RMU Hockey: Hobey Baker Award Candidate Cody Wydo Aims To Pace Rising Colonials


RMU captain Cody Wydo looks to pass in the Colonials exhibition game against Ryerson on Oct. 4, 2014 at 84 Lumber Arena. (Photo: Jason Cohn)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa.  – On its way to a scintillating finish last season, the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team terrorized the opposition with an offensive might rarely seen in college hockey.

From Jan. 1 until the end of the campaign, the Colonials led Division I with 3.88 goals per game, ranking just ahead of Frozen Four participant Boston College (3.82) and national champion Union (3.75). Considering that level of output, it’s no wonder RMU went 17-6-3 in the new year to win its first conference title and make the NCAA Tournament.

The Colonials had the luxury of excellent offensive balance last season, as nine skaters scored 20 points or more. Eight of those players return for 2014-15, led by high-scoring senior winger Cody Wydo, who will be sporting the captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey when the Colonials open the regular season Friday night against Lake Superior State at 84 Lumber Arena.

Wydo enters the year as RMU’s all-time leader in goals with 65, a number which also places him comfortably atop the D-I active career list; Alex Grieve of AHA rival Bentley has 50. The Michigan-born Wydo scored 31 of those 65 tallies last season, when he established new program records for goals and points (54) en route to earning all-USCHO Second-Team recognition, the first Colonial to receive such an honor.

Wydo said his target for last season was “maybe 25 goals,” but he surpassed that mark during the AHA playoffs, when the Colonials reeled off six wins in seven high-pressure games.

“I always set goals for myself ahead of the season,” Wydo said, “but once you reach them you have to keep doing the best you can. Anyone’s objective on the team is to try to keep it out of our defensive zone and capitalize on our offensive chances.”

The Colonials’ top forward line of Wydo, Zac Lynch and Scott Jacklin did plenty of that last season, combining for 65 goals and 139 total points. Most of those were accumulated together, as Lynch joined Wydo and Jacklin for good just after the holidays.

“We know where each other are on the ice,” Wydo said. “We have good chemistry. (Jacklin) and I have been playing together since our sophomore years and Lynch is a skilled player who can shoot.”

For all of Wydo’s finishing ability, no man is an island in the sport of hockey, although both Jacklin and Lynch acknowledge that Plan A usually involves passing Cody the puck.

“I know he’s always going to be around the net,” said Jacklin, who’s coming off a 38-point junior season. “We work together in most practice drills so we can keep building that chemistry. Everyone chipped in on our line (last year) and I don’t think anyone could really handle our offense.”

Added Lynch, who broke out for a team-high 28 assists and 47 total points as a sophomore: “We really click. Scott sees the ice like no one else and obviously Cody has an unbelievable scoring touch, so we get him the puck and we know good things are going to happen.”

Wydo developed that goal-scoring ability during his childhood in suburban Detroit, where he grew up playing baseball and basketball as well. He picked up a hockey stick at age 3 to keep up with brothers Chad and Collin, and he quickly found a home around the opposing net. Prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh, he recorded a 40-goal, 91-point season with the Motor City Metal Jackets of the junior-level North American Hockey League.

“I grew up as a goal-scorer,” said the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Wydo. “That’s why (RMU) wanted me to come here. My strength is being able to find the open ice…getting to the net and scoring when I get a chance to. Every now and then I’ll get one from the outside, but mostly I get them from the front of the net.”

Wydo’s final goal of the 2013-14 season, the one that pushed him past Chris Margott for the RMU career record, came in the second period of the Colonials’ NCAA Tournament battle with No. 1 Minnesota. Wydo took a cross-ice pass from Lynch and went from forehand to backhand to stash a nifty shot inside the post, showing off the quick hands that have made him one of college hockey’s deadliest finishers:

The 23-year-old Wydo netted 10 goals in his final 10 games last spring, including a dramatic hat trick in the AHA championship game against Canisius. He also had a five-game goal-scoring streak in conference play and buried seven goals in a two-game span last November. It’ll take more performances like that to attract the attention of voters for the Hobey Baker Award, which is given to the player adjudged to be the best in Division I.

“I’d think a fast start would be pretty important (for Wydo to get in the Hobey Baker race),” said Nate Ewell, deputy executive director of College Hockey, Inc. “If he picks up where he left off last season, that would get his name firmly in the mix by Christmas break. I think, especially if it’s a wide-open race – unlike last year – that getting that early recognition is key.”

With former Boston College star and 2014 Hobey Baker winner Johnny Gaudreau off to the NHL, there is no clear favorite to snag the prize. That benefits Wydo, who will have opportunities to impress not only in AHA action, but also in non-conference showcases against Lake Superior State (Oct. 10-11) and Bowling Green (Jan. 3-4), plus the annual Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center, where the Colonials will face Penn State and either Colgate or Western Michigan.

On a recent afternoon at the RMU Island Sports Center, Wydo shrugged off that kind of talk. Instead, he spoke of his leadership responsibilities as the team’s new captain, taking over the role from departed senior Colin South.

“I was picked to be captain based on what I did last year, so I don’t really want to change anything I was doing,” Wydo said. “It’s just a continuation of coming prepared every day to practice and showing everyone that hard work will pay off.”

In an effort to improve his speed, Wydo put in several sessions with a power-skating coach this summer. He also has been spending time in the Colonials’ new RapidShot booth at the Island, working to quicken the release of his wrist shot.

All of that sweat will hopefully pay off for Wydo and the Colonials, who will try to get a jump on their Atlantic Hockey foes in the opening weeks of the season. RMU found itself in the league basement last December, requiring a second-half surge to save the 2013-14 campaign. AHA play begins Oct. 17-18 with a home-and-home against Niagara.

“This year, if we lose a game, we need to put it behind us,” Wydo said. “No one wants to go through that again. Almost everyone who did is on this year’s team, and we’ve told the freshmen about what we learned.”

A consistent season from start to finish is the next step for RMU, now entering its second decade of Division I hockey. The greater Pittsburgh area has responded to the Colonials’ progress, which has elevated their stature on the regional sports scene.

“The program has grown tremendously since I’ve been here,” Wydo said. “I haven’t had a losing season yet. We won the Three Rivers Classic my sophomore year and the (AHA) championship last year, so it’s just getting bigger and bigger. With the turnaround we had last year, people in this area bought into the program and they’re coming out to support us.”

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on RMUColonials.com.