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Our day on the road to the Frozen Four March 28, 2010

Posted by paulstella in Uncategorized.

Hanging out in advance of the NCAA East Regional Finals in Albany

“So looks like I’ll be going to Detroit.” I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the gears in my head were already turning. How was I possibly going to make that work?

It’s become a bit of a joke among my friends, but there’s been a growing perception that Austin’s a good luck charm when it comes to hockey. In his presence, the good guys always win. Amazingly, it had just happened again.

There we were, standing among hundreds of orange-clad fans in Albany’s Times Union Center, celebrating RIT’s victory over the University of New Hampshire and marveling at the realization that the Tigers were bound for Michigan and the NCAA Frozen Four—just two games away from a national championship. I was enjoying the thought of being able to take him there.

Earlier that day, he and I made the several hours trip down the Thruway in order to attend the East Regional Finals. On a perfect early spring day, it was also a good opportunity for Austin to log some driving hours (yeah, I’m still pretty edgy in the passenger seat).

Austin helps Ron Goldberg put up the RIT alumni banner for the pregame reception

After arriving in Albany, we soon met up with my friends in RIT’s Alumni Relations office. The gang was busy getting ready to host a pre-game reception. Austin, never one to stay idle, immediately jumped in to offer his help. Even as guests started to arrive, he took a spot at the reception table—helping with check-in and accepting cash from those who hadn’t prepaid.

“Be nice to this guy,” my friend Jon said to Austin as he motioned to the gentleman walking toward the glass doorway. “That’s Jared DeMichiel’s dad.”

The father of RIT’s MVP goalie had made the relatively short trip from Connecticut to see his son lead the Tigers through their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. Mr. DeMichiel was understandably in high spirits, and Austin was happy to make his acquaintance.

Austin and Jon Rodibaugh between check-ins

“We should be paying you to be here!” Austin exclaimed. Mr. DeMichiel clearly appreciated the sentiment.

After the reception, we all met inside the arena to witness history. With each RIT goal, the atmosphere became increasingly more electric. But Austin was becoming noticeably more distracted.

By attending the hockey game, he was giving up a chance to watch his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats make their bid for the basketball Final Four. Keeping tabs on the score with his cell phone, it was becoming clearer to him that UK was falling short. And they did. This would be an evening of some mixed emotions.

But as we left the arena, Austin’s spirits were quickly rebounding—coming to appreciate the accomplishment he had just witnessed live.

The Tiger celebrate after beating the University of New Hampshire (photo by John Carl D'Annibale, Albany Times Union)

“RIT really deserves this!”

“Yeah,” I said, “this really puts the university in a different stratosphere. It’s hard to put in perspective what this could mean.”

“So do you think we can we go to Detroit?” he asked.

Only minutes after the game, it was difficult for me to come up with a scenario that could make it happen, so I only mustered a non-committal “We’ll see.”

But, of course, if Austin’s luck were to hold up, who am I to put the Tigers in a position that might deny them a national championship.



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