Published April 16, 2010
RIT Tigers Fans Heat Up the Frozen Four
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Defeat doesn’t dampen fans’ spirits.
Michael Conti

RIT fans weren’t enjoying the atmosphere during the NCAA men’s hockey semifinals on April 8; they were the atmosphere.

Held in Ford Field, this year’s Frozen Four championship games pitted newcomer RIT Tigers up against the six-time national champion Wisconsin Badgers. This being the team’s first postseason appearance in Division I, the RIT community turned out in force to support the Tigers. With hundreds of current students driving six or more hours to get to the game (and many alumni driving or flying from farther than that), at the game’s start, the synchronized, rowdy cheers from the Tigers were stadium-shaking. Badgers fans’ polite, listless applause barely made it beyond their own seats.

“These [Tigers] fans are unbelievable. They’re the best fans in the country, as far as college. I tip my hats to them,” said Mike Walling, a 2004 graduate of RIT’s packaging science program and former member of the RIT Men’s Hockey team. Walling sat with half a dozen of his old teammates, many of whom had played in the D3 Frozen Four under Coach Wilson in 2001, the year that RIT became Division III National Runner-Ups. “As one of the players on the ice, you see the fans backing you up; it gives you shivers,” said Waling, noting a fond place in his heart for the Corner Crew. “It gets you going, like you wouldn’t imagine. It’s hard to explain. It’s a beautiful thing.”

A fan holds her head in disbelief after Wisconsin puts the game out of reach, scoring its fifth unanswered goal in the second period.
Dan Wodecki

Unfortunately for the Tigers, cheering decibel magnitude was not counted on the scoreboard. The game itself was pretty brutal. Aside from one goal by RIT’s right wingman Tyler Brenner, a second year Business major, the game was an exercise in Badger domination. Fans saw red as Wisconsin skated circles around RIT. It may have been the blur of the Badgers’ crimson jerseys, or it may have been the bloody entrails of a streak of freshly-slain Tigers out on the ice. Either way: not good.

Despite the score, seasoned fans took it in stride. “No academic scholarships versus NHL draft picks. That’s what this game is,” said Andrew Nock, a second year Mechanical Engineering Technology major, matter-of-factly. Dressed in a large orange sombrero and sunglasses, he sat in the loudest section of the stands. “If you can’t offer athletic scholarships to D1 players, you put yourself at a disadvantage, big time. There’s at least one kid on the Wisconsin team [Brendan Smith] who’s a draft pick for the Detroit Red Wings.”

The orange-horned Viking standing next to Marsh piped in, “Yeah. Zero draft picks, zero ice time for the NHL we’re huge underdogs. The fact that we made it this far is unbelievable. It is,” said Jonathan Marsh, a fifth year Mechanical Engineering major. “After this year, there’s going to be a lot more interest in RIT hockey.”

In fact, Wisconsin’s current team has seven first- and second-round NHL draft picks: Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan for the New York Rangers, Jake Gardiner and Justin Schultz for Anaheim, Brendan Smith for Detroit, Cody Goloubef for Columbus, and Blake Geoffrion for Nashville. Beyond that, three other current team members have been drafted: Craig Smith for Nashville, Brett Bennett for Phoenix, and Podge Turnbull for Los Angeles. In stark comparison, not a single player from RIT has been drafted.

With the Tigers’ stunning performance this season, however, RIT will surely be on the radar in the years to come. “National recruiting,” Marsh and Nock said in near unison. “That’s where we’re going from here.” As RIT attracts even better players, things are only going to get better in the years to come.

Chris Langer

But as far as some fans are concerned, things are already pretty great; unconcerned with the loss, they’ve just been enjoying the ride. “I haven’t gone to any of the other hockey games this season,” admitted Caitlin Shannon, third year Biomedical Photo major, “But from now on! It’s definitely going to be a weekly occurrence. I will always have our team’s back now.” Although RIT’s subsidized tickets sold out within several hours of the box office opening, she was able to find tickets through other means: “My tickets that I got online didn’t work, so I had to go buy them from a scalper just so I could get in,” said Shannon.

Next to her, Ariel Leitao, a second year International Studies major and Shannon’s sorority sister at Delta Phi Epsilon, commented, “Despite the fact that we had a rough game here, I think it’s still a major accomplishment for the team and for our school. The fact that we’re even on ESPN2 and getting national recognition, I think it’s good news for RIT.”

From their seats in the stadium, fans were largely oblivious to the sometimes harsh commentary about their team in the outside world. No matter; regardless of what anyone had to say about Thursday’s performance on ice, history has already been written. The RIT Tigers and their fans have made it to the big time. And this is where they’re going to stay.

Over a hundred Tigers fans did, in fact, stay for the championship game on Saturday, in which the Badgers were shut out 5-0 to the Boston College Eagles. Cheering louder than the fans of either of the teams who were actually playing, Tiger fans made national news for their continued, unrelenting chant: “R-I-T. R-I-T. R-I-T.”

The Game

Goalie Jared DeMichiel stops a puck during a Wisconsin power play. DeMichiel was under intense pressure from the Badger offense, which proved too quick for the Tigers.
Theophil Syslo

Kicking off to a quick start, the Wisconsin Badgers scored twice within the first 10 minutes of the game. The RIT Tigers held them at bay for the remainder of the period, but the Badgers slapped another one in within three minutes of the start of the second period, and then another not long after. The rest of the period dragged on for what seemed an eternity. With player spirits lagging, penalty after penalty was called on the Tigers. Following a two minute penalty on left wingman Tyler Mazzei, a third year Business major, and a combined 15-minute penalty for hitting from behind and game misconduct on center forward Mark Cornacchia, a second year Finance major, the game was literally five on three. The Badgers scored yet again. With less than 30 seconds left in the second period, right wingman Tyler Brenner, a second year Business major, managed to knock in RIT’s first and only goal. The final period brought two about more goals for the Badgers, and none for the Tigers. The game ended with a final score of 8-1 and a win for the Univeristy of Wisconsin.

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Fri, Apr 16 2010 @ 1:48 pm
The group of fans led by "Viking Hat Kid" as I will call him was an embarrassment to RIT. Their blatant disrespect of Corner Crew was disgraceful, especially considering their status of newcomers jumping on the RIT hockey bandwagon.

It was apparent to most of us present at the game that this select group was more interested in gaining media attention for themselves than legitimately cheering on the Tigers.

I had hoped that their antics would go unrewarded, but RIT's own magazine has deemed it fit to give them the attention they craved. I am incredibly disappointed with Reporter.

If the reporters are confused as to who else would have been good to interview, a quote from a Corner Crew faithful (Choose Death, Murphy, Carter, The Goon, Freshman, Cowboy, etc.) would have been fitting and I guarantee more insightful
Brendan L
 
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