ROCHESTER, NY – Senior forward Brad McGowan (Langley, British Columbia/Surrey Eagles) recorded the first four-goal game in RIT’s Division I era as the men’s hockey team (17-14-5) completed the weekend sweep, defeating the Air Force Academy Falcons (16-21-4), 7-3 in front of 3,057 fans in game two of the best-of-three quarterfinal series of the 2015 Atlantic Hockey Conference Tournament at the Gene Polisseni Center on Saturday evening. RIT will face No. 2 seed Canisius in the semifinals on Friday, March 20 at the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester.
“We had to be patient tonight,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “We slowly picked away at them and our first line matched up very well with their first line.”
RIT out-shot Air Force, 43-27. The Tigers were 3-for-5 with the man-advantage, while Air Force was 2-for-6. It was the first time RIT scored three power-play goals in a game all season.
McGowan had RIT’s first four-goal performance since Sam Hill tallied four times on Feb. 1, 2003 versus Hobart College. Josh Mitchell (Osoyoos, British Columbia/Alberni Valley Bulldogs) tied a career-high with four points on a goal and three assists, while Matt Garbowsky (St. George, Ontario/Powell River Kings) tallied a goal and had a pair of helpers, giving him 26 goals and 50 points, one shy of the RIT Division I team mark in both categories. Myles Powell (Courtenay, British Columbia/Cowichan Valley Capitals) had the seventh RIT goal, while Brady Norrish (Strongfield, Saskatchewan/Yorkton Terriers) added a pair of assists. Jordan Ruby (Tavistock, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) got the win in net for the Tigers for the second straight night, making 24 saves.
Max Hartner, Ben Kucera, and Cole Gunner each scored for the Falcons, while Scott Holm added a pair of assists. Chris Truehl took the loss in net for Air Force, making 36 saves.
Neither team scored in a hotly contested first period of play that featured several good chances by each side, with shots finishing 13-7 in favor of the Tigers.
Ruby was excellent in the period, stopping all seven shots he faced, including a couple from point-blank range. McGowan had two good chances in the period, including one that clanked off the crossbar and away.
The Tigers got on the board just 49 seconds in the second period on McGowan’s first tally of the game. He scored off a feed from Garbowsky, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Air Force tied it at 1-1 at 9:02 of the second when Kucera scored a power play goal off feeds from Reid and Baskin.
Garbowsky gave RIT a 2-1 lead at 13:57 of the second period on his 26th of the season off of assists from Brady Norrish (Strongfield, Saskatchewan/Yorkton Terriers) and Mitchell.
The third period was the McGowan show, as he tallied a Division I record three goals in the frame, including an empty-net tally, as RIT scored five times to earn the weekend sweep. He opened the scoring at just 27 seconds into the period off an assist from Todd Skirving (Thunder Bay, Ontario/Sioux Falls Stampede), while the two teams were skating 4-on-4. Skirving dug the puck out of the boards and fed McGowan who fired a good hard shot that beat Truehl cleanly.
McGowan’s goal at 8:17 of the third made it 4-1 RIT with Mitchell and Norrish getting the assists, giving him the hat-trick. Mitchell scored an empty-net goal at 14:34 of the third. He banked a clearing attempt out of the RIT zone, down the ice and into the net.
After a Cole Gunner goal cut the RIT lead to 5-2, McGowan tallied his fourth of the game at 16:24 of the third, this time with the empty net. Myles Powell (Courtenay, British Columbia/Cowichan Valley Capitals) added a power play goal at 18:01 to round out the scoring for the Tigers.
“We are growing up as a team and peaking at the right time,” said Wilson. “We have missed playing at Blue Cross Arena, and we are looking for great leadership from our veterans as we move forward.”
McGowan scored his second hat-trick of the season (Feb. 21 vs. Robert Morris) and fourth by a RIT skater in 2014-15. Garbowsky also has a pair of hat-tricks.
RIT finished 3-1 against Air Force this season. The Tigers defeated the the Falcons, 5-1 in Colorado Springs on Oct. 24, while the Air Force exacted revenge with a 4-3 overtime win the next night. Last night, Mitchell scored the game-winner early in the third period, as RIT hung on for a 2-1 win.
Air Force leads the all-time series between the two schools, 22-19-3. The teams met in the 2011 and 2012 AHA Championship games and combined to win six of the last eight league titles. Since the start of the 2005-06 season, RIT is 16-20-3 against Air Force. It is the first time RIT has eliminated Air Force from a postseason series.
Wilson is now one win shy of 300 at RIT. He is 299-179-54 in his 16th season at RIT.