Despite a loss, RIT men’s hockey fans proud of their team

A conference championship brings hope for a successful season next year

Traci Westcott/RIT

Hundreds of fans, many wearing hockey jerseys, came to the Gene Polisseni Center Thursday to support and watch the RIT men’s hockey team compete against Boston University in the NCAA tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Hundreds of fans of RIT’s men’s hockey attended a watch party in the Gene Polisseni Center Thursday, as 15th-seeded RIT battled second-seeded Boston University in the first round of the NCAA Championship in Sioux Falls, S.D.

About half the fans in attendance wore team jerseys and other orange apparel in support of their team.

“I have a few outfits, but usually only wear this one for the big games,” said Mike Hibbard, a third-year management information systems major from Pittsford, N.Y., who donned a furry tiger costume, complete with autographs from many of the players. “I’m usually hanging out with the Corner Crew and came to most of the games. I’m proud of the team for a great season this year.”

Grace Kline, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Baltimore, Md., was one of several members of the RIT Pep Band who attended, although none with their instruments. She admits she’s not a huge fan of hockey, but didn’t want to miss this historic game, so she got into school spirit by wearing a black pirate hat adorned with orange feathers and a pom-pom, and orange high-top sneakers.

“Everybody’s super hyped,” said Colin Fluke, the band’s conductor and a third-year School of Individualized Study student from Greensburg, Pa. “It was disappointing that we couldn’t make it out to South Dakota, but we’re excited to be watching it here.”

As the game began, streamed live on two big screens in the arena, cheers erupted when RIT’s logo was flashed on the screen, and Coach Wayne Wilson spoke.

RIT players attempted to score several times, but the goals weren’t realized. The fans moved like giant waves each time, showing their disappointment in unison.

“RIT has come out blazing, showing confidence,” the announcer said in during the first 10 minutes of the game.

When RIT did score, louder cheers erupted from the fans. A siren blared. A giant bell was rung.

But the second and third periods left little to cheer about, as Boston’s lead grew.

Most of the fans remained in the arena in the final minutes, even though it was evident their team would lose to Boston. With less than a minute remaining in the game, RIT scored their third goal, still trailing by three. The fans jumped to their feet and roared, in what would be the last time of the season.

As the game ended, dozens of fans gathered for a group photo under the Corner Crew banner, where they had placed large photos of the team’s player’s faces on the seats.

“We are still proud of them that they made it this far,” Fluke said.

“I’m very proud of our team. We just skated with the No. 2 team in the nation,” said Henry Miller, a second-year mechanical engineering technology major from Binghamton, N.Y.

“I’m pretty optimistic for the future of the team,” said Ian Bregman, a fourth-year biomedical sciences major from Wayne, N.J. He’s hopeful more players will receive scholarships to play hockey at RIT which will help level the playing field.

“There’s no reason not to make it further next year,” Bregman said.

Dan Talbott, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Chili, N.Y., attended most home hockey games while he’s been a student. He’s ready to graduate in May.

“After COVID in the 2021-2022 season, you were lucky if you could get five rows filled here during a game,” Talbott said. “The Atlantic Hockey Association Championship game (March 23) sold out in two hours. That just shows how much this hockey team means to us. It brought us back together. It brings tears to my eyes. And I’m glad I got to see them win a conference championship.”

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