RMU Hockey: David Rigatti, Zac Lynch Keep Pittsburgh Pipeline Flowing On Neville Island


RMU senior forward David Rigatti defends in a game this season at 84 Lumber Arena. (Photo: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – Since the program’s inception more than a decade ago, every edition of the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team has featured multiple players from the Pittsburgh area.

This year the Colonials have two: senior David Rigatti of Peters Township and junior Shaler native Zac Lynch. That number may be smaller than usual, but their contributions are oversized – and that’s the way head coach Derek Schooley likes it.

“We want to keep the best Pittsburgh kids playing at home, but with that being said we want to make sure they play a prominent role,” Schooley said after a recent practice at the RMU Island Sports Center. “We want Pittsburgh kids to make an impact, but it does no good to have them sitting in the stands. All of our Pittsburgh players have contributed, and we need to have them do that.”

Rigatti and Lynch have a few things in common beyond a shared western Pennsylvania heritage. Both are unassuming right-handed forwards who traveled well outside of the region to play junior hockey, with Rigatti skating in Texas and Lynch spending a couple of years in the Boston area.

And although Lynch scored 47 points (19 goals, 28 assists) last season to Rigatti’s four, both do their best work in support of their teammates.

Lynch’s point total was the third-highest in program history as he developed a rapport with Cody Wydo (31 goals, 45 points) and Scott Jacklin (23 assists, 38 points) on the Colonials’ top scoring line in 2013-14. The 22-year-old Lynch has begun this season in that same prime right-wing position, chipping in three assists as RMU swept Lake Superior State last weekend.

“Zac brings the right amount of grit and energy to that line,” Schooley said. “He’s more of a power forward with a goal-scorer (Wydo) and a playmaker (Jacklin). He creates space for the other two because of how he plays, with edge and energy. He’s been doing that since we put them all together.”

Like Lynch, Rigatti played in all 42 games last season as RMU won its first conference title and made its NCAA tournament debut. The 23-year-old’s vigorous style has been known to inspire his teammates, a quality which has earned him the status of alternate captain.

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“David leads through his work ethic,” Schooley said. “He works so hard and his competitiveness is off the charts. You know what you’re going to get with David Rigatti. He pushes people around him to work harder.”

Rigatti’s game is aggressive, yet clean, as evidenced by the mere nine minor penalties he’s taken in 81 collegiate games. Even though he’s in search of his first goal as a Colonial, his 26 blocked shots last season ranked fourth among RMU forwards, so he’s doing his part to prevent the opposition from cashing in.

“He’s a ‘coach’s player,'” Schooley said of Rigatti. “He kills penalties, blocks shots and never stops working. He’s like that from the start of practice to the end of games.”

When Rigatti and Lynch toil on the ice at 84 Lumber Arena, they are boosted by the cheers of family and friends. It’s a comfort that native Pittsburghers couldn’t enjoy prior to 2004 if they wanted to play Division I hockey.

That fact isn’t lost on RMU’s hometown duo.

“It’s one of the main reasons I came here,” Lynch said. “Seeing my parents up in the stands before every game is an awesome feeling. It’s a great experience and an honor. I got to play in Boston [in juniors] and it was a good experience, but here if I ever need anything, my family is right down the street.”

Lynch and Rigatti skated on the Island frequently with youth teams before ever donning an RMU jersey, which brings a full-circle feel to their Colonial days. Because of that, it’s very meaningful for them to help the program gain a higher profile on the Pittsburgh sports scene.

“It’s amazing, actually,” Rigatti said. “I grew up playing in this building for the Pittsburgh Hornets, so I got to experience Colonials hockey before I even committed here. Making the NCAA tournament is huge, and we’re beginning to become nationally recognized as a good hockey school.”

Lynch specifically mentioned the thrill he gets seeing more people wear RMU hockey t-shirts and jerseys, as well as increased Colonials-related chatter on social media.

Schooley notices these things, too, in addition to hockey’s continued overall growth in the region. Much of that is due to the Penguins’ success over the past decade, but his Colonials are mixing some red, white and blue into that black-and-gold palette.

“The Penguins’ effect on youth hockey has been tremendous,” Schooley said. “We’re going to see that getting better and better as we go.”

All of which means there will be more youngsters like Rigatti and Lynch to keep the Pittsburgh pipeline flowing on Neville Island.

The Colonials host AHA rival Niagara on Friday night to begin a home-and-home weekend series. For the full season schedule, check out RMUColonials.com.