and Bahntge recorded a pair of assists each.

The referees let the two teams play, calling just three penalties all evening. RIT was scoreless on its lone man-advantage, while Mercyhurst was 0-for-2. RIT has now successfully killed off 35 of its last 36 shorthanded attempts. RIT out-shot Mercyhurst 39-36.

RIT Head Coach Wayne Wilson thought that his team was not as sharp as they have been as of late.

"I didn't think we had a lot of jump tonight until the few shifts before we tied the game (late in the third period)," said Wilson, who picked up his 250th career win on Friday. "We were caught standing around quite a bit. Thankfully, Shane (Madolora) always seemed to be in control for us tonight."

Neither team scored over the opening 20 minutes, as Mercyhurst came out strong and out-shot the Tigers 13-11.

Madolora made several huge saves in the opening stanza. He robbed Kyle Just on a 3-on-2 break early in the contest, and made consecutive saves on Kyle Johnson and Just on a 2-on-1 later in the frame. Just appeared to have an open net, but Madolora and defenseman Nolan Descoteaux (Dallas, TX) were both able to get just enough of the shot to keep the puck out of the net.

RIT had a few good chances, but the majority of its chances came from the perimeter.

Haltigin scored the only goal of the second period, as RIT took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room after 40 minutes.

Madolora came up with a huge glove save on Randy Cure early in the period.  Cure was the trailer on a 3-on-2 break, took a drop pass just inside the RIT blue-line, skated in and wired a wrist shot that Madolora calmly snared from point blank range.

Tibbett made a few big stops of his own, robbing Ben Lynch (Blaine, MN) and Adam Mitchell (Crofton, MD) in succession midway through the frame.

RIT finally broke through with 1:36 left in the period, as Taylor McReynolds (Sherwood Park, Alberta) fed Garbowsky with a pass into the neutral zone.  Garbowsky sped in and fired a shot from the left face-off circle that Tibbett stopped, but the long rebound came right to Haltigin, who ripped a hard slap shot from the slot into the net for his second goal of the year.

The Tigers have outscored its opponents 24-4 over its six-game unbeaten streak. They have allowed two goals or fewer 12 times in the last 14 games.

RIT has now sold out seven home games this season. They play four more regular season games at Ritter Arena. The Tigers are 32-2-7 against AHA foes at Ritter Arena dating back to the start of the 2009-10 season.

Tonight's contest was the third and final regular season meeting between the two schools this season, with the series tied 1-1-1. Mercyhurst defeated RIT 2-1 at the Mercyhurst Ice Arena behind 49 saves from Strang on October 28. Last night, the Tigers out-shot Mercyhurst en route to a 5-1 win. Five different players scored for the Tigers.

RIT is 28-14-6 all-time against the Lakers and are 12-5-2 against Mercyhurst since moving to Division I in 2005. 

This weekend's games were the first at Ritter Arena since Dec. 10. RIT played nine straight contests away from Ritter Arena and went 6-3 during that span.

RIT leads the AHA standings by one point over Mercyhurst and have a two point lead on Niagara.

RIT goes back on the road for a pair of games at AHA foe Air Force on Friday and Saturday.  Friday's game, which will be on CBS Sports, gets underway at 10:05 p.m., while Saturday's contest starts at 9:05 p.m.
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