Two years removed from having won the school’s first NCAA men’s hockey national championship when RIT played at the Division II level, the Tigers were back in position to win another in 1985, now playing in Division III.
Having rolled through the regular season, RIT stumbled and lost the ECAC West tournament championship game to Union, 7-3, at Ritter Arena. But given its 22-6-1 record as well as its program pedigree, the Tigers were still granted a spot in the NCAA tournament, and on March 15, 1985, they began their quest for a second national crown in three years with a hard-fought 5-4 victory over St. Thomas College of Minnesota in front of 1,187 rabid fans at Ritter.
In the first game of this two-game quarterfinal series that would be decided by total goals, the Tigers took the early advantage as Chris Johnstone scored the winning goal, and Bobby Trowell chipped in two goals and an assist.
It was an odd circumstance in that the winner of the game wasn’t as important as the goal differential. In essence, St. Thomas could have come back the next night and won by two goals and thus won the series, so the Tigers weren’t exactly celebrating following their Game 1 triumph.
“We are looking at it as if this were a six-period hockey game,” Trowell said. “It’s as if we have a one-goal lead with three periods left.”
After taking a 24-hour intermission break, the series resumed the next night and the Tigers polished off St. Thomas with a 5-2 victory thanks to stellar goaltending by backup Chet Hallice, who replaced starter Rob Rohlfs at the start of the second period with RIT trailing 2-1 and blanked the Tommies the rest of the way.
The victory sent RIT to the Final Four being held at Union the following weekend, and the Tigers exacted revenge for the ECAC West tournament defeat by knocking off the hosts 3-2 in the semifinals, and then in a rematch of the 1983 national championship game, they routed Bemidji State 5-1 to win the title.