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DeMichiel leads RIT to upset of Denver

3/27/2010

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Rule No. 1 in a single-elimination hockey tournament: try to find a hot goaltender and hope he stands on his head.

Rule No. 2: See Rule No. 1 and hope for the best.

Rochester Institute of Technology, playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game at the Division I level, followed Rule No. 1 and now the Tigers will be playing on Day 2 at the Times Union Center against New Hampshire on Saturday (ESPNU, 6:30 p.m. ET). The Tigers (27-11-1), ranked No. 4 in the East Regional, dropped No. 1 Denver (the No. 2 overall seed) with a relatively convincing 2-1 win on Friday -- thanks in large part to the play of senior goaltender Jared DeMichiel. The Avon, Conn., native, who lists the Hartford Whalers (cue "Brass Bonanza") as his favorite hockey team and sports the old whale tail logo on the back of his mask, was nothing short of spectacular in tying a career-high with 39 saves against the Pioneers (27-10-4).

It marked DU's third consecutive NCAA tourney loss in the first round and it was the second in a row as a No. 1 seed.

On the NCAA upset scale the RIT win ranks along the lines of last year's two first-round shockers -- Bemidji State's 5-1 win over Midwest No. 1 seed Notre Dame and Air Force's 2-0 win over East No. 1 Michigan -- and somewhere behind Holy Cross' 4-3 overtime victory against West No. 1 Minnesota back in 2006.

Just don't ask DU if it was shocked by how well RIT played.

"The day of having an imbalance in the 16-team field is long gone," Denver coach George Gwozdecky said. "RIT and every other team in this tournament deserve to be here. In these one-game shootouts, scoring the first goal is very critical in order to be able to give you an emotional jump and certainly they're the ones that got it. And even though we were able to create some offense throughout the game their goaltender was very, very good. We have nothing to hang our heads about but RIT played very, very well and give them full credit for their effort.

"We knew they were a very good team. They deserved to be in the tournament. We knew it was going to be a competitive game, a tough game. So there was nothing that we didn't already anticipate other than the fact that we would not be able to create our offense. I was impressed with RIT when we watched them on tape and impressed with them today. But not surprised at how they played."

Surprised or not, the Pioneers will be seeing DeMichiel in their sleep until the puck drops on next season.

He used a combination of butterfly saves, stand-up saves, glove saves, paddle saves and pad-flashing saves. And the RIT defense did a good job of allowing DeMichiel to see the puck most of the night while it kept traffic out of the Tigers' crease.

For his part DeMichiel, who leads the nation with 26 wins, wasn't in awe of the situation, the stage or the No. 1 seed Pioneers.

"I can't pronounce half the players' names on Denver, I didn't know too much about them, I just knew they were a good team," DeMichiel said. "Our team doesn't care who we're playing, we just want to go out there and have fun and play the game the way it's supposed to be played. If we win, we win; if we lose, we lose.

We have nothing to hang our heads about but RIT played very, very well and give them full credit for their effort.

-- Denver coach George Gwozdecky

"It's vital to stay relaxed and have fun out there. That's our mindset and it's been our mindset this entire season. It's a game, we're just playing hockey. We're supposed to go out there and have fun with it and that's what we do. It's a game and you can't forget that."

RIT jumped out to 1-0 lead at 5:02 of the first period when defenseman Chris Tanev picked off a DU clearing attempt just inside the blue line and fired a snapper that beat Pioneers goalie Marc Cheverie to the stick side.

"I saw their guy come around the net and he shot it up the boards," Tanev said. "I jumped it and there was a lot of traffic in front so I just shot and didn't really know where I was shooting. It went in so I was pretty happy about that."

The Tigers extended the lead to 2-0 in the third period when sophomore center Cameron Burt took a pass from Dan Ringwald across the deep slot and put home a one-timer from outside of Cheverie's far post. DU scored its own power-play goal at 14:34 of the third when Joe Colborne found a way to solve DeMichiel on a short rebound in front of the net.

From there RIT was able to hang on and survive to see another day of spring hockey. Somewhat surprising was that Friday's win over DU was RIT's first nonconference victory of the season after going 0-6 against the likes of Colgate, Clarkson, Minnesota State (twice), Niagara and St. Lawrence.

The only negative for DeMichiel so far in this whole NCAA tournament experience? "It's a great opportunity but at the same time I lost out on the opportunity to go out on spring break so I'm pretty disappointed about that," he said.

The emotions and mood were quite a bit different in the other dressing room as the Pioneers suffered another unexpected early exit from the national tournament.

"It hurts more than I can even explain right now," Colborne said. "Personally I feel like I let some people down. I came here with one goal in mind, to get to Detroit and we didn't get that done."

To a man the DU club recognized that it ran into a hot goaltender that on this day was very good at every phase of his craft.

"Pretty much everything," Colborne said of DeMichiel's best quality on Friday. "He cut down the angle well. They played a good system and tried to keep us to the outside as much as possible. He was seeing things through traffic, he was seeing every puck. He was the star of that game for sure."

"It definitely stings a lot," DU captain Rhett Rakhshani added. "There are 16 teams, they all come to win, every single team is good -- you saw that today. They worked their butts off, the goalie played great and he stopped us. Their goalie stood his ground, they stood their ground. It's tough in a game like that when the other goalie is playing so well. You get your chances and he keeps on stopping you. You look back and just kind of shake your head at some of the plays he made."

The bottom line is that it was a classic execution of Rule No. 1.

David Albright covers college sports for ESPN.com and can be reached at espncaa@gmail.com.