ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the second time in the Division I era, RIT will head to the NCAA tournament. The third-seeded Tigers (19-14-5) defeated No. 5 seed Mercyhurst (19-16-4) 5-1 in the Atlantic Hockey championship in front of 3,554 fans at Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night.
The Tigers will find out their opponent and game time for the 2015 NCAA tournament on Sunday at noon.
The Tigers scored three times in a span of 3:57 late in the third period to seal the win. Brad McGowan had two goals and added an assist, while Josh Mitchell added a goal and two assists. Atlantic Hockey Tournament Most Valuable Player Matt Garbowsky won 25-of-35 faceoffs, and added two assists. RIT’s top line combined to finish plus-9 on the evening.
Andrew Miller and Matt Abt also scored for the Tigers, who enter the NCAA tournament having won seven consecutive games. In goal, senior Jordan Ruby was excellent, stopping 27 of 28 shots for his fourth consecutive victory. He improved to 10-7-4 this season with a 2.11 goals against average and .923 save percentage.
“It was another tight game until the end,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson, who won his 300th game at RIT in the AHC Semifinal on Friday. “We waited for our opportunities, played a different type of game, and were rewarded. Not being [at Blue Cross Arena] for the last two years made us a hungrier team. Our seniors did a great job leading the team to this championship.”
Stephen Hrehoriak scored Mercyhurst’s lone goal early in the third period, cutting RIT’s lead to 2-1. Goaltender Brandon Wildung made 31 saves in the loss.
— RIT Tiger Hockey (@RITMHKY) March 22, 2015
RIT out-shot Mercyhurst 36-28. The Tigers were 0-for-4 with the man-advantage, while Mercyhurst was 0-for-3.
Mitchell became the third player to reach 50 points in a season at RIT. McGowan now has seven goals over his last three games, and 12 over RIT’s seven-game win streak.
“We are looking forward to the next challenge of whoever we face in the NCAA tournament and bringing our ‘A’ game,” Wilson said.
RIT advanced to the AHC championship for the fourth time in eight seasons. The Tigers are 6-4 all-time at Blue Cross Arena in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs, going 4-2 in the semifinals and 2-2 in championship games.
Overall, RIT is 23-11 in the postseason at the Division I level, having won the 2010 Atlantic Hockey championship, advancing to the Frozen Four. The Tigers made three consecutive AHC championship game appearances from 2010-12.
The Tigers advanced to the championship game after defeating No. 2 seed Canisius 2-1 in the second semifinal on Friday. Mercyhurst knocked off top-seed Robert Morris, 4-3 in overtime in the first semifinal.