Men’s team and coaches celebrate a decade of Atlantic Hockey success

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Tom Brenner

The men’s hockey team celebrated its second consecutive Atlantic Hockey Championship at Blue Cross Arena on March 19, 2016.

Four regular season league titles and three postseason championships. A pair of Hobey Baker finalists and a legendary Frozen Four appearance. Those are just some highlights of RIT’s first 10 seasons as a member of the Atlantic Hockey Conference. As the Tigers begin their second decade in Atlantic Hockey, what can they do as an encore to those lofty accomplishments?

The team takes on the University of Connecticut at Blue Cross Arena on Oct. 15, a perpetual athletic highlight of RIT’s Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend. Annually known as one of Rochester’s hottest tickets, the Tigers are looking to make it seven straight sellout crowds of 10,556 at the downtown arena.

When RIT joined Atlantic Hockey as a second-year Division I program in 2006-07, it was unknown how they would fare at college hockey’s highest level. Fast forward 10 years and RIT has become a national power in the Division I college hockey landscape, with one of the best fan bases and state-of-the-art facilities.

Under head coach Wayne Wilson, associate head coach Brian Hills, and assistant coach Dave Insalaco, RIT has enjoyed immense success in the league, winning four regular season titles (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11) and three postseason championships (2009-10, 2014-15, 2015-16).

In 10 seasons, RIT has a stellar 155-82-39 record in Atlantic Hockey regular season play, including 81-36-21 on home ice. The Tigers are also 25-10 against league opponents in postseason play. Since joining in 2006-07, 26 different Tigers have earned 50 All-Atlantic Hockey Conference honors, and 17 different RIT players were named to the Atlantic Hockey Championship All-Tournament Team. Forty Tigers have moved on to play in the professional ranks, including current NHL standout Chris Tanev of the Vancouver Canucks. In 2008, Simon Lambert became RIT’s first finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s most prestigious individual honor. Seven years later, Matt Garbowsky equaled that feat.

The Tigers have taken on the best teams in the country, winning 13 games against nationally ranked opponents, including becoming the first No. 16 seed in NCAA Tournament history to defeat a No. 1 overall seed when they knocked off Minnesota State in 2015.

RIT became a household name in 2010, shocking the college hockey landscape in its first NCAA Tournament appearance, advancing to the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit. Plans were in motion to build a brand new on-campus rink. In 2014, the Gene Polisseni Center opened to much fanfare. RIT won Atlantic Hockey titles in each of its first two seasons at the 4,300-seat arena.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what we have accomplished and where we are heading,” said Wilson, who has 320 wins as he enters his 18th year at RIT. “We have been really fortunate to not only win championships, but also have players who have excelled academically. It’s great to now look back and appreciate what we have done in 10 short years.”

Brick City athletics

As always, there are a plethora of athletics events on campus during Brick City Homecoming & Family Weekend.

The Friday, Oct. 14, schedule includes:

  • Volleyball vs. Utica College, 3 p.m., Clark Gym
  • Women’s hockey vs. Union College, 3:05 p.m., Gene Polisseni Center
  • Women’s soccer vs. Vassar College, 4 p.m., Tiger Stadium
  • Volleyball vs. Trine University, 7 p.m., Clark Gym

The Saturday, Oct. 15, schedule includes:

  • Volleyball vs. St. John Fisher College, 10 a.m., Clark Gym
  • Women’s hockey vs. Union College, 12:05 p.m., Gene Polisseni Center
  • Volleyball vs. DeSales University, 2 p.m., Clark Gym
  • Women’s soccer vs. Bard College, 2 p.m., Tiger Stadium