RIT Breaks Hex, Will Play for First Title, NCAA Bid
by Sal Maiorana/Special to CHN
ROCHESTER, N.Y. RIT goalie Jared DeMichiel knows all about the Tigers’ rather gory history at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial, because he’s lived through most of it.
Entering Friday afternoon’s Atlantic Hockey semifinal tournament game against New York Thruway rival Canisius, RIT had lost in its last five trips into the big barn downtown.
And in the last two defeats, to Colgate earlier this season and to Mercyhurst in the AHA semifinals in 2009, DeMichiel gave up a goal in the first minute of play.
“It was in the back of my mind a little bit,” DeMichiel said. So imagine what he was thinking when he saw Canisius’ Scott Moser barreling in on a breakaway 28 seconds into the game.
“I knew they were excited to play, and I told myself before the game my team is going to play great in front of me and maybe I need to make a couple good saves,” DeMichiel said. “One of them came earlier than expected.”
DeMichiel got his glove on Moser’s shot, and that was about as close as the Golden Griffins came to scoring the rest of the way as DeMichiel finished with 20 saves in an easy 4-0 victory.
In snapping their BCA hex, the Tigers (24-11-1) stretched their winning streak to nine games, the longest active run in Division I hockey, and they moved into the AHA championship game where they will take on Sacred Heart.
Should they win their first AHA tournament title, the Tigers would advance to the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time since moving up to the top level in 2005. Sacred Heart has never made it either.
It’s not like DeMichiel, or any of his teammates, were focusing on their past problems in the arena, but it was hard to avoid.
“You try to put it aside and try to approach every single game like it’s the last one,” said senior captain defenseman Dan Ringwald. “Especially for the seniors it’s in the back of your mind and you can’t ignore it; we’ve struggled here in the past. You try to just focus, we had a great week of practice and we talked about it before the game. We just felt ready to go.”
After Moser’s near miss, the Tigers dominated as they played most of the rest of the first period in Canisius’ end, and the result was goals 52 seconds apart by Tyler Brenner and Taylor McReynolds.
Brenner made a nifty between-the-legs deflection of Ringwald’s shot from the left circle on a power play, and then McReynolds’ tipped in Mike Janda’s shot from the right point, and the Griffs (17-14-6) were pretty much done.
Andrew Favot made it 3-0 midway through the second period with RIT enjoying a 5-on-3 man advantage. He was parked on the right side of the crease and converted a perfect feed from Ringwald.
Alan Mazur wrapped it up with six minutes remaining when his low slapshot from the point on yet another power play appeared to carom off a Canisius player in front and past goalie Dan Morrison.
“I thought we played very well,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “The first couple shifts they came at us really hard, but we weathered the storm and then we fell into the game the way we like to play it. We were very aggressive offensively, we created some power plays for ourselves, and we were capitalizing.”
RIT went 3-for-8 with the man advantage while it killed all seven of Canisius’ power plays.
“Some things didn’t go our way tonight,” said Canisius coach Dave Smith, whose team was 0-3 against RIT this year, was outscored 13-4, and did not score one goal at even-strength. “They won a lot of puck battles and they deserved to win tonight.”