As RIT enters its first season in Division I, more things have remained the same than have changed.
For example, the roster includes 17 players from last season’s team.
“We did bring in what I think are a lot of players — nine,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “I didn’t want to get on a cycle where you bring in 15 guys and then not be able to recruit because you’ve got an unbalanced roster. I believe in our guys. There’s a fine line between the third-tier D-I programs and top Division III programs. We’re going to be better than most people might think.”
Returning players expected to make an impact at the Division I level include junior Darren Doherty (23 points last season) as well as a trio of sophomores, Matt Smith, Rickey Walton and Simon Lambert. All are coming off strong rookie seasons.
Newcomers up front include Jesse Newman and Brennen Sarazin. Steve Pinizotto, another highly-touted recruit, comes into the season with an injury and won’t be available until November.
Wilson says that he likes what he has up front, but it will be the defense and goaltending that make or break his team’s first season in Division I.
“One thing that going to be different in D-I is that every game is a tight game,” he said. “There aren’t any 13-1 blowouts. We have to stay focused every minute of every game.”
Anchoring the defense will be senior captain Marc Hyman. who was All-ECAC West last season. Tony Bifulco is the other senior blueliner — the rest are all freshmen and sophomores.
“We’ve got a young defense,” said Wilson. “They’ll have to grow up fast.”
Three goaltenders will battle for the starting spot, with incumbent senior George Eliopoulos being challenged by sophomore Jocelyn Guimond and freshman Louis Menard.
“It’s wide-open at this point,” said Wilson. I think all our goalies are capable but we are looking for one to compete at a high level consistently. All will get a chance in our first few games.”
Wilson was able to put together a competitive and attractive schedule on short notice — thanks, he says, to the college hockey community.
“We got good cooperation from everyone,” he said. “The ultimate is teams helping us out by playing us at home. My hat is off to them, and to all the teams that are helping us. Some very high-profile teams are helping us.”
The Tigers’ guests this season include St. Lawrence, Union, Canisius, Air Force and Quinnipiac. Road opponents include Cornell, Clarkson, Rensselaer and Bowling Green.
“Our goal at this point is to take at least one point each weekend,” said Wilson. “We want to compete and show we belong.”