In which we recap the day's events in the NCAA tournament.
Jared DeMichiel had to feel like it wasn't going to last.
The heavily-favored Denver Pioneers had him under siege pretty much from the start of the game. It probably was only a matter of time before one of the many shots the Pios had put on net finally snuck through.
RIT had gone up a goal just 5:02 into the game thanks to a sleepy Denver start and a nasty shot from Chris Tanev, but a lead like that, against the No. 2 team in the country never seemed like it could last. And indeed, the Pioneers, led by the dynamic play of Rhett Rahkshani, Joe Colborne and Tyler Ruegsegger, were pressuring hard.
He had to be perfect.
And for 54:34, he was. He was so good, in fact, that he stopped 39 of 40 shots and helped the Tigers to a positively shocking 2-1 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Denver put 11 shots on goal in the first period, 15 in the second, and 14 in the third. DeMichiel survived two-on-ones, three-on-twos, even a two-on-none. The majority of Denver's shots were from high-quality scoring areas. That Rahkshani-Ruegsegger-Colborne line was indomitable on every single shift, if not producing actual shots on goal, then at least staring DeMichiel and his defense down with ever-present threat of them.
The Tigers, for their part, hadn't played a team of this quality all year, or really, anything even close. On a schedule littered with AICs and UConns and Holy Crosses, there wasn't one regular-season opponent that finished the year as a "Team Under Consideration" for the NCAA tournament. Their strength of schedule was 51st of 58.
And still they persisted, still they improbably hung around, playing white-knuckle, weather-the-storm hockey. No one in the building or watching on TV, if they were being honest with themselves, could have predicted it would be 1-0 RIT a full 50 minutes into the game.
Even if they somehow predicted that, they certainly never saw 2-0 RIT with 7:24 left coming. But Cameron Burt's power play goal - resulting from a dodgy elbowing call on Jesse Martin - doubled the lead, and that poke was what finally awoke the sleeping dragon.
After the second RIT goal, Denver almost immediately drew a penalty. Just 1:25 later, Colborne and Co. finally lived up to their best-line-in-the-country billing to cut the lead to 2-1 with 5:26 to play on a rebound. It was the only puck DeMichiel allowed to bounce into a dangerous area, and he paid for it.
But 2-1 was, at that point, comfortable. They'd played 52-plus minutes trying to sit on a one-goal lead. What was another five? After that, Denver won every draw and was omnipresent around the net, but DeMichiel and the defense stood up to every shot they faced, despite Denver having an extra attacker for the final 1:45 and five draws in the RIT zone.
This was the third straight season the Denver was a 1-seed in their bracket and lost in their first game.
It was the Tigers' first win in their first-ever NCAA appearance. If DeMichiel keeps playing like this, it sure won't be their last.
ST. CLOUD 4, NORTHERN MICHIGAN 3 (2OT)
St. Cloud tried as hard as it could to not get its first NCAA win in eight tries, but giving up the tying goal late in the third wasn't enough to sink Garrett Roe and the Huskies. Once NMU's Erik Spady scored his first goal of the year to tie it at 3-3 and force OT, it was all Huskies. In the 20:23 of overtime before Tony Mosey scored the game-winner, SCSU held a 23-12 shot advantage. Poor Brian Stewart made 50 saves in the loss.
UNH 6, CORNELL 2
As Butler goes, so go the Wildcats. In games in which he scores, UNH averages 4.1 goals per game. In games in which he does not score, it's just 2.9. So it's a good thing that the nation's leading goalscorer picked up a pair and assisted on another. Mike Sislo (who puts nine shots on goal!) and Paul Thompson (seven!) added two each to round out the Wildcats' scoring. Oh, did I mention this was all against the goalie that led the nation in both GAA and save percentage? Yeah, it was.
WISCONSIN 3, VERMONT 2
The lesson here: don't give the Badgers a power play. Wisconsin scored on each of its first three man advantages, and despite Vermont hanging around on a goal that shouldn't have counted to open the scoring, Wisconsin carried play pretty handily. Blake Geoffrion and Justin Schultz each had a goal and an assist for the Badgers, and both Derek Stepan and Brendan Smith had two assists each. The game got ugly late as Vermont grew increasingly frustrated, and final period saw 18 minutes worth of penalties pile up. Rob Madore made 39 saves in the loss.
1. Jared DeMichiel, RIT
The kid made 39 saves on 40 shots against the No. 2 team in the country. That seems like it'd be enough to pick up first star.
2. Bobby Butler, UNH
The only thing that kept Butler from having a four-point night and a hat trick was that Paul Thompson's centering pass on a two-on-one facing an empty net deflected off a defenseman's stick and into the goal. It was that kinda night for the Big Red.
3. Garrett Roe, SCSU
Almost everything that went right for the Huskies came when Roe, who was playing hurt, was on the ice. That was reflected in his 1-2-3, nine-shot performance. His goal was the Huskies' third, and his two assists were on the second and the game-winner. All three were on the power play.