When the Rochester Institute of Technology men’s hockey players do their stretching exercises about an hour before game time, they wear T-shirts that say “Fear the Streak.”
Well, the Tigers might want to get new T-shirts that say “Fear the Streak in Detroit,” because that is where they are going for the Frozen Four.
RIT completed an incredible run to its first Frozen Four appearance on Saturday, cruising to a 6-2 victory over New Hampshire in the NCAA Hockey tournament East Regional championship game at the Times Union Center.
The Tigers (28-11-1), the fourth seed in the region, have won 12 straight games, the nation’s longest winning streak this season. They become the first Atlantic Hockey team to reach the Frozen Four, and it took just five years for them to do it. RIT elevated its program from Division III to Division I in 2005.
“We’re still having fun,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “This is an accumulation of a lot of hard work from a lot of different players from the past, starting with Division III. They won two national championships. Those players have set a bar of excellence.
“It’s just really exciting. It’s a little unbelievable, for me, anyway, just [in] the calmness of the players and the way they go about their work, and how much fun they have. I don’t know if it’s because we’re the underdog, or what the reason is. We’re having fun along the way. We don’t feel any pressure.”
RIT’s run can be compared to one made last year by Bemidji State of College Hockey America. The Beavers were the fourth seeded in the Midwest Regional, and they upset regional top-seed and overall tournament No. 2 seed Notre Dame, 5-1, and regional third-seed Cornell, 4-1, to reach their first Frozen Four.
The Tigers knocked off regional top seed and overall No. 2 seed Denver, 2-1, Friday before dismantling third-seeded UNH (18-14-7). The Tigers will face the winner of the West Regional final, either St. Cloud State or Wisconsin, in the semifinals April 8 at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions.
“We’re going there to have fun,” Wilson said. “There’s no pressure on us.”
The Tigers, who took a 1-0 lead on Chris Haltigin’s goal with 5:50 left in the first period, never looked like a team making its first NCAA Division I tournament appearance. All weekend, they were loose and relaxed, and that attitude translated on the ice.
Even when UNH came back to tie the score, 1-1, on Phil DeSimone’s goal late in the first, RIT never got nervous.
“The first period, we were a little to excited,” said RIT goalie Jared DeMichiel, who made 24 saves as was named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player. “The first intermission, it was really quiet in our locker room. It was kind of weird. I didn’t know if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but it was definitely quieter because the guys were focused
“Everyone knew what we had to do to get it.”
The Tigers got it. The game turned during a 1:34 stretch in the second period.
Tyler Brenner snapped the tie with 6:37 left in the period. He got behind the UNH defense and went to the net. He took a pass from Andrew Favot, who carried the puck down the left wing into the UNH zone, and beat goalie Brian Foster.
As the RIT fans were celebrating that goal, Brent Alexin made it 3-1 13 seconds later. Stevan Matic scored at 14:57 to increase the lead to 4-1.
“We knew we had to get the lead again,” Brenner said. “Once we got that goal, we got our confidence and got things rolling.”
The Wildcats, the Hockey East regular-season champions, never recovered.
“It’s hard to come back like that, and it’s disheartening in a 1-1 game,” UNH forward Peter Leblanc said. “[UNH’s Paul] Thompson hits the crossbar, which could have made it 2-1. We had our chances, and the bounces didn’t really go our way. It’s tough to come back against a good team, down, 4-1, in the third period.”
Brenner got his second goal of the game midway through the third. Blake Kessel scored the Wildcats’ second goal with 2:29 remaining, but Tyler Mazzei sealed the Tigers’ win with an empty-net goal at 18:06.
“One thing I can tell you is that the 30 guys in our dressing room definitely believed it,” RIT defenseman Dan Ringwald said. “A lot of the outsiders didn’t give us a chance, but we just take that in stride, accept it for what it is and still go out there and approach the game the same way.”
RIT, led by DeMichiel, placed five players on the all-tournament team. Joining DeMichiel were defensemen Ringwald and Haltigin, and forwards Brenner and Cameron Burt. UNH’s Bobby Butler, who had two goals and an assist in Friday’s 6-2 victory over Cornell, was the other forward. . . .
RIT won NCAA Division III titles in 1983 and 1985. The 1985 team was coached by Bruce Delventhal, who later coached Union.
RIT 1 3 2 — 6
New Hampshire 1 0 1 — 2
First Period — 1, RIT, Haltigin 9 (Mazzei), 14:10. 2, New Hampshire, DeSimone 10 (Kostolansky, Kipp), 19:01. Penalties — McReynolds, RIT (interference), 9:32; Burke, UNH (interference), 19:36.
Second Period — 3, RIT, Brenner 13 (Favot, Saracino), 13:23. 4, RIT, Alexin 4 (Haltigin, Hartley), 13:36. 5, RIT, Matic 5 (Murphy, Burt), 14:57. Penalties — Mazur, RIT (interference), 1:55; Campanale, UNH (hooking), 6:10; Cornacchia, RIT (hooking), 9:22; New Hampshire bench, served by Hardowa (too many men), 15:59.
Third Period — 6, RIT, Brenner 14, 10:01. 7, New Hampshire, Kessel 16 (Kostolansky), 17:31. 8, RIT, Mazzei 10 (Favot), 18:06 (en). Penalties — Leblanc, UNH (hooking), 13:26; DeSimone, UNH (hooking), 14:02; Henrion, UNH (slashing), 18:46.
Shots on Goal — RIT 7-18-8 — 33. New Hampshire 8-6-12 — 26.
Power-play opportunities — RIT 0 of 6; New Hampshire 0 of 3.
Goalies — RIT, DeMichiel 27-9-1 (26 shots-13 saves). New Hampshire, Foster 17-14-7 (32-27).
A — 3,737. T — 2:33.
Referees — Derek Shepherd, Mario Hunt. Linesmen — Dan Carey, Bob Keltie.
Categories: College Sports