ALBANY, N.Y. — Hello Detroit. Goodbye New Hampshire.
The upstart RIT Tigers, competing in their first NCAA Division I tournament since moving Division I in 2005, continued their magical run with a convincing 6-2 win over third-seeded UNH Saturday at the Times Union Center.
“We’re still having fun; it’s an accumulation of a lot of hard work from the past, a lot of hard work since we’ve gone to Division I,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “The calmness of the players and just how they go about their work. They’re just having fun along the way and don’t feel any pressure.”
RIT used a quick strike attack late in the second period to down the third seeded Wildcats.
What turned out to be a murderous second period for UNH opened with a prime short-handed chance for the Wildcats. With 1:36 left on Greg Burke’s interference penalty, Paul Thompson and Bobby Butler found themselves in the neutral zone with just one defender to beat, but the puck was swatted back towards New Hampshire’s zone. The Wildcats were able to recover and drive down the ice, but Thompson’s redirect bounced off the crossbar and away from a sprawling Jared DeMichiel.
Tyler Brenner began RIT’s scoring onslaught at 13:23 with a deke around UNH’s defense. Just 13 seconds later, Brent Alexin followed with a score of his own to put the Tigers up 3-1.
Stevan Matic closed the flurry by poking in a loose puck that Foster couldn’t corral as it rattle around the net.
“We did it to Cornell yesterday with [Butler's] and [Mike]Sislo’s goals in 26 seconds,” UNH forward Peter LeBlanc said. “We came back a couple times in the third period this season. We were trying to get going and [do it again], but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Blake Kessel pulled the Wildcats to within 5-2 at 17:31 in the third after Brenner had put RIT up 5-1 at 10:01, but Tyler Mazzei capped the scoring with an empty-netter at 18:06.
“I don’t think we think of ourselves in the underdog role, David vs. Goliath, or gold jacket versus green jacket,” DeMichiel said. “We don’t worry about that; we just care about ourselves.”
RIT opened the scoring at 14:10 in the first. Chris Haltigin took a pass from Mazzei and floated a long, low shot through traffic that found its way past Brian Foster and into the back of the net.
New Hampshire tied the game in the waning minute of the first period when Brett Kostolansky launched a shot from the point that was tipped in by Phil DeSimone.
The All-Region team was comprised of Butler, Burt, Brenner, Haltigin, Dan Ringwald, and DeMichiel. DeMichiel was the region’s Most Outstanding Player.
“It’s definitely a great honor,” DeMichiel said of being named Most Outstanding Player. “But it’s nothing that would have been possible without the help of my teammates.”
The loss marked the second consecutive season the Wildcats have bowed out in the regional finals. They bowed out 2-1 to eventual national champion Boston University in last year’s Northeast Region championship game.
“We [worry] about ourselves,” Wilson said. “I think we’ve only lost one player early to the pros in the 11 years that I’ve been here. It’s nice to have players that are focused on RIT and not where their next stop is going to be.”
For Wilson and RIT, it’s Detroit.