ALBANY, N.Y. - It turns out you can’t spell Detroit without R.I.T.
The Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers became only the fourth number-four seed to advance to the Frozen Four with a 6-2 victory over third-seeded New Hampshire in the NCAA East Regional final played before 3,737 fans at the Times Union Center. RIT becomes the first Atlantic Hockey member to reach the Frozen Four.
Tournament most outstanding player Jared DeMichiel of RIT followed his 39-save effort on Friday in a 2-1 win over top-seeded Denver with a 24-stop performance on Saturday.
“One thing I can tell you is that the 30 guys in our dressing room definitely believed it,” said RIT all-star defenseman Dan Ringwald. “We expected to win and we still expect to win. 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 is already being heralded as the next Bemidji State, the College Hockey America champ which reached the national semifinals last year, and these Tigers see the similarities.
“They were the second-to-last overall seed, they shocked a lot of people,” DeMichiel said. “They are similar to us in that they have smaller, quick forwards and like the transition game.”
“We don’t think of the underdog role or David vs. Goliath, we don’t care about that,” DeMichiel continued. “We worry about ourselves. We want to give Atlantic Hockey the respect it deserves. We want to prove to the nation we can play.”
If the nation wasn’t aware of RIT before this weekend, it is now. The Tigers (28-11-1) own the nation’s longest win streak of 12 games. RIT is ranked third defensively and fifth offensively, two elements which shined in the national spotlight.
The Tigers limited New Hampshire to 26 shots on goal, 12 coming in a furious third period. RIT got goals from five players and points from 10, representative of the way the Tigers have played throughout the season. Tyler Brenner scored twice, Andrew Favot set up three tallies and Tyler Mazzei and Chris Haltigin each had two points.
A close game turned during a 94-second span in the second period as RIT beat UNH goalie Brian Foster for three goals from Brenner, Brent Alexin and Stevan Matic to break a 1-1 draw.
Similarly, it was New Hampshire which scored two quick goals on Cornell’s Ben Scrivens late in the second period to turn the tide of Friday’s semifinal.
Favot set up the go-ahead goal with a drive toward the net before slipping a nifty backhand pass to Brenner. He took the puck in front of the crease and fired a shot between Foster’s legs at the 13:23 mark.
The crowd was still buzzing when Alexin rushed the slot, split two defensemen and got off a wrist shot which Foster stopped. Alexin followed the long rebound into the right circle and used a deke to beat Foster. The two goals in 13 seconds is a RIT school record at the Division I level.
Matic capped off the decisive rally when he scored off a tough angle from the right side at 14:57 of the second. Foster had stopped Matic’s original shot and a rebound shot from Sean Murphy before Matic scored on the wrister.
“They did a great job of burying our mistakes,” said Hockey East player of the year Bobby Butler.
“It’s hard to come back from that and it’s disheartening in a 1-1 game,” said UNH senior forward Peter Leblanc. “We had our chances and the bounces didn’t really go our way tonight. It’s tough to come back against a good team, down 4-1 in the third period.”
“It happened so darned quick,” said UNH coach Dick Umile. “We didn’t play our best game in the second period, that’s for sure. They frustrated us and we didn’t respond well. It wasn’t over going into the third period. We had to score early, and he (DeMichiel) made some saves there. We didn’t get enough quality shots.”
RIT jumped out on top with a goal from defenseman Haltigin at the 14:10 mark of the first period. Fresh off a faceoff win in the offensive zone, the puck came out to Haltigin on the right point. The sophomore skated into the high slot and flipped a shot that sailed through a crowd and eluded Foster for his 11th goal of the season.
New Hampshire produced the equalizer with 58.9 seconds left in the first period. Defenseman Brett Kostolansky fired a shot from the left wing which center Phil DeSimone slapped down in front of the crease, causing the puck to skip past DeMichiel.
DeMICHIEL IS BREAKOUT STAR OF EAST REGIONAL
Jared DeMichiel is having the time of his life, and he’s sharing it with anybody who cares to listen to the fun-loving RIT senior.
DeMichiel was looking snappy in a jacket, tie and green shirt, and he made sure to praise the green shirt worn by a media member. He joked about his fist-pumping celebration with the sound of the final horn.
He keeps his team loose, and leads by example - a perfect captain, coach Wayne Wilson says, even though DeMichiel doesn’t wear a C on his sweater.
“He probably should be wearing a C,” Wilson said. “He is not afraid to speak up. He keeps us loose. He has a great, strong work ethic. He is invaluable right now.”
DeMichiel has won all six playoff games this year, running his record to a nation-leading 27 victories. Coming into Saturday’s game, he ranked fourth nationally with a 1.98 goals against average and fifth in save percentage (.924). His 41 career wins is a school record, and he owns the RIT career marks for goals against and shutouts.
DeMichiel has made steady improvement every year in Rochester. He posted a 3.69 goals-against average in six games as a sophomore. Splitting time as a junior, DeMichiel went 13-6-0 with a 2.70 goals against and .905 save percentage.
In the NCAA East Regional, DeMichiel outdueled two elite goalies, beating Denver’s Marc Cheverie on Friday and New Hampshire’s Brian Foster on Saturday. Overall, he stopped 63 of 66 shots in RIT’s two victories, and was the obvious choice for tournament most outstanding player honors.
“It’s definitely an honor but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my teammates,” said DeMichiel, a business major from Avon, Conn. “I have a great defense playing in front of me and great forwards who are committed to team defense.”
DeMichiel was by no means dazzling in net but he made all the necessary saves and did not put himself in danger.
“What you saw this weekend has been Jared throughout the whole year,” Wilson said. “He was there when we needed him. He made a lot of things look pretty simple out there. He gives us a lot of confidence as a team. When you are not worried about your back end so much you can be more aggressive on the other end. He has done that for us. We’re very fortunate to have him.”
DeMichiel is slated to compete for the East team at the Frozen Four Skills Challenge, and may have to be replaced.
SEEN AND HEARD AT TIMES UNION CENTER
• And the least shall rise among them - This is the fifth time the number three and four seeds have met in a regional final since the tourney format expanded to 16 teams in 2003, and the third time that the lower seed prevailed. This marks the fourth time in the past three years that a four seed has advanced to the Frozen Four. No. 4 Notre Dame beat No. 3 Michigan State in the 2008 West final. No. 4 Miami (Ohio) beat No. 2 Minnesota Duluth in the 2009 West final. No. 4 Bemidji State beat No. 3 Cornell in the 2009 Midwest final.
• RIT had its streak of scoring at least three goals snapped at 16 games with its 2-1 victory over Denver on Friday. The Tigers popped in six goals against UNH, raising their season total to 144.
• The Tigers are not Frozen rookies. This may be RIT’s first visit to the Division I Frozen Four, but the Tigers have a rich program history. The program is making its 14th visit to the NCAAs in 28 seasons. The Tigers won the 1983 Div. II national title and the 1985 Div. III national title. RIT has played in the national Final Four in 1984, 1986 and 1999.
• New Hampshire successfully killed off 34 consecutive opponent power plays, including six against RIT, since Vermont scored on the man-up in the first period on Feb. 19. The rest of the streak: Vermont (0-1, 0-2), Northeastern (0-3, 0-4), Boston College (0-1, 0-4), Vermont (0-2, 0-4, 0-5), Cornell (0-2) and RIT (0-6).
• Bobby Butler leads the nation with 29 goals scored, following his two-goal effort on Friday against Cornell. His 53 points ranks fifth on the UNH single-season list, trailing Darren Haydar (76, 2001-02), Colin Hemingway (66, 2001-02), Sean Collins (56, 2004-05) and Preston Callander (54, 2004-05).
• Sorry Stevan. Senior captain Stevan Matic was not originally slated to start alongside center Cameron Burt and Sean Murphy, with Jeff Smith listed instead. Coach Wayne Wilson was able to inform the game officials beforehand to make sure Matic was penciled in. Matic went on to score RIT’s fourth goal.
• Wildcat facts - UNH is 13-23 all-time in NCAA tournament play. The Wildcats have won two NCAA tourney games in one year just three times (1998, 1999, 2003). UNH has won at least 20 games in 30 seasons, including the last 14 in a row.
PLUSSES AND MINUSES
The 100th is special. Saturday’s win by RIT was the 100th in five seasons of play at the Division I level. RIT is 100-71-13 since joining in 2005-06.
The Albany area has two Division I teams (Union and RPI) in its backyard and sits in the middle of the footprint of both ECAC Hockey and Atlantic Hockey, and yet the local community hasn’t completely embraced the regional. Losing regional-favorite Cornell from Ithaca on Friday night certainly didn’t help Saturday attendance, but thank goodness many fans made the nearly four-hour trek from Rochester. The Capital Region talks a good story about supporting events but doesn’t always back it up.
INCH’S THREE STARTS OF THE NIGHT
3. The RIT defense - Goalie Jared DeMichiel did not have to play spectacular because his job was made so much easier by a six-man unit which herded New Hampshire’s scoring threats to the outside. The Tigers limited the Wildcats to 26 shots on net.
2. Tyler Brenner, RIT - Each game gets bigger down the stretch, and RIT’s senior forward came up big with two goals, including the go-ahead tally that sparked a three-goal rally.
1. Jared DeMichiel, RIT - The netminder outdueled two elite goaltenders on the way to winning the regional’s most outstanding player honors. DeMichiel shut down two powerful offenses, holding Denver to one goal on 40 shots and New Hampshire to two tallies on 26 shots.
ALL-EAST REGIONAL TEAM
F - Tyler Brenner, RIT
F - Cameron Burt, RIT
F - Bobby Butler, New Hampshire
D - Dan Ringwald, RIT
D - Chris Haltigin, RIT
G - Jared DeMichiel, RIT
Most Outstanding Player: Jared DeMichiel, RIT
Most coaches would agonize over losing 48 goals and 96 points from the lineup at graduation, but New Hampshire’s Dick Umile actually has better production from his junior and sophomore classes. The juniors also have 47 goals and 124 points and the sophomores have 27 goals and 99 points. The Wildcat freshmen have nine goals and 38 points.
It’s time to head west for Rochester Institute of Technology and its faithful fans. The Tigers will face Wisconsin in the Frozen Four at Detroit’s Ford Field on April 8.
“We do have some momentum going our way right now, but at the same time it’s great to have a week off,” RIT goalie Jared DeMichiel said. “It will give us time to heal physically and allow our heads to deflate a little. We need to get back out there and focus.”