No. 20 RMU grinds out 2-1 victory over Niagara on senior day

Dante Verme, Staff Reporter

For the No. 20 Robert Morris men’s hockey team, the past 48 hours have been very different for the team then its accustomed to.

Following a season in which the Colonials stepped on the gas and never looked back, RMU entered the final series of the season with a home and home series against the Purple Eagles of Niagara. The same Purple Eagles the Colonials began the sprint to the Atlantic Hockey regular season championship back in October with a weekend sweep by a combined score of 9-3.

This weekend would be different, following a 2-1 lost at the Dwyer Arena in Niagara, along with the lost last Saturday to RIT combined for the first back-to-back loses of the season for Robert Morris.

Back at 84 Lumber Arena, the Colonials not only got ready for the final home game of the regular season, but for a celebration of both the Senior Class of 2015 and the Atlantic Hockey regular season championship, the latter of which’s trophy made an appearance on Neville Island Saturday Night.

While the game Saturday, a 2-1 victory at the 84 Lumber Arena, wasn’t the run ‘n gun style we have become use to seeing from this Colonials team, it certainly had the feeling of a playoff atmosphere in front of a sellout crowd announced at 1,229.

“Yeah, it’s defiantly different, I don’t think our team is used to that too much but we came out with a split and it’s good to send our seniors off in a good way. But this is playoff hockey here, Niagara’s gonna be a good team in the playoffs and it was good to get this experience going into the playoffs,” said RMU goaltender Dalton Izyk. 

Izyk recorded 31 saves en route to improving his record to 13-4-0. The Oswego, N.Y. native also became the first of the three goaltenders Robert Morris has on its roster (junior Terry Shafer and freshman Andrew Pikul) to start back-to-back games this season.

“Coach’s Schooley’s put some faith in me I hope I can carry on and help the team out with winning and continue our journey like last year.” Said Izyk, who was thrown into the spotlight in the do-or-die game three of RMU’s first-round series last season vs Army; he led them all the way to the NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Derek Schooley echoes Izyk’s assumption of the coach’s faith in the young goaltender.

“He was outstanding” Schooley said, “He was calm, he was out playing the puck a little bit more than normal and a little bit more then I like. He was calm, he was solid, he was really outstanding.”

While Spencer Dorowicz opened the scoring for RMU in the first with his fourth goal of the season, Greg Gibson, who has been white hot as of late, scored the game winner in the third, his 13th of the season and fifth in the last four contests.

“He’s played with a tremendous amount of energy, he’s cut down on his mental mistakes and he’s been flying. You can see it with the way he is on the ice, creating chances, and getting shots off,” Coach Schooley said about the junior from Burlington, Ont.

Niagara had their fair share of chances to walk away with an upset weekend sweep, with seven power play opportunities and two chances of 5-on-3 power play time for over a minute in each instance. The Colonials penalty kill held strong, as the nation’s top shot blocking team forced the Purple Eagles power play to go 0-7 on the evening.

“Let’s talk a lot about our penalty kill.” These were the very first words uttered by Coach Schooley during the post-game press conference.

“Our penalty kill did an outstanding job, they were put into some tough situations, two 5 on 3‘s, and got the job done. Our mainstay defensemen got the job done, we got some clears and we did a very good job limiting them. We had to kill five penalties in the third period and we still outshot them 14 to 10 that shows you a lot about the character of this hockey club in this game.”

Following the final horn, the Class of 2015 was honored in an on-ice celebration of the winningest class in Robert Morris hockey history: Captain Cody Wydo, Jeff Jones, Scott Jacklin and Dave Rigatti; along with Tyson Wilson, who came to Robert Morris in the same class as the seniors but has a redshirt.

The class of 2015 was given a showing of appreciation from the RMU crowd for how much they have helped this program change in their four seasons at Robert Morris. It also Included the induction of a new piece of hardware to the trophy case, the 2014-15 Atlantic Hockey Regular Season Championship Trophy, which was presented to the captains by Atlantic Hockey Commissioner Bob DeGregorio.

“It’s a great feeling” said RMU Capitan, career goals and points leader Cydo Wydo. “It was our final regular season home game for us, just to give back to the fans for all the support they’ve given us, it’s a really great feeling.”

To sum up how important the class of 2015 is to Robert Morris hockey, coach Schooley showed the difficult task that lies ahead in replacing these men whenever the season ends.

“This is a class that’s going to be hard to replace, you’re almost going to have to replace it by committee, because you’re not going to replace it one for one.”

With winning the Atlantic Hockey regular season title, the Colonials are the number one seed in the conference and have earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs, awaiting to see who their first opponent will be following next weekend’s first round of Atlantic Hockey Conference playoffs. They will face their first opponent the following weekend (Mar. 13-15) in a best of three series.