Now a prominent piece in the DU lineup, Ritt finds role as Pioneers’ senior
Evan Ritt’s summer vacation wasn’t much of a vacation – he worked two jobs and went to the gym every day.
Yet that routine was transformational for the University of Denver senior, who finds himself as a fixture in the Pioneers’ lineup for the first time in his four seasons.
“I did have a different summer – I had an internship and was working a hockey camp,” Ritt said. “My summer was really structured.”
He awoke at 4:45 a.m. to work at a camp in Littleton with Pioneers alumni Kyle Ostrow and Paul Phillips. After that, he’d head to DU to do his summer weightlifting program. Then it was downtown for an internship with Johnson Financial Group. The finance major would be in the firm’s office until at least 5 p.m.
“Just being in that routine, I had to be really disciplined,” Ritt said. “I felt like when I came into the year, I was already in a mode where I was working really hard. And I had more time once I got to school. I could shift my habits into preparing for hockey and it’s helping a lot.”
Not only has that development benefited the Lakewood native, who played his youth hockey for Arvada and then the Rocky Mountain RoughRiders, but it has helped a Pioneers team that has sat at or near the top of the NCAA Division I polls all season.
“Evan wins faceoffs at a high level (his 56 percent success rate is second on the team) and he’s responsible in all three zones,” DU coach Jim Montgomery said. “He understands what Denver hockey is and his details of what makes him successful adds. He’s relished that and grown into the type of player that I trust.”
He’s also the type Montgomery can count on to inject energy into the game when he taps Ritt on the shoulder.
“I don’t get the minutes that a lot of guys do – I might sit on the bench five minutes if there is a special teams battle,” Ritt said. “I might have a little more jump. I was always an undersized kid, but I was pretty good as hitter.
“Monty’s system is a meritocracy, you really have to earn it. If I was going to get into the lineup, I had to earn it.”
DU junior Rudy Junda he said there is little secret to why his former RoughRiders Midget teammate is so effective.
“He knows what he needs to do, and he’s very good about not letting emotion or other things distract him,” Junda said. “That’s why he’s consistent. He can break things down and keep them simple.”
A bit of inward focus in an outward-focused sport has made a difference for Ritt.
“You can get caught seeing all these other guys on the team who have all these amazing skills you feel like you can do or should be doing because you’re at this level,” he said. “You end up getting in trouble because you can’t do it as well as them.
“That’s been the theme of my year, looking internally, focusing on my strengths and minimizing the risks based on the game I can play and finding a way to be effective.”
Another measure of his effectiveness is the encouragement he offers.
“He shows a lot of kindness and is a really good person,” Junda said. “He’s a good voice of reason for me, very level-headed and super humorous.
“It’s helpful for me to see him get his chance to play.”
Added Montgomery: “He’s got leadership skills, there’s no question about it. We’ve always felt he had them, he just didn’t play enough to maybe have the confidence to do it. Now that he is a mainstay in the lineup, he does have that confidence.
“I think he knows he’s a Division I player that helps an elite college hockey team win every night.”
— Chris Bayee