Purple Eagles fly the coop, RMU advances to championship game

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Photo by Haley Sawyer

Robert Morris upset no. 11 Ohio State Friday evening beating the Buckeyes goalies 6 times.

In the beginning, there was the CHA.  Then there was the AHA.  Even though the conference has changed over time, one thing has remained the same for the Colonials.

The Purple Eagles.

Last time the Colonials were pitted against Niagara University, they would ultimately shut them out for the W, despite being outshot 44-23.

One of the biggest factors of the game came before play even began.  Three overtimes in the Mercyhurst/Canisius game pushed the Colonials’ start back to 9:00 PM.

“You prepare for a game the same way 38 times in a row and then you have to wait for an hour and a half or two hours to play,” said Scott Jacklin.  “We had to do that last year, so we’ve seen it before.  It just speaks volumes for the team.”

When RMU finally took to the ice, they did so with focus.

“You look up at the clock and that’s all that matters,” explained Dalton Izyk.  “That’s the only time that matters to you.  How much time is in the period.”

Even though there was an initial lapse in the fierce energy regularly exhibited by the Colonials, RMU would open up the scoring with a goal from Greg Gibson who sent the vulcanized rubber into the netting, with Matt Cope on the assist.

Niagara would not retaliate until about four minutes into the second period.  Dan Kolenda wheeled down the ice and took a shot on RMU netminder Dalton Izyk, who had a successful save.  However, Hugo Turcotte would pick up the rebound and toss it into the net.

Action would build as both teams endured the middle frame.

Matt Cope of the famous “Wagon Wheel” line set the Colonials ahead 2-1 at the 9:30 mark with a slapshot near the edge of the faceoff circle.  Assists came from Brandon Denham and Chase Golightly.

Five goals were scored in the third period, starting with Niagara at 8:32.  Matt Williams would send the puck to Stephen Pietrobon for a one timer that would sneak its way behind the pads of Izyk.

RMU fought back with two consecutive goals, the first of which came from Colin South who shot the puck through traffic with an assist from David Friedmann.  For the second, Zac Lynch carried the puck along the boards before passing it across the front of the net to Cody Wydo.  Wydo tucked the puck behind NU goaltender Jackson Teichroeb to give the Colonials a two goal lead.

Robert Morris seemed to be in the clear.  But the Purple Eagles would not be silenced so easily.

Niagara fired back with two goals of their own, the first from Pietrobon and the second from Turcotte.  The clock was ticking towards midnight and the Colonials’ stagecoach was on the verge of turning into a pumpkin.

With a score of 4-4, RMU emerged from the dressing room ready for overtime.

Breakaways, promising shots, and flashy saves decorated the extra frame.  The moment that would keep the dream of Atlantic Hockey champions alive, however, would come courtesy of Scott Jacklin.

“The puck was bouncing all over the place,” said the forward.  “It bounced to Lynch and I was wide open so I called for it.  I actually whiffed on it…and it went off the toe of my skate.  But we’ll take it.  They don’t show them what they look like.”

This year’s RMU men’s hockey team has a shot at something no other squad has had a chance to take on.  Through grit and determination, they are playing in the Atlantic Hockey championship game at 7:00 tomorrow.

“We give our players credit because they went after it in overtime.  Usually after you’ve given a lead up you play not to lose, and they played to win,” said head coach Derek Schooley.

Jacklin and the rest of the crew are itching to go.

“It’ll be nice to actually know we’re playing at 7:05 tomorrow,” said the first-liner.  “We’ll be ready to go for sure.”