Tigers play in Frozen Four national semifinals tonight at Ford Field

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The RIT Tigers are just hours away from taking on the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA Frozen Four Semifinals at Detroit’s Ford Field. Game time is 5 p.m.

The men’s hockey team arrived in Detroit on Tuesday evening and, on Wednesday, went through its final day of preparation. Wednesday’s practice was held in Ford Field, a football stadium and home of the Detroit Lions. Ford Field can seat more than 70,000 fans. RIT’s locker room is in the Ford Field basement, about 250-300 feet from the ice surface.

The media presence throughout the team’s hour-long skate Wednesday was another first for the team. Nearly 100 media outlets from all over the country followed their every move. Numerous members of the Rochester media are in Detroit. To view some of their coverage, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/RITUniversityNews.

RIT ended Wednesday night by heading to the Henry Ford Museum for a reception with the other Frozen Four participants: Wisconsin, Miami of Ohio, and Boston College. Tigers sophomore forward Mark Cornacchia was honored with the NCAA Elite 88 Award, presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals. Cornacchia, a finance major, has a 3.85 GPA.

Following are a few highlights from yesterday’s team press conference from head coach Wayne Wilson and a few players.

Head Coach Wayne Wilson:

On being in Detroit…“We’re really happy to be here, obviously. It’s been quite a journey for our team. We had a tremendous season where we finished first in the Atlantic Hockey Association. We are proud to be representing the Atlantic Hockey Association here in the Frozen Four. These players have set a very high bar for the RIT players to come in the future.

It’s been a great experience for our players, RIT, our university and Rochester, our community. People have been asking my thoughts and the first word that comes to me is ‘proud.’ I’m proud of this group of players and my association with the university.”

On Ford Field… “My perspective is that it’s great that the rink was shifted to the end because now the fans can be much closer to you. The crowd is right there for you. The ice—after four practices today and once it gets a little bit of use—I think it will really firm up. The ice, while not ideal today, will be much better come game time.”

On Jared DeMichiel… “Jared has been very consistent for us all year long. I think his numbers bare that. He’s obviously had an outstanding season. He’s reaped a number of rewards because of that. He has been a great leader right from the start for our team and he has complemented our seniors and our captains as far as the leadership on our team. We’re a very offensive, aggressive type of team. His goaltending has allowed us to continue to do that. We’re not going into the game, ‘I hope we get good goaltending’ or ‘if we have good goaltending, we should win this game.’ It’s more if we play well as a team, we’re going to win, and he’s a part of that philosophy.”

Senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel:
On overall feelings and impression of making it to the Frozen Four…
“Our team’s very excited to be here. It’s an honor and a privilege. It’s very exciting, obviously. But at the same time we’re excited to get out there and get at it. It was nice for us to have a week off there, but at the same time we’ve got a lot of momentum on our side and are just itching and chomping at the bit to get out there and prove what we can do.”

On all sorts of hype surrounding the team and RIT itself after regional win and journey to the Frozen Four… “Being at RIT, we’re always getting some sort of attention from the community, students and faculty, but obviously it’s now at a higher level than it has been before. I think we’re all taking it in stride and we did a nice job of preparing for this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’ve got to make the most of it. Everyone’s been having fun with it, but at the same time we are extremely focused and know that we’re here to play hockey. Being on the national stage, I think it’s an honor and privilege for everyone. It’s a great way to showcase our skills and talents and I think that we definitely have a right to be here.”

Tigers Senior Defenseman Dan Ringwald:
On the perception of being an underdog…
“If people want to call us an underdog, then we can accept that…If people want to say stuff about us that’s fine, but we have our own expectations and everyone in our room is confident.”

Tigers Sophomore Forward Cameron Burt
Opening statement…
“It’s a great to be able to come home and play competitive hockey again. I can’t imagine being here with a better bunch of guys and I can’t wait to get the game going. We’ve been waiting these past two weeks and we can’t wait to get out there and showcase our skills.”

On playing in front of family and friends… “I’m not really an emotional person, but it’s going to be great to play in front of family and friends. I got a call from my Grandma today saying she’s going to be in attendance, so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m not really thinking about it all that much. I’m just trying to play a hockey game, and it’s a bonus that they’re going to be here.”