SOUTH BEND, IN – Josh Mitchell (Osoyoos, British Columbia/Alberni Valley Bulldogs) scored with 5:51 left in regulation, snapping a 1-1 tie and lifting the RIT men’s hockey team (20-14-5) to its eighth straight win, 2-1 over No. 1 Minnesota State (29-8-3) at the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal at the Compton Family Ice Arena on the campus of Notre Dame on Saturday. RIT will play the winner between Nebraska Omaha and Harvard in the Regional Final on Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Mitchell took a cross-ice feed from Brad McGowan (Langley, British Columbia/Surrey Eagles) on the rush in the Minnesota State zone and from the top of the right face-off circle, fired a shot that eluded goaltender Stephon Williams, who was taken out of the play by his own defenseman. Originally, the play was ruled no goal and that Matt Garbowsky (St. George, Ontario/Powell River Kings) had caused the defender to bump into Williams, but after a long video review, the call on the ice was overturned and ruled a goal.
Minnesota State put the pressure on over the last five minutes and played the final 1:58 with the goalie pulled, but RIT goaltender Jordan Ruby (Tavistock, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) and the RIT defense shut the door. With 13.3 seconds left, Danny Smith (Edmonton, Alberta/Sherwood Park Crusaders) won a huge defensive zone draw and RIT was able to clear the puck away to secure the win.
Ruby was incredible, stopping 33 of 34 shots in picking up his fifth straight win, all in the postseason. Ruby was the difference maker in the third period, stopping all 16 shots he faced, including a half dozen from point-blank range. His best save came on a point-blank chance by Jon Jutzi on a Mavericks power-play with just over 11 minutes left. He also made a huge save in front on a chance by C.J. Franklin and robbed Zach Palmquist from the left side, sliding across for a big stop.
Ruby is now 5-0 this postseason with a 1.40 goals against average and .951 save percentage. He is 7-2 in his postseason career with a 1.52 goals against average and .951 save percentage.
It is the first time in RIT’s 10-year Division I history that they played and knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation. In 2010, RIT defeated No. 2 Denver in the NCAA East Regional by the same 2-1 score as today. It is also the first time since the NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament moved to 16 teams 12 years ago that the No. 16 seed defeated the top-seed.
Mitchell had a goal and an assist, giving him 52 points on the season, second most in one year at RIT’s Division I level, behind Garbowsky, who tallied a first period assist, giving him 54 points. Alexander Kuqali (Pittsburgh, PA/Sioux City Musketeers) scored a first period goal 4:30 into the game.
Garbowsky, the Division I leader in face-off wins, won 25-of-48 draws in the contest. The Garbowsky, Mitchell, McGowan line combined to be plus-6 on the evening. The line has combined for 82 points (36-46-82) over the last 16 games and is plus-64 during that stretch.
“Getting the first goal was important, and Jordan (Ruby) was there to shut the door when we needed him,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson. “I thought there were a lot of moments in the game where we came up big and we weathered (Minnesota State’s) pressure. I was very proud with how we responded with the lead late and were very composed.”
Minnesota State out-shot RIT, 34-19, including 16-5 in the third period. The Mavericks were 1-for-5 with the power-play, while RIT was 0-for-2. Minnesota State attempted 96 total shots to 43 for RIT, but the Tigers defense blocked 26 attempts.
C.J. Franklin scored Minnesota State’s lone goal on a power-play midway through the second period. Williams made 17 saves in defeat.
The Tigers got off to an incredible start, scoring 4:30 into the contest, as Kuqali corralled a loose puck in the left corner, walked out in front and put a backhander past Williams for his fifth goal of the season. Mitchell fed a pass to Garbowsky in the neutral zone. Coming in over the line, Garbowsky tried floating a pass to McGowan that went to the corner. Kuqali was able to pinch up on the play and get RIT on the board.
Later in the period, RIT nearly made it 2-0, as Mitchell found himself all alone in front after a giveaway as the Mavericks were trying to get out of their own zone. Mitchell waited out Williams and had the goalie down, as he tried to go high, but somehow, Williams got his glove on the shot and kept it out.
From there, aided by three power-plays, Minnesota State had a handful of great chances late in the period, but Ruby and the Tigers defense shut the door. Ruby made an excellent save from the slot by Michael Hunterbrinker with just under six minutes left. Moments later, Smith made a great play to block a potential wrap around attempt by Brad McClure.
Minnesota State scored the lone second period goal, asTeddy Blueger fired a one-timer from the right wing that deflected off of Franklin in front before getting past Ruby with 9:08 left in the frame, tying the game at 1-1 on the power-play. Jutzi also assisted on the goal.
RIT had a golden chance to go up 2-0 minutes before, as Myles Powell (Courtenay, British Columbia/Cowichan Valley Capitals) found himself on a breakaway, but was denied by Williams. Right before the Mavericks goal, RIT had a golden chance with a 3-on-2 rush that failed to convert.
Minnesota State nearly went up 2-1 moments after their goal, as Matt Leitner rang one off the crossbar on the rush.
Early in the third period, Minnesota State was buzzing, keeping RIT hemmed in its own zone for lone stretches, but Ruby was the difference.
The Tigers have now outscored their opponents, 32-11 over their eight-game winning streak, which is the longest active run in Division I. The Tigers are 13-19-2 all-time against nationally-ranked foes at the Division I level.
RIT is 24-11 all-time in the postseason at the Division I level and 3-1 in the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, RIT made a magical run to the NCAA Frozen Four, knocking off Denver and New Hampshire in the East Regional before falling to Wisconsin in the national semifinal. Overall, it is RIT’s 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament (Division I, II, and III). The Tigers won the 1983 NCAA Division II Championship and 1985 Division III title.
The Tigers are 4-3-0 all-time against Minnesota State. Before today, RIT last played Minnesota State in 2009-10, dropping a pair of games in Mankato, 6-1 and 3-0. The two teams also met in the 1983 NCAA Division II Quarterfinals and 1986 NCAA Division III National Third Place game.
The winner of tomorrow’s NCAA Midwest Regional Championship will advance to the Frozen Four, which will take place at TD Garden in Boston, Mass. On April 9 and 11.