They weren’t planning to be back this soon. Despite labels like “long shots” and “underdogs” pinned to their jerseys, members of the RIT men’s hockey team expected to return from Detroit as national champions.
But a first-round loss at the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four tournament meant an early departure for the Tigers. An end to their title hopes had, in their minds, put a stop to all the fanfare surrounding the team’s improbable bid.
Or had it?
As their bus arrived on campus April 9, hundreds of faithful fans greeted them with a rousing chorus of that familiar refrain, “R-I-T! R-I-T!”
“It’s amazing,” states Tigers forward Andrew Favot. “We had a tough loss, but it’s great that people are still with us. It’s nice to know that they’re always going to be behind us win or lose.”
That story has changed little since the Tigers first caught the attention of the college hockey world. Winning their first-ever Atlantic Hockey Association tournament title in decisive fashion was certainly impressive. But then to secure a spot among the prestigious Frozen Four, beating perennial powerhouses like Denver and New Hampshire along the way, formally announced their arrival. The Tigers succeeded at putting RIT on the map.
School spirit, which intensified in the weeks leading up to the Frozen Four, reached its crescendo on game night. The Corner Crew created a “sea of orange” inside Ford Field—a wave of “Tiger pride” clearly seen and heard by a national television audience.
Back on campus, more than 2,000 fans filled the Gordon Field House, unified in a desire to cheer the Tigers to victory. Numerous other viewing parties took place across Rochester—and across the country.
“The atmosphere on campus has been electric,” says Mary-Beth Cooper, vice president for student affairs. “Hockey fans, non-hockey fans and even those who aren’t affiliated with RIT fell in love with this team.”
So while falling short of their intended goal, the Tigers have successfully championed a new spirit on campus that lives on long beyond the team’s remarkable run.