What doesn’t kill you
Every team faces some measure of adversity during the college hockey season, a 25-week marathon.
But Rochester Institute of Technology had more than its fare share. Coach Wayne Wilson said this season has been the most challenging in his 17 years behind the Tigers’ bench.
But RIT came through it stronger as a result, and this past weekend claimed its second consecutive Atlantic Hockey title, coming from a fifth-place regular season finish to outlast Air Force 2-1 in overtime on Friday and then roll past top-seeded Robert Morris 7-4 in the title game.
“We never complained, never got dejected,” said Wilson, whose Tigers uncharacteristically struggled on home ice, and were so decimated by injuries that a club goalie was pressed into starting four games late in the season.
“It was important to get the bye (that came with a fifth place finish),” said Wilson. “We really needed the break to get healthy.”
Junior goaltender Mike Rotolo, who was injured on January 3, was cleared to play just a week before the playoffs began and led RIT to a quarterfinal sweep of Mercyhurst and two wins this weekend.
Sophomore Myles Powell scored the game-winner in both contests and racked up five points on the weekend to earn tournament MVP honors.
RIT returns to Albany for the NCAA East Regional, the site of the greatest moment in the school’s Division I history. In 2010, the Tigers defeated Denver and New Hampshire at the Times Union Center to advance to the Frozen Four.
Robert Morris came up one win short of its goal of a second Atlantic Hockey title, but its nine seniors have a lot to be proud of.
The class of 2016 claimed 87 victories, a school record.
“They led us to five championships,” said RMU coach Derek Schooley. “Two Three Rivers Classic titles, two regular season trophies and a playoff championship and trip to the NCAA tournament.”
Zac Lynch, the league’s player of the year and a Hobey Baker finalist, ended with 156 career points, a school record.
Goaltender Terry Shafer’s 43 career wins is also a program record, as is his eight shutouts.
The two teams that didn’t make the championship game also distinguished themselves in Rochester. Air Force and Army West Point, two of the youngest squads in the conference, each fell Friday in overtime, 2-1.
Both squads are ahead of schedule, with Army expected to finish tenth this season in the preseason coaches poll, and Air Force picked seventh.
“In 30 years, this is most fun I’ve had coaching,” said Air Force coach Frank Serratore. “It was a great group of guys to work with.”
Expect to see both of these teams again in the mix next season.