SOUTH BEND, IN – No. 2 seed University of Nebraska Omaha (20-12-6) scored four third period goals to break a scoreless tie and end the season for RIT men’s hockey (20-15-5), 4-0 in the NCAA Midwest Regional at Compton Family Ice Arena on the campus of Notre Dame Sunday evening. The loss snapped RIT’s eight game winning streak.
RIT fired 40 shots on goal, including 18 in the third period, but could not solve Omaha goaltender Ryan Massa, who was incredible in recording his sixth shutout of the season. He was named the NCAA Midwest Regional Most Valuable Player, leading Omaha to its first Frozen Four Appearance, while stopping 73 of 74 shots on the weekend.
Jake Randolph scored 1:01 into the third period to break the tie, while Austin Ortega, Justin Parizek, and David Pope put the game away with goals in a span of 2:06 late in the third period.
Senior captain and Hobey Baker Award Finalist Matt Garbowsky (St. George, Ontario/Powell River Kings) led the Tigers with seven shots on goal and won 26 of 40 face-offs. He ends the season as RIT’s single season record holder with 54 points on 26 goals and 28 assists. Garbowsky will lead Division I with 729 face-off wins. The line of Garbowsky, Brad McGowan (Langley, British Columbia/Surrey Eagles), and Josh Mitchell (Osoyoos, British Columbia/Alberni Valley Bulldogs) generated chances all evening, but were unable to solve Massa.
That trio would combine for 65 goals and 87 assists this season; the second highest scoring line in all of college hockey.
In goal, Jordan Ruby (Tavistock, Ontario/Wellington Dukes) had his five-game postseason winning streak snapped, stopping 24 of 27 shots. He made several big saves throughout.
Mitchell and junior defenseman Alexander Kuqali (Pittsburgh, PA/Sioux City Musketeers) were named to the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship All-Tournament Team.
“I thought it was a great hockey game, and I am very proud of the way we played,” said RIT head coach Wayne Wilson, who was bidding for his second trip to the NCAA Frozen Four at the university. “Congratulations to Omaha, they played well and their goaltender was outstanding. I thought we created a lot of chances, and obviously we are disappointed with tonight’s outcome, but am proud of what we accomplished this weekend against two really good opponents.”
Both teams were 0-for-2 with the man-advantage, while RIT out-shot the Mavericks, 40-28.
Neither team scored in an entertaining opening period of play, in which RIT held a 10-7 edge in shots on goal, despite having to kill off a five-minute major penalty.
Just 5:43 into the game, RIT’s penalty-killing unit, ranked fifth nationally, would face a stiff test, as Brandon Thompson (Vancouver, British Columbia/Handsworth) was given a major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind. The Tigers penalty killers did an incredible job, bottling up the Nebraska Omaha forwards, blocking shots, and playing the body. The Tigers would allow just one shot during the five-minute major. Great work by defensemen Chase Norrish (Strongfield, Saskatchewan/Yorkton Terriers), Brady Norrish (Strongfield, Saskatchewan/Yorkton Terriers), Kuqali, Matt Abt (Leduc, Alberta/Whitecourt Wolverines ), Greg Amlong (O’Fallon, MO/UMass Lowell), and Michael Holland (Cambridge, MA/Chicago Steel) helped RIT kill off the penalty unscathed.
That penalty kill seemed to energize the Tigers, as they allowed just two shots over the last 10 minutes of the period.
With just over five minutes left in the period, a rebound off a tip in attempt from McGowan came right to Mitchell in front. He looked to have Massa down and out, but somehow, the Omaha goaltender, who entered the game with a .936 save percentage, got his arm across to keep the puck from going over the goal line.
A few minutes later, RIT’s top line looked to do more damage, as McGowan was left alone in front, but his backhander was denied by Massa.
Ruby had to make a big save on a deflection by Avery Peterson from the slot with just under four minutes left in the period, as a high shot dipped on him.
The second period was played at an incredible pace, with plenty of physical play, speed, and several great chances, despite a scoreless frame. Several shifts featured end to end action, resulting in great saves by the goaltenders or defenders sliding to block shots.
Five minutes into the period, Ruby was called on to make an incredible glove save, robbing Omaha’s Parizek from in close, as he tried to go high. The puck came out and laid in the crease for a second before Mark Golberg (Ottawa, Ontario/Cumberland Grads) dove through and swept it out right before Luc Snuggerud could slide it into the open net.
RIT would respond with a bevy of their own chances, nearly getting on the board. The line of Caleb Cameron (Sunridge, Ontario/Listowel Cyclones), Myles Powell (Courtenay, British Columbia/Cowichan Valley Capitals), and Golberg had the Omaha defense and Massa scrambling with a couple of chances that resulted in a loose puck in close, but RIT could not push it home.
Late in the period, Mitchell found himself alone in front the right of Massa, but was once again denied by the senior goaltender. Garbowsky and McGowan came in on a 2-on-1 late in the period and had a great chance denied by an Omaha defender.
Randolph would score what proved to be the game-winner 1:01 into the third, firing a shot from the high slot off a drop pass that just eluded Ruby over his right pad, off the right goal post and in.
The Tigers would not quit however and would pepper Massa over the next 14 minutes, throwing everything at the Omaha goaltender. Moments after the Omaha goal, McGowan would swing wide around a defender and cut to the net, backhanding a shot that Massa stopped. The rebound came to Garbowsky in front, who had some room, but Massa recovered to stop that attempt as well.
Later in the period, Garbowsky stripped a Mavericks defenseman behind the net and fed McGowan in front. McGowan went high on Massa, but the goaltender got just enough with his blocker to deflect the puck over the net, keeping it 1-0 Omaha. McGowan had another great chance at the side of the net just go wide after he collected a rebound off the back boards,
Ortega finished off a nifty passing play after a giveaway at the RIT blue line with 4:24 left, making it a 2-0 game. Parizek would score on a breakaway 1:16 later, and Pope would put the game away with an empty-netter.
RIT faced a team with the Mavericks nickname for the second straight day. The Tigers advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship after defeating No. 1 Minnesota State, 2-1 in the regional semifinal Saturday. Mitchell scored to break a 1-1 tie with 5:50 left and Ruby stopped 33 of 34 shots. Omaha knocked off Harvard, 4-1 in the second semifinal behind 33 saves from Massa.
RIT is 24-12 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 now 2-2-0 against Omaha. Before tonight, the Tigers last played Nebraska Omaha in 2010-11, falling 5-3 at the Maverick Stampede in Omaha. It was the first postseason meeting between the two schools.
Omaha will face Providence College in one NCAA Frozen Four Semifinal on April 9, while Boston University and North Dakota will play in the other semifinal. Both games will take place at TD Garden in Boston.
Tonight was the final game for seniors Garbowsky, McGowan, Ruby, Thompson, and Brad Reid (Delta, British Columbia/Coquitlam Express).
“I am really proud of this senior class, getting us back to the (NCAA) tournament and the bar that they set for this program,” said Wilson.