ALBANY, N.Y. — In Friday’s NCAA opener, New Hampshire scored six goals in 22:40 to rout usually defensively stalwart Cornell, 6-2.
Saturday night was the same story, but boy, did the casting ever get rearranged.
RIT planted three goals behind UNH goalie Brian Foster in 1:34 halfway through the second period, followed by two more in the last 10 minutes of the third to pummel the heavily favored Wildcats by an eerily familiar 6-2 sum.
“It was kind of the same; they kept coming at us, but we couldn’t get the bounces,” said New Hampshire senior sniper Bobby Butler, who couldn’t duplicate his two-goal performance of the night before.
“We did it to Cornell yesterday, but we’ve come back before in the third period this season; we were trying to get it going again tonight,” echoed classmate Peter LeBlanc.
After falling behind 1-0 for the second night in a row, the fates decided that this night’s quarterfinal would twist in a similar but ironically different direction than it did the evening before. Momentum and good fortune once again sat on the visitors’ bench; the problem for UNH was, last night’s underdog was tonight’s big dog.
“They were aggressive, and they transitioned it back on us,” said disappointed UNH coach Dick Umile. “They had a couple goals right around the net, and you’ve got to give them credit. I don’t know how to explain it — it happened so quick. It went from 1-1 to 4-1 so quick.”
“I think we surprised ourselves a little bit,” said RIT coach said Wayne Wilson. “It may have looked easy, but it certainly wasn’t. The way we scored our goals [so quickly], I think that deflated them a little bit.
“It was real critical,” he said of the Tigers’ quick goals. “You had to get a lead on these guys, because I thought that UNH could score at any time.”
“We knew we had to score a lot of goals to beat these guys,” confirmed fourth-line winger (and All-Regional Team member) Tyler Brenner.
You’ll forgive those in attendance if we had to double-check which jerseys were celebrating at the final horn, because it felt like some warped opposite-universe Groundhog Day, in which everything happened exactly the same over and over again, and yet, it was all completely different.
“We’re still having fun, I’ll tell you that,” said Wilson.
That, at least, does not strain the imagination.
Just a Regular Guy
Tigers’ senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel was a media darling this weekend, more or less holding court in the press conferences with his cool confidence and wacky wit.
While many goalies exude confidence when they’re on the ice, which significantly impacts how their skaters perform in their midst, few are as self-assured and outgoing as DeMichiel.
“It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think Atlantic Hockey will ever get the credit it deserves. We don’t think about the underdog role, David versus Goliath, gold jacket-green jacket, if you know what I mean. We just want to go out and play,” he said of his squad’s attitude as Frozen Four party-crashers.
Making only 28 appearances in his first three seasons, 20 of which were last year, hasn’t hurt the DeMichiel’s ability to perform in the big games, as evidenced by his minuscule 1.30 goals-against average and .948 save percentage in this spring’s AHA and NCAA playoffs.
“He’s a regular guy, for a goalie,” praised Wilson of his anchor. “He probably should be wearing a ‘C’. He’s definitely a captain of the team, even if he doesn’t have a ‘C’ on the jersey. He says the right things at the right times, and he keeps us loose, as you can see.”
A chatty guy outside the locker room and on the ice, DeMichiel is definitely a popular guy on the RIT team, and his draw grows ever stronger with each successive victory.
“Most goalies get a reputation for being headcases or weirdos,” said captain and defenseman Dan Ringwald. “He’s a bit of a weirdo, but he breeds confidence. He keeps us from gripping our sticks too tight.”
DeMichiel wouldn’t have time to stress out his teammates anyway; he’s already too busy making opponents strangle their lumber. After all, he’s only one man.