The all time best of men’s hockey

Photo+credit%3A+Alana+Palmer

Photo credit: Alana Palmer

By Owen Krepps, Podcast / Webshow Manager

Not only has COVID-19 caused unspeakable tragedies and ruined the economy, but it has also taken away sports from us. Some leagues like the NBA and NHL have been able to recover but collegiate sports are a different story. With the postponement of fall sports by the Horizon League, Robert Morris joins the countless other NCAA schools that will not have sports to start the year.

With all this extra time on our hands without sports, let us journey into the past and reflect how far the fifteen sports programs at Robert Morris University have come. This will be a fifteen part series where we look back upon the all-time best of each sport respectively. Keep in mind that some of the opinions expressed in these articles are subjective and that this is just for fun. Today we will look at men’s hockey.

*All statistics are courtesy of Robert Morris University Athletics*

Robert Morris men’s hockey has been around since 2004-05 and started off playing within College Hockey America (CHA). It was not until the 2010-11 season that the team switched over to Atlantic Hockey America (AHA) and started to hit their stride. Robert Morris’ best collection of seasons thus far have come in the mid-2010s. These teams were led by all-time point leader Brady Ferguson, franchise goal leader Cody Wydo, and Pittsburgh native Zac Lynch. RMU won the AHA regular-season title in back-to-back seasons in 2015 and 2016, winning the AHA playoffs in 2014.

Awards and Championships

– 2014 AHA Playoff Champions

– 2015 AHA Regular-Season Champions

– 2016 AHA Regular-Season Champions

Statistical Leaders

– Goals: Cody Wydo (85)

– Assists: Brady Ferguson (110)

– Points: Brady Ferguson (167)

– Goaltender Wins: Francis Marotte (50)

A plethora of talented young hockey players have made their way through the program at Robert Morris. While RMU has yet to produce a National Hockey League (NHL) player, several players have gone on to continue their careers post-college. Brady Ferguson is one of these players as he is currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Ferguson is the Colonials all-time leader in points and also owns the most single-season points in RMU history with 58 in his junior year. He averaged over a point a game in his career (1.10) and was the Colonials anchor as a versatile two-way center in the mid-2010s.

Another player who went pro after Robert Morris was Cody Wydo. Wydo’s career made it as far as the American Hockey League (AHL) where he was a member of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Wydo scored 65 goals in just his first three seasons at RMU, which made him the all-time leader in goals before his senior year had even started.

Robert Morris’ goaltenders have been good, but there has not been any specific standout. Francis Marotte played from 2016-19 and is only 7 wins ahead of Terry Schafer for all-time goaltender wins. Justin Kapelmaster was fantastic for RMU last season but graduated, leaving the net to Reid Cooper and company. Goaltender wins, in general, is an unstable measurement of a stat as a good goalie could be on a bad team and have his win total be deflated; whereas an average goalie could have a great team and have his numbers inflated.

GOAT Category

– Brady Ferguson

– Zac Lynch

– Cody Wydo

Ferguson is the favorite for the all-time greatest player in RMU men’s hockey history. But there is no shortage of options past him. Ferguson won back to back AHA regular-season titles but was never able to win the AHA playoff title with RMU. Ferguson was a point-per-game player in his career, a Hobey Baker nominee in 2018, and led the AHA in scoring in 2017.

Wydo, who does not have as many points as Ferguson, was a leader in the 2014 AHA playoff title team due to his prolific scoring ability. On top of this, Wydo won the tournament MVP for Atlantic Hockey in the 2013-14 season. Wydo was nominated for the Hobey Baker Award in 2015, which awards the best player in college hockey. The award that year ended up going to a guy named Jack Eichel out of Boston College.

Zac Lynch, while not at the top of any major statistical categories, absolutely deserves a mention when talking about the greatest. Lynch enjoyed a full four years at RMU and played with his brother Luke in his senior year of 2016. Zac is second all-time for RMU in points with 156. He won the 2016 AHA scoring title as well as player of the year and was also nominated for the Hobey Baker.

Other names such as Alex Tonge, Denny Urban, and Nathan Longpre deserve recognition as well. The greatest player of any franchise is, of course, subjective and should be taken as such. No matter who you think is the greatest, we can all agree that these players were all excellent Colonials, and the team was blessed to have them donning the Colonials uniform.

Coaching

– Derek Schooley (2004-present)

On the other hand, the greatest coach of all-time cannot be argued as Derek Schooley has been the bench boss for almost two decades. Schooley and Robert Morris buy and large have been through many ups and downs. As of 2020, Schooley’s record stands at 260-266-68 which is a win percentage of 49%. Since 2012, Schooley has won an average of 20 games per season with Robert Morris. In the 2014-15 season, Schooley won coach of the year for the AHA and was nominated for the Spencer Penrose Award as the top coach in college hockey.

Schooley knows how to get the best out of his players. Not every roster that he has coached has had a Brady Ferguson or Cody Wydo on the roster. Schooley makes his players feed off of one thing: hard work. More than sixty players have signed pro contracts after playing for Derek Schooley at Robert Morris. A compiled list of these players can be found here.

Best Year

– 2013-2014 AHA Champions

Playoff success, at least to me, is more important than regular-season success. While back to back AHA regular-season championships is a great accomplishment, I picked the 2013-2014 Robert Morris Colonials as the best team the club has had thus far. Surprisingly, this roster was the year before Brady Ferguson made his RMU debut as a freshman. Instead, this roster was led by Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch offensively, Terry Schafer in net, and Derek Schooley behind the bench.

The team went 17-6-3 during the second half of the season and marched into the AHA playoffs. Red hot, RMU was able to defeat Niagara in the semi-finals thanks to Scott Jacklin’s overtime winner and then advanced to defeat Canisius in the AHA Finals 7-4. The team moved on to the NCAA tournament for the first time in Robert Morris history but were defeated by Minnesota.

All-time team

Left-Wing: Cody Wydo

Center: Brady Ferguson

Right Wing: Zac Lynch

Defense: Denny Urban

Defense: Eric Israel

Goaltender: Justin Kapelmaster

No matter the amount of success a sports team has had, there will always be great players that have come through the organization. Making the starting six for these all-time-best teams is always hard and there are many different ways I could have picked these players. However, I think Wydo, Ferguson, and Lynch are all definite locks as forwards.

Denny Urban played from 2007-11 and is perhaps the best defenseman in Robert Morris history but may get overlooked since he graduated almost a decade ago. Urban is RMU’s all-time leader in goals, assists, and points as a defenseman. Since graduation, Urban has gone on to play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), AHL, and even playing in Germany in the DEL.

Recency-bias may have affected my last two choices as I have Eric Israel on defense along with Justin Kapelmaster manning the crease. Israel, who graduated in 2019, is second all-time in points by a defenseman with 84 and was a solid two-way defender and power-play quarterback in his time.

Kapelmaster may have only played a handful of games at RMU compared to guys like Marotte and Schafer but I am confident that if Kapelmaster played all four years at RMU he would be regarded as the undisputed best goalie in team history. Kapelmaster stood on his head for the 2019-20 Colonials facing an average of 30.37 saves a game and still put up a .929 SV% and dragged his team to success.

RMU men’s hockey has never been the most talented team on campus. Sure, they have had players like Wydo, Ferguson, and Lynch, but talent cannot win alone. What RMU men’s hockey is built on is a whole lot of hard work. Mix that in with talent and you get the stretch this team had from 2014-2016.