For the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team, the last 25 games of the season has been in part the story of two goaltenders.
The Colonials went 11-4-3 over January and February and 6-1 in the Atlantic Hockey Association tournament to capture their first conference championship.
RMU will face the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Sophomore goaltender Terry Shafer has been between the pipes in all but six of the Colonials’ 41 games this season. The Penfield, N.Y., native has made 34 starts while posting a record of 14-15-5 to go along with a 3.02 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. He was named to the all-AHA third team, and was one of 13 goalies in the NCAA to have faced at least 1,000 shots this season.
Shafer contributed to the RMU surge over the last two months of the regular season when he won AHA Goaltender of the Week honors for three consecutive weeks in February. From Feb. 4-18, he put up a 4-1-1 record with two shutouts to go along with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage. Shafer went 1-1 in the first round of the AHA conference playoffs against Army before getting hurt in the winner-take-all Game 3.
After coming in during the second period of Game 3, freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk has played in five of the seven postseason games for Robert Morris. The Oswego, N.Y., product has put together a 5-0-0 record over that span, with one shutout and a 2.06 goals-against average to go with a .942 save percentage.
Izyk’s first collegiate win came in the game against Army on March 9 and his first shutout came on March 14 against UConn. For his efforts, he was named to the conference All-Tourneament Team along with forwards Greg Gibson and Cody Wydo.
Also, Izyk has won Goaltender of the Week accolades over the last two weeks of the AHA Tournament. He added a Rookie of the Week award in helping to win the championship.
Since Jan. 1, RMU defensemen have contributed 60 points to the score sheet, the third-highest total in the NCAA in 2014. The group has also put up 52 assists in that time, a total that ranks them first in the country. Since the calendar changed to 2014, the defensive corps has blocked 229 shots, the second-most in the nation.
Getting it done for the Colonials’ blueline crew are seniors Andrew Blazek and Evan Renwick; sophomores Chase Golightly, Evan Moore, and Tyson Wilson; and freshman John Rey.
Also contributing to the 19 victories this season, Robert Morris special teams have played a major role in the run to a conference championship, allowing just seven power-play goals to its opponents. In fact, RMU has killed off 66 of the 73 (90.4 percent) penalties they have committed.
It has been a team effort that has been forged in the fire of adversity that has Robert Morris ready for the challenge of the NCAA tournament.
The game between the Colonials and the Gophers will be seen nationally on ESPN2 with Clay Matvick and Sean Ritchlin handling the announcing duties. It can also be heard on local radio on 970 AM ESPN with Tim Benz and Mike Prisuta on the call.