RIT advanced to the NCAA finals this week by winning the Atlantic Hockey Tournament Mar. 20. Brenner notched a power play goal in the 6-1 victory over Sacred Heart in the final that clinched the NCAA berth for RIT, and was named to the AHA all-tournament team.
This will be RIT’s first appearance in the 16-team NCAA tournament since moving up to Division 1 five years ago.
“Our goal for the entire year was to make it to the tournament,” said the former Elmira Sugar King. “Everybody’s excited and ready to play and hopefully cause an upset.”
RIT opened the tournament Friday with a game against Denver University. RIT, seeded 15th, is the underdog in the matchup with second-seeded Denver. The winner of that game will face either New Hampshire or Cornell.
RIT went into the game riding a 10-game winning streak and boasting 26 wins this season, the third-highest in the nation. Brenner said the team was hoping to carry that momentum into Friday’s game.
“We’re just going to play it like any other game and put all pressures aside and play like we have for the past month.”
Last year, in his rookie season with RIT, Brenner was second on the squad with 35 points and won the Craig Lauzon Award as the team’s top rookie. This season got off to a slower start for the 6’2” forward as he missed a handful of games at the beginning of the season with a torn MCL, one of the ligaments in the knee.
Brenner is in his sophomore year studying business management, and noted it’s a challenge to keep up with schoolwork with all the travelling the team does. Last year he returned home for the summer, but this year he’ll be staying in Rochester to train and go to school.
While Brenner and his teammates are aware of the significance of this weekend’s games for RIT, they don’t want to allow it to affect their concentration and their play.
“We just put that aside and try not to worry about it,” he said. “It’s exciting for the organization and the whole school and the team, but we just have to concentrate on the game at hand.”