Ithaca Defeats #2 RIT In Empire Conference Grudge Match

Editors Note: The following article was written by Tyler Cunnington, a Junior at Ithaca College, NY. Tyler plays Attack for the Bombers Club team and was gracious enough to share his take on their upset win over Empire Conference rival RIT 

The #7 ranked Bombers of Ithaca (7-3) took down the #2 ranked RIT Tigers (8-2) by a score of 6-5 in what was a back and forth affair ending in thrilling fashion. It was a rematch of the Empire Conference Finals in 2018 – the Tigers coming into Saturday’s matchup undefeated at 8-0 and the home team Bombers at 5-2.

The Tigers scored the first two goals of the game, one from an EMO and the other sneaking by Bomber’s Sophomore goalkeeper Owen Matyi through a heavy screen. The Blue and White would answer however, after Freshman attackman Ryan Dugan scored on a wrap-around shot from behind the goal.

RIT’s faceoff man won the clamp and took it upon himself to run it all the way into the Bomber’s defense and bury the shot, creating a 3-1 lead over Ithaca.

The home squad would cut into the lead again, with a quick split dodge by Freshman midfielder Tim Kuta resulting in a goal on a bounce shot low and away — making the score 3-2 in RIT’s favor. The Bomber’s gained possession again and a roll dodge by Junior midfielder Eric Brown gave him just enough room to fire a shot low on the Tiger’s goalie from around 12 yards, tying the game at 3 goals apiece.

The Orange and Black would follow suit as they did all game, answering the Bomber’s efforts with a goal of their own to regain the lead 4-3. However, a costly penalty for the Tiger’s gave Ithaca a Man-up opportunity with some time to spare before halftime.

Sophomore attackman Tyler Cunnington surveyed the defense from behind the net after chasing a shot out of bounds, and threaded a pass to the top of the zone to Tim Kuta who would notch his second goal of the game, evening the score 4-4.

Throughout the second half the game slowed down. Plenty of lengthy possessions for the Tigers came out empty handed and the Bombers at times were impatient and turned the ball over. Both goalies had their share of saves as well.

Mid way through the 3rd quarter, RIT was called for a penalty and the Blue and White looked to capitalize on the EMO.

After moving the ball around, Dugan found an open Cunnington on the right side about 10 yards out and fired a hard shot that rang the top right corner pipe and went in, giving the Bomber’s the lead 5-4.

Fast forward to the 4th quarter and the Bombers still held the lead — however a savvy swim dodge from an RIT midfielder created a slide from the Ithaca defense leaving room for a feed to the crease and a score. To make matters worse, a late hit cost the home team a penalty, giving RIT the chance to now take the lead after tying the contest at 5-5.

A key defensive takeaway from the Blue and White’s defensive unit allowed them to clear the ball and call a timeout with around three and a half minutes to play.

The Tigers, still up a man, were aggressive in trying to chase the Ithaca midfielders and attackman who were conversely trying to kill the lengthy penalty. With only one defender on him in the back-corner midfielder Eric Brown passed the ball to the attackman Cunnington. His team’s penalty still being served, Cunnington gave a roll to get some space and began running towards the right side of the field behind the net. His fellow attackman set a quick pick to get out of his way about 5 yards behind the cage and Cunnington accelerated and turned up field catching the defenders off guard. He turned and fired a shot on the run about 10 yards up-field that beat the Tiger’s keeper low and the Bomber’s took the lead 6-5 with two minutes to spare.

The crowd was into it more than ever as the home team now had the lead with only a few possessions left in the contest. RIT, had success all game from the faceoff-x however the scrum for the ground ball on the ensuing faceoff ended in a Bomber’s midfielder gathering the ball, but a stoppage by the referees due to an issue with the clock halted play.

Play resumed and the Blue and White were able to clear the ball and continue killing the clock with just over a minute remaining. An errant pass by a midfielder that went out of bounds gave RIT the ball back by the midfield line. A forced feed to the crease by the Tiger’s resulted in another clear attempt by the Bomber’s goalkeeper, who tried a long pass to an attackman deep in the offensive zone, and the Black and Orange gained possession once again, calling timeout, this time with only 15 seconds remaining.

The RIT midfielder took the ball from the top of the zone and began a dodge, making a jab to the right and then rolling – getting a bit of separation in the process. The Bomber’s Junior defensive midfielder Stratton Drivanos made the game saving play as he stripped the ball as the Tiger’s midfielder reached back to shoot lefty.

The ground ball followed and another Ithaca defensive midfielder, Freshman Tanner Conlon, scooped up the loose ball and ran past midfield as the clock struck double zeroes.

The Ithaca Bombers improved to a record of 7-2 on the season, while the RIT Tiger’s dropped their first contest of the season, standing at 8-1. Both teams however would lose to Binghamton, who also traveled to Ithaca to participate. The Bearcats took down RIT 7-2, while the Bomber’s fell 5-4 in another game that went down to the wire.

-Tyler Cunnington

RIT Photographer and Co President,  Zhen Humenn was on hand and captured these photos of the game. Thank you Zhen!

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