DETROIT — The glass slipper didn’t fit this year for RIT, in-fact it was smashed into an oblivion.
Outshot, out-disciplined, outworked and simply overmatched RIT’s miracle run came to a crushing end, 8-1 at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers.
“You can’t pick how your going to end your season, and by the looks of the score it wasn’t what we wanted,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said.
The Tigers had opened the tournament with a stunning upset over No. 2 Denver and then defeated No. 12 New Hampshire 6-2 to reach Detroit. But, on Thursday night Wisconsin proved to be too much as they scored early and often earning a place in Saturday’s Championship game with the biggest blowout in a semifinal game since 1969.
“This group of men did what they needed to do, they had a great start and then made the difference in the second period,” said Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves. “Then they played a smart third period.”
Wisconsin was a well-oiled machine in the win, 12 of the 18 players on the roster recorded at least a point, and while RIT seemed lost on the ice the Badgers employed a sniper like precision in the offensive zone.
In their first ever Frozen Four as a Division I program, RIT’s rude awakening began early as the Badgers —who are in their 11th Frozen Four— scored just 1:23 into the game.
Wisconsin got on the board before RIT even had their first shot on net, as left winger John Mitchell collected a rebound off of Jared DeMichiel’s right pad and beat the senior goaltender stick side. It was Mitchell’s eight goal of the year, and came after Cody Goloubef’s shot from the point ricocheted off of several players in front of the net.
Eight minutes later Wisconsin struck again, once again generating their offense from the point. After a clean faceoff win, defenseman Ryan McDonagh’s wrist shot was deflected in front by Derek Stepan who began to celebrate his 11th goal of the season.
“They say the two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, but we had to keep on doing what we were doing,” said Wisconsin senior forward and Hobey Baker Finalist Blake Geoffrion.
And did they ever.
With the exception of a late rush by RIT, the ice at Ford Field seemed to be tilted toward’s DeMichiel’s net as the Badgers held the puck in the Tiger zone for most of the period. It didn’t help that the Tigers had to kill off three penalties, forcing DeMichiel had to make several tough saves, including a diving stop with 4:08 remaining in the frame.
“I thought we were a little flatfooted, we started to do some better things at the middle of the period but the penalties took us right back down again,” Wilson said.
Overall Wisconsin held a 10-6 advantage in shots after one period, but most of the shots fired on Badger goalie Scott Gudmandson didn’t pose much of a threat — all but one was fired from the face off dot or farther.
The Badgers continued their onslaught just 3:18 into the second period, as Aaron Bendickson made a nice individual move to to beat his defender before linemate Jordy Murray tipped the loose puck home past DeMichiel who was caught out of position.
A penalty on Tyler Mazzei, didn’t help RIT’s comeback efforts as Wisconsin struck on the power play after what seemed to be a stop by DeMichiel. Badger freshman Justin Schultz short-angle shot was stopped by the left pad of the Tiger goalie, but after a lengthy review it was ruled the puck crossed the goal line before the whistle. Schultz’s goal, came a mere 1:08 after Murray had given the Badgers a 3-0 lead.
“Whenever a team gets two goals that fast it really shifts the momentum in their favor, and it’s definitely difficult to come back from that,” RIT forward Cameron Burt said.
Wisconsin added another power play goal at the 11:15 mark of the second period, this time with a two-man advantage after RIT’s Mark Cornacchia received a game misconduct for checking from behind. Micheal Davies was on the receiving end of a pretty passing play, easily shoveled the puck home to give the Badgers a 5-0 lead.
After Davie’s 20th goal of the season RIT couldn’t catch a break, as Wisconsin went right back on the 5-on-3 and once again scored, this time it was Blake Geoffrion who put home his team-leading 28th goal.
RIT did give the large contingent of orange-clad Tiger fans something cheer about with 28 seconds remaining in the second period, however Tyler Brenner’s power play goal only cut the deficit to five.
Other then two late goals by Wisconsin and two goalie changes by RIT, the third period went by rather quickly.
RIT finished the season with a 28-12-10 record, while Wisconsin improved to 28-10-4.