In its first year of Division I postseason eligibility, the Rochester Institute of Technology men’s hockey team has its sights set on making it to this spring’s NCAA Division I Ice Hockey Championship.
Although RIT is currently in first place in the Atlantic Hockey Association—and the Tigers are defending regular-season champions—head coach Wayne Wilson says securing a berth in the NCAA tournament regionals in March is more important than repeating as the best overall regular-season team—especially because the Tigers are assured of a playoff berth in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament next month.
“We don’t want to push so hard that we’re out of gas by winning a regular-season championship,” Wilson remarked on the RIT news podcast Studio 86.
Wilson also offered his assessment of the season thus far, saying he’s generally pleased with the Tigers’ performance, but he recognizes that more hard work remains.
“We put ourselves in a position—which is first right now—to win a championship, but that can be taken away from us very quickly,” Wilson says. “We’ve got too many teams behind us also trying for that goal. So this is a critical month, where with the tightness of our league—the parity of our league—a couple losses [or] a couple wins can either move you up or down in the standings significantly. This month is a big, big month.”
Wilson points to upset victories over Cornell University in October and University of Minnesota in December as season highlights so far.
“Those will stand out, I think, in our program’s history,” he says.
On the Studio 86 podcast, Wilson also discussed the strong fan support for the Tigers. He credits Tigers fans for backing the team even before it moved from Division III to Division I starting with the 2005-2006 season. Wilson depicts this year’s sold-out home games as a “good problem.”
“The fan support at home at the Ritter has been outstanding,” Wilson says. “Our fans have always been good, and they’ve been there for years. Unfortunately, I think it also motivates our opposition to come into a full building—but it’s great to play in that kind of environment.”
Wilson offered kudos to Super Bowl-winning New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, who began his football head-coaching career at RIT in 1970.
“Tom Coughlin is a great representative of RIT.”
Note: The RIT Tigers men’s hockey team hosts the Canisius College Golden Griffins at 7:05 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 9, in Ritter Arena.
Note: Audio available for this story