RIT men’s hockey makes first NCAA tournament appearance in 8 years

Josh Boland

Tiger players celebrate with graduate student Elijah Gonsalves after his first period goal on Thursday.

A magical playoff run came to an end Thursday night for the RIT men’s hockey team.

The Tigers lost 6-3 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament to the second-seeded Boston University Terriers, in a game played at Sioux Falls’ Denny Sandford Premier Center.

The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak for the Tigers during which they claimed the regular-season and post-season titles in the Atlantic Hockey conference.

“I’m very, very proud of what we were able to accomplish and what this group was able to bring, and how we were able to represent RIT and the Rochester community,” Men’s Hockey Head Coach Wayne Wilson said.

The Terriers jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 13 minutes of the first period, but a goal from business administration graduate student Elijah Gonsalves cut the lead in half. A BU goal pushed the lead to 3-1 at the 8:16 mark of the second period. The Tigers cut the lead to 3-2, but that was as close as they would get.

Management graduate student Gianfranco Cassaro and fourth-year psychology student Cody Laskosky accounted for the other two Tiger goals.

The perennial hockey powerhouse Terriers have five national championships, 23 Frozen Four appearances, and a bevy of National Hockey League draft picks on their roster. Star freshman Macklin Celebrini, widely expected to be the number one pick in the next NHL draft, had a goal and an assist for BU.

The Tigers earned an automatic berth in the tournament by winning the Atlantic Hockey conference tournament last Saturday in front of a sold-out crowd at the Gene Polisseni Center.  The Tigers won five straight games to take the Jack Riley Memorial Trophy, outscoring their opponents by a combined 26-6.

It was the fourth NCAA tournament appearance for the Tigers since moving to Division I in 2005. The others occurred in 2010, 2015 and 2016. The 2010 squad made a historic run to the Frozen Four, ultimately losing in the semifinal round.  It was the first time that the Tigers and the Terriers had faced each other.

Although this year’s tournament field was just announced Sunday evening, intrepid RIT backers made the more than 1,150-mile trek from Rochester to Sioux Falls to cheer on the Tigers. Others came from across the U.S. and Canada.

Kyle and Laurie Scott, parents of first-year finance student Kevin Scott, traveled from Ashburn, Va., to be at the regional. Kyle Scott even postponed dental surgery in order to be in Sioux Falls.

“There’s never a guarantee,” he said of moments like making an NCAA tournament. “Ever.”

Third-year students Drea Williams, from Pueblo, Colo., and Xander Tooze, from Winston-Salem, N.C., flew in from Rochester Thursday morning to support the team.

“It’s the first time in eight years, you have to take the chance to see this,” Tooze said.

“Especially as an active student,” Williams added. “We just had to be here.”

Shane Keown and his friends came from Virden, Manitoba to support their friend junior forward Tanner Andrew. “This is big for Rochester and big for Tanner. We were really excited to be able to make it.”

Hundreds of fans gathered at the Gene Polisseni to watch the game on the big screens, and many more tuned in on ESPNU and ESPN+.

The Tigers ended the season with 27 wins, one shy of the school’s D-1 era record of 28 set during the 2010 campaign. That also gives them the second-highest win total in Atlantic Hockey history. 

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