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The 2010 East Regional of the NCAA Tournament took place March 26 and 27, 2010, at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. This was the eighth time the Times Union Center (under various names) has hosted the East regional. The regional was hosted by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and ECAC Hockey.
The participants were:
Cornell was the ECAC Hockey champion, and RIT was the Atlantic Hockey champion. Denver and New Hampshire advanced to the NCAA Tournament by way of at-large bids. Denver, the WCHA regular-season champion, is the #2 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. New Hampshire was the Hockey East regular-season champion, and RIT was the Atlantic Hockey regular-season champion.
In the final USCHO poll, Denver was ranked #2, Cornell #6, New Hampshire #12, and RIT #20.
This was RIT's first appearance in the Division I tournament, in the program's fifth Division I season, although they were frequent national tournament participants at the Division II and III levels.
First Round Edit
The first round games were played on March 26.
RIT vs. DenverEdit
Denver came in to the regional having lost their last two games, first in the WCHA semifinals and then in the third-place game, both in St. Paul, Minnesota the previous weekend. After cruising to the WCHA regular-season championship, they clearly had faltered despite having a Hobey Baker Award finalist, Marc Cheverie, in net. Denver's players, fans, and coaches talked a good game about respecting RIT and, in theory at least, knew not to take the AHA champions lightly. After all, AHA teams had won two of the last four first-round tournament games (Holy Cross over Minnesota in 2006 and Air Force over Michigan in 2009).
RIT had taken a very different route to the regional. RIT had gotten off to a very slow start in October, dropping a well-attended homecoming game to Colgate and losing to Clarkson and St. Lawrence the following weekend, despite arguably outplaying those ECAC Hockey teams. With a pair of losses at Air Force (the first time RIT had ever been swept in Atlantic Hockey play), RIT was 0-5 and fans were preparing for a down year. But RIT found their groove and their chemistry, winning two each against Connecticut and Army, and the season was clearly back on track after a pair of dominating road wins against a very good Mercyhurst team.
RIT lost a home game to Niagara and a pair on the road to Minnesota State, dropping their out-of-conference record to 0-6, but they continued to roll through the AHA, dropping only three conference games the rest of the season. They ended the AHA season at the top of the standings by 10 full points (22-5-1) and were named the #1 seed for the tournament for the first time. After a scare in the first tournament game against Connecticut ended in a 3-2 overtime win, RIT dominated Connecticut, Canisius and Sacred Heart in turn to win their first AHA title and NCAA berth. The Tigers, on the nation's longest winning streak at 10 games, were rewarded with their first national ranking, #20 in the final USCHO poll.
Albany is only 3.5 hours from Rochester along the New York State Thruway, so a large contingent of RIT fans, including the RIT Pep Band, were in attendance. Denver, on the other hand, is a small private school two timezones away and did not have a large cheering section. Nonetheless, Denver was the #2 team in the country and heavily favored to defeat #20 RIT.
RIT obviously came ready to play, a stark contrast to their two previous games in which they'd taken a few minutes to get settled in. Neither team generated many chances in the opening minutes, and the shot clock was only 1-0 in RIT's favor at the five-minute mark. RIT's second shot came at 5:02 when RIT's freshman D-man Chris Tanev intercepted a clearing attempt at the Denver blue line and skated in toward the net. A Denver player slid to the ice to try to block the shot but didn't slide far enough, and Tanev ripped the puck past the Denver player's skates. The puck evaded a screened Cheverie high stick-side for first blood.
The goal was exactly what RIT needed, or so it was felt at the time—it redistributed the pressure away from RIT's smaller skaters and directly onto Denver, who now faced more even urgency to avoid what would be seen as an embarrassing upset. But RIT wasn't about to go away; they kept pressure on and kept up the stout defensive work (from both forwards and blueliners) to keep the lead throughout the first period. RIT goalie Jared DeMichiel made the saves he needed to make and Denver headed to the locker room frustrated but still confident.
The second period was dominated more strongly by Denver, but when the period-ending buzzer sounded, RIT was still ahead 1-0. DeMichiel continued to make good saves, and his defense continued to block shots, take away passing lanes, and keep Denver from being able to set anything up. Reaching the second intermission with a lead was key for RIT, who hadn't lost a game they led after two since November 2007. Still, there was a general sense that there was no way one goal would be enough to beat a team like Denver.
In the third, Denver turned it up yet another notch, but also perhaps started pressing a little too hard to try to get the equalizer. Denver's Jesse Martin took a questionable elbowing penalty at 11:35 of the third, Denver's second penalty of the night. Martin leveled Taylor McReynolds in the open ice and clearly led with his shoulder, raising his arm a bit as they collided, but it's not at all clear whether his elbow actually made contact. Arguably, even if it wasn't elbowing, it would have been interference, as McReynolds no longer had the puck. The penalty took effect nonetheless, and a minute into the power play, RIT was on the board again. Dan Ringwald passed from the blue line to Andrew Favot, who worked it up the slot and then fed a perfect pass to Cameron Burt, who was waiting on Cheverie's glove side to bang the puck home.
33 seconds later, RIT's Mike Janda was sent to the sin bin for holding the stick, possibly a make-up call by the refs, and Denver took advantage. They kept the puck in RIT's zone for long stretches of time, tiring RIT's penalty killers. Finally, DeMichiel gave up a weak rebound that RIT's gassed defenders couldn't reach before Denver's Joe Colborne fired it into the net at 14:34.
But that was as close as Denver would get. They poured on the pressure in the last five minutes, pulling Cheverie with 1:45 left, but couldn't find the back of the net. RIT used tall freshman center Adam Hartley on several defensive-zone faceoffs, and those he didn't win he at least kept Denver from winning cleanly, disrupting any set plays they might have attempted. DeMichiel and his defense stood their ground, and when the final buzzer sounded, RIT found themselves 1-0 all time in NCAA tournament games.
| 26 March 2009|
Times Union Center – Albany, NY
Denver exits the tournament in the first round for the third consecutive year; they haven't won a national tournament game since their championship in 2005.
RIT wins its first-ever Division I national tournament game to improve on several streaks. First, this was their 11th consecutive win, tying the school Division I record set in the 2008-09 season. Second, it continues a streak of consecutive years with a victory over a ranked team (every year since moving up to Division I in 2005-06: first St. Lawrence, then Cornell and Minnesota, and in 08-09 Air Force, ranked #10 at the time). RIT had not yet played a ranked team this season, giving them no opportunity to win one, but #2 Denver was waiting for them when they made the tournament, and the streak continues.
In addition, RIT's streak of 14 consecutive games with a power-play goal and a streak of holding onto second-intermission leads that goes back to November 2007 are both extended.
New Hampshire vs. CornellEdit
Cornell goalie Ben Scrivens came into the regional on the strength of three consecutive shutouts, leading the Big Red to the ECAC Hockey championship. A Hobey Baker Award finalist, the outcome of the game would rest on how well Scrivens played.
UNH had won the Hockey East regular-season championship, but flamed out in the conference tournament, losing a pair of 1-0 decisions to Vermont.
A team who had not allowed a goal in three games versus a team that had not scored in two games—on paper, a clear mismatch. And even though Durham, New Hampshire is only a few hours from Albany, Cornell and its wild fans are even closer in Ithaca, New York. But the Wildcats were undaunted.
At 16:47, trailing by one, New Hampshire's Hobey candidate Bobby Butler ripped a hard shot past Scrivens and started celebrating. But the puck lay on the ice beside the goal, not inside it, and the referee made no signal that Butler had scored. Play continued for 44 seconds until the next stoppage in play; the referees spent five minutes reviewing the goal, which, on replay, clearly had gone into the net and through the mesh, popping out the other side to Scrivens' right. Much the same thing had happened on Vermont's overtime goal against Air Force in last year's East Regional final, except in that case, play had gone on for five minutes before the goal was reviewed.
The clock was rewound to 16:47, the time of Butler's goal, and just 26 seconds later (a section of time that had already been played before the goal review!), Mike Sislo sent another goal past Scrivens. Scrivens' confidence was shaken and it seemed as if Cornell had no idea what to do with their goalie not stopping every shot.
For UNH, breaking the "seal" on Scrivens just opened the floodgates, as they scored three more times in the third period. Cornell's second goal at 17:49 was too little, too late, and the Wildcats got an empty netter to win the game 6-2.
| 26 March 2009|
Times Union Center – Albany, NY
|#3 New Hampshire||0||2||4||6|
Cornell, considered a likely candidate to upset Denver in the regional final, instead goes home early, matching the disappointment from the day before when their basketball team lost in the Sweet 16.
New Hampshire moves on to face a plucky RIT squad in the regional final with a trip to the Frozen Four at stake.
RIT and New Hampshire played a tight game for the first half. RIT's Chris Haltigin opened the scoring at 14:10 of the first, but New Hampshire answered with 59 seconds to play on a goal by Phil DeSimone.
Play was fairly even through the halfway point of the second period, but then RIT opened up. Tigers Tyler Brenner, Brent Alexin, and Stevan Matic all scored within a span of 1:34 to turn a close 1-1 game into a 4-1 blowout. UNH took a timeout to settle the troops but by that point, the damage was done. RIT ended up outshooting New Hampshire 18-6 in the second period.
In the third, New Hampshire righted the ship, but Brenner scored again at the 10:01 mark to seal the victory for the Tigers. New Hampshire's Blake Kessel would get another puck past DeMichiel at 17:31, but Tyler Mazzei scored an empty-netter to restore the four-goal lead and send the Tigers to the Frozen Four. (Mazzei had been trying to pass to Brenner to get the sophomore a hat trick, but the puck deflected off of a Wildcat skate into the open net, giving Mazzei credit for the goal.)
The sequence of events in the game was eerily similar to the Cornell-New Hampshire game the day before, and the score was exactly the same, except that UNH was on the losing side this time.
| 27 March 2009|
Times Union Center – Albany, NY
|#3 New Hampshire||1||0||1||2|
RIT ascends to the D-I Frozen Four for the first time, in just their fifth year as a Division I program. Their last Frozen Four was the D-III tournament in 2001, in which their then-unbeaten season came to an end in the national championship game, on home ice at Ritter Arena against SUNY Plattsburgh. RIT is the first Atlantic Hockey team to make the Frozen Four. They are also only the fourth #4 seed to do so, after Notre Dame in 2008 and Bemidji and Miami in 2009.
RIT's national-best winning streak is extended to 12 games, as is their streak of not giving up second-intermission leads. Their streak of consecutive games with a power-play goal, however, comes to an end, as all eight goals in this game were scored at even strength.
This game represented RIT's 100th win as a Division I program, giving them a 100–71–13 record over five years.
All-Regional Team Edit
The All-Regional Team greatly resembled the Atlantic Hockey All-Tournament Team, with five RIT players on each, four of them the same.
|Bobby Butler||New Hampshire||Senior||Forward|
Jared DeMichiel was named the East Regional Most Outstanding Player.