When last we left you two weeks ago, we were wondering how East Region #4 seed RIT managed to blow through to the semis like it was no big deal while the other three top seeds (Boston College, Wisconsin, and Miami) powered through their regions to reach the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit.
If the guys at RIT thought that they saw tough competition from Denver University and New Hampshire in the East, they’d be liars for the most part, but they haven’t seen anything yet like what they’ll see against Wisconsin (5:00 pm ET). Coach Wayne Wilson’s team is the hands-down Cinderella of this tournament and they’ll being playing the same role that Butler did in the NCAA Basketball Final Four trying to take down all the big dogs. They’ve already knocked off one #1 seed in Denver and if they’re going to do the unthinkable and win the National Championship (in just their third year of tournament eligibility) they’ll have to beat two more to do it.
That’s a bit of a tall order but if there’s anything the RIT Tigers have proven in this tournament is that they will not be cheated in any game and they will take advantage of all opportunities presented to them. The main man for RIT has been goaltender Jared DeMichiel who stopped 39 shots against Denver and 24 against UNH to help carry the Tigers into the semis.
As for Wisconsin, they powered through the West Region beating on game Vermont and St. Cloud State teams but make no mistake about it, head coach Mike Eaves brings the most talented team into the Frozen Four. Hobey Baker finalist Blake Geoffrion leads the headlines but stars like Brendan Smith, Derek Stepan and Michael Davies are studs and big time scorers for the Badgers. Containing the Badgers offensively may be tricky for RIT but one area the Tigers may be able to get through is against goaltender Scott Gudmandson. Gudmandson comes in with a 2.32 goals against average with a .915 save percentage while playing in the very defensive-minded Wisconsin system. If you choose to read that as “the trap” you can give yourself a pat on the back.
If Gudmandson is a little bit shaky, the reliance of Wisconsin’s stars to come up bigger than normal may be required. RIT has shown a great resilience in this tournament and nothing short of blowing them away will keep them down. If you wanted to call this a “David v. Goliath” match up you wouldn’t be using a strong enough metaphor to describe it.
In the other semifinal, a couple of old tournament foes get to be reacquainted, this time on a much larger stage. Miami University and Boston College (8:30 pm ET) are more than familiar with each other when it comes to the tournament and if the past is reflective of anything, things don’t bode well for Miami. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 BC and Miami met in the tournament with each loss more painful than the one before it for Miami. A 5-0 defeat in in the first round in 2006, and back to back Regional Final losses (4-0 in 2007, 4-3 in OT in 2008).
Of course, all this comes on the heels of Miami’s stunning defeat in last year’s National Championship game at the hands of Boston University. Not to get overdramatic here, but the seniors on this Miami team, including top scorer Jarod Palmer, have seen enough of Boston teams ending their seasons in gut-wrenching fashion you’d have to think that maybe, just maybe, this would be the time to step up and take one back in the name of the Redhawks… Right? Exorcising the BC demons would go a long way towards helping them out psychologically and perhaps keep head coach Enrico Blasi from checking into an asylum.
Boston College head coach Jerry York will have a lot to say about that as he’s one of college hockey’s legends and true masters on the bench and his Eagles have been playing tough, inspired hockey for the better part of a month and a half now. Cam Atkinson and John Gibbons are red hot in this tournament and junior goaltender John Muse already has a National Championship under his belt as he backstopped Boston College’s 2008 title team. BC is a confident team and plays a fast, intense game and they’ll need all of that against Miami.
If BC is going to have issues with Miami it’s going to be along their own blueline as BC had a hard time keeping Yale off the board in the Northeast Regional Final (a 9-7 BC win). Miami can score with the best of them though as Palmer, Pat Cannone, Tommy Wingels, Andy Miele, and Carter Camper all have 14+ goals this season. Miami also rolls into the tournament with a two-headed monster in goal with Cody Reichard and Conor Knapp splitting time all season long beautifully for the Redhawks.