Magic Ends for RIT, DeMichael
by Matthew Conyers/CHN Staff Writer
DETROIT With close to seven minutes left in its NCAA Semifinal with Wisconsin Thursday, RIT coach Wayne Wilson called to goalie Jared DeMichiel from the bench.
Then Wilson asked the question he knew DeMichiel least wanted to hear.
“He asked me do you mind if we put in [Jan Ropponen] and [Shane] Madolora,” DeMichiel said. “I said, ‘Yeah go ahead.' How many times to do you get to play in the Frozen Four?”
Just like that DeMichiel’s career at RIT was over.
The end came swiftly for DeMichiel, the cornerstone of RIT’s surprising run to the Frozen Four. Wisconsin scored three power-play goals and built a five-goal lead headed into the second intermission to defeat RIT 8-1 in the most lopsided semifinal since 1969 — Denver 9, Harvard 2.
“Obviously if you look at the score you think [Wisconsin] dominated us, but I think it was a lot closer than the score reflects,” DeMichiel said.
Before RIT (28-11-1) could even get its offense going, Wisconsin (27-10-4) scored two goals in the first 10 minutes. The advantage was all the Badgers needed. RIT struggled to get shots and was en route to its worst loss of the year.
For DeMichiel, the six allowed goals were tied for most he allowed this season; he allowed six goals in a 6-1 loss to Minnesota State on New Year's Day.
“Any time you give up six goals, even if they’re good goals, you have to take some of the blame,” DeMichiel said. “I thought they had some pretty good goals but if I was standing on my head I make those saves. I did let down my team. I thought if I played a better game, we could’ve had a better opportunity.
“I just needed to make some bigger saves to help out my team tonight.”
Beyond the two six-goal games, DeMichiel allowed more than four goals in a game just five times all year.
But this wasn’t DeMichiel’s worst game. Nor was it RIT’s. It was just a game that got out of hand too quickly for the Tigers.
“We didn’t play all that bad in the first period, [Wisconsin] just got a couple nice shots from the front and kind of took the momentum from there,” DeMichiel said. “There were no nerves, we just couldn’t come back from a come power plays.”
Wisconsin scored three straight power-play goals, including two on 5-on-3’s, to go up 6-0 with 7:36 left in the second period.
Buried, and with what appeared no chance of recovery, DeMichiel was forced to resign himself to reality.
“A lot of people thought, 'We got RIT, might not be too tough of a match-up,' but any time you overlook teams like that, it comes back to bite you,” Wisconsin's Ben Street said. “They're a good team. I'm sure they probably aren't pleased with the way they played overall. I think that's a testament to us, how we dictated the game. You always get a little bit nervous when a team like that comes in because the record is 0-0. When a team's hot like that, you never know what can happen.”
DeMichiel, a straight shooter throughout RIT’s run to the semifinals, was adamant that the score was not indicative of the actual play.
“I don’t think that’s a reflection of the game whatsoever,” DeMichiel said. “I thought it killed us to be on the kill for five minutes in the second. I think they had two 5-on-3 goals. If we played 5-on-5 with that team like we had in the third, then it's a very even game. It’s a special teams battle. We lost it [Thursday].
“I wish we had another crack at these guys but we don’t, and we wish them the best of luck in the next round.”
Still, he knew the game had its swings. DeMichiel felt like the biggest came when Mark Cornacchia got five minutes for hitting from behind and a 10-minute game misconduct.
“It was obviously a big shift in the game,” DeMichiel said. “I thought [Mark Cornacchia held up on the hit] but obviously the officials thought differently. It’s tough. Wisconsin has a great power play and we knew that coming into this. They had a couple 5-on-3 goals and that was the back-breaker. We can’t kill penalties for an entire period against a team like Wisconsin.”
The play signaled the end for not just RIT’s season but DeMichiel’s career. He leaves leaves with an RIT Division I team record 41 wins. He is the all-time leader in goals against average (2.44) and shutouts (7). This season, he led the nation with 27 wins and was in the top five for goals against, save percentage and winning percentage.
“He’s been the backbone for us,” RIT forward Cameron Burt said.
For, DeMichiel it's been an unpredictable and memorable run no matter where he finished it.
“This is by far the best team I’ve ever played on,” DeMichiel said. “There is no individual, no person that means more than anyone else. ... This has just been an unreal experience. I don’t think I could’ve ask for anything else in college. It’s been an honor and a privilege to wear the RIT sweater.”