More Than Just a Tournament For RIT, UAH
For the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH), Sunday’s announcement of the Division I regional championship brackets were giant steps for their men’s hockey programs. For RIT, capturing their first ever Atlantic Hockey championship led them to their first ever Division I championship seeding.
The Tigers (26-11-1) will face the nation’s #2 team, Denver University, in Albany on Friday afternoon. For the Tigers, Atlantic Hockey’s dominant team all season, the appearance comes in only their fifth year playing Division I hockey. The program appeared several times during their tenure at the Division II and III levels.
“To win the AHA Tournament and get to the NCAA Tournament is a culmination of all the players that have come before all the way back in the Division III days,” head coach Wayne Wilson said in a press release Sunday.
RIT is on a ten game winning streak. They are led by sophomore forward Cameron Burt, who has 45 points on the season, and scored a goal and 4 assists during the Tigers Atlantic Hockey championship win over Sacred Heart on Saturday.
For Alabama-Huntsville, their improbable run to the last College Hockey America championship set them up for a campus-boosting postseason run. The Chargers (12-17-3) faced a tumultuous season – their league is set to dissolve at the end of the season, and no other league wished to add them. UAH struggled through the season, but made a run in the league tournament. They defeated 10th ranked Bemidji State 1-0 in the semifinal, and then won against Niagara to capture the last CHA league title 3-2 in overtime.
Seeded in Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Midwest regional, UAH will face the number one ranked team in the nation, Miami University of Ohio. Miami was last season’s national runner up, and has been the favorite for the title since the preseason. For the Chargers, making the NCAA tournament for just the second time on the Division I level ensures that their fight to maintain a team with no future conference affiliation will not go silent.
"We'll be going into the (Division I coaches) national meeting in April, and everybody (won't have) forgotten about us,” stated Chargers head coach Danton Cole to the Huntsville Times last week. “It could be, 'Oh, by the way, what do we do about Huntsville?' "