RIT fans have to divide loyalties

The fans and support staff of Rochester Institute of Technology had to make a tough decision Saturday evening, but it was one of those dilemmas that is good to have. The men’s hockey team was playing Air Force at Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester in the Atlantic Hockey Association championship game.

Just 10 miles south, the RIT women’s hockey team faced off against Norwich in the NCAA Division III women’s national championship game in RIT’s home rink, Ritter Arena.

Which game would you attend as a fan?

The men’s team averaged over 2,000 fans a game and has a very loyal and boisterous following. The women’s team has been building a loyal fan base all season, setting a Division III women’s attendance record in January when it sold out Ritter Arena.

Even RIT President William Destler found it a tough call. He watched the first period of the men’s game, then quickly jumped in his car, listening to the RIT radio broadcast of the men’s game as he sprinted to Ritter Arena. He made it there in time to catch the end of the second period of the women’s game and stayed to its conclusion.

As it ended up, the attendance at both games was very strong. The RIT pep band split in half with 20-plus members at each contest. The famous Corner Crew did likewise, filling two sections at Blue Cross Arena while also packing themselves into their usual locations at Ritter Arena.

Fans packed into both arenas as 3,400 came through the gates at Blue Cross Arena for the men’s game and 1,350 filled Ritter Arena to cheer on the women.

RIT’s student-run radio station scrambled during the week and set up a second Internet stream to carry both games simultaneously, pulling equipment out of a second studio to pull off the technical feat.

Unfortunately, the ultimate hockey weekend for RIT fans ended in disappointed for both teams. Norwich scored a pair of goals in the first two and a half minutes of the women’s contest and held on to win the national championship 5-2.

Air Force defeated the RIT men’s team as well, 1-0 in a tightly played game to win the Atlantic Hockey title.

While it was a great weekend of hockey in Rochester, thousands of RIT fans left the arenas disappointed as a both seasons came to an end.