RMU Hockey: Opportunistic Colonials Match Program-Best Start With Win At Niagara


RMU junior forward Matt Cope chases the puck in a game earlier this season. He scored a key shorthanded goal in the Colonials’ 4-1 win at Niagara University on Saturday, Oct. 19. (Photo: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

LEWISTON, N.Y. – It had been more than three years since the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team won at Niagara, but recent history is no match for the way the Colonials are playing right now.

For the second straight night, a three-goal third period made the difference as RMU capped a two-game sweep of Atlantic Hockey Association rival Niagara with a 4-1 win Saturday night at Dwyer Arena.

The Colonials improved to 4-0, matching the best start in program history. The only other RMU team to pull that off was the 2010-11 edition, which also was the last Colonials squad to win in Niagara. Robert Morris had gone 0-6 on the Purple Eagles’ home ice since then, meaning that none of the current Colonials had won at Dwyer prior to Saturday.

“I’m extremely proud of the effort our guys put together,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “Our guys showed a lot of courage and heart to get the job done. We gutted it out…we played hard and we sold out.”

RMU carried a 1-0 lead into the third period, but it had to deal with the absences of Jeff Jones (injury) and Cody Wydo (game misconduct) for the rest of the game. The Colonials also needed to kill a two-minute two-man disadvantage that started late in the second and carried over into the third.

They did just that, with the added bonus of Matt Cope’s shorthanded breakaway goal at 1:03 that made it 2-0. Although Niagara’s Hugo Turcotte cut the RMU lead to one with a power-play goal moments later, Scott Jacklin (7:54) and Greg Gibson (12:01) responded with scores of their own to put the game out of reach.

“The (Niagara) 5 on 3 was really scary, but the guys were able to kill it off,” Cope said. “I was fortunate enough to come off the bench and take what they gave me. It really comes down to our depth. We can roll four lines and that wears teams down.”

The Colonials’ late surge gave them a 9-1 advantage in the third period this season. Sophomore goalie Dalton Izyk, who made 33 saves in his second consecutive victory, said his team’s persistence is impressive.

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“When we turn it on, we can really score some goals,” said Izyk, the reigning AHA Goalie of the Week after posting a shutout last Saturday at home. “If we keep playing the way we have been, things are going to go in our favor.”

For the third time in four games, the Colonials scored first. Although they were outshot 11-4 in the first period and 34-17 for the game, they never trailed after Wydo buried a beautiful blind feed from Jacklin for a power-play goal at 18:07 of the opening frame. Wydo’s 68th RMU goal boosted him past Denny Urban for sole possession of third place on the program’s all-time points list.

“The fact is that we capitalized on our opportunities,” Schooley said. “Shots are sometimes overrated. There are going to be nights when we outshoot a team but don’t get the result we want. We limited their chances and when they did get them, Izyk was outstanding.”

Izyk and fellow goalie Terry Shafer have been large parts of a stingy Colonials defense that has allowed just four goals in their first four games. Saturday was different from the first three games, though, as RMU found itself defending more than attacking. Nonetheless, the results were the same.

“Our (defensive strategy) is set up to keep a lot to the outside,” Cope said. “We’ll give up puck possession and shots at times but they’re not getting anything from the scoring areas.”

All was going according to plan until late in the second period, when Wydo (cross-checking major) and Evan Moore (holding minor) were sent to the penalty box in quick succession. Although the Colonials eventually allowed a power-play goal to Turcotte after an unfortunate ricochet, they have killed 16 of 18 advantages thus far this season.

“We can’t take that many penalties and lose our focus in a rough game, but our effort level was unbelievable tonight,” Schooley said. “We got through what we needed to get through.”

Jacklin’s goal, his team-leading fourth, came on a wrister through a screen, while Gibson slid his second of the season under Niagara goalie Adrian Ignagni on a partial breakaway to cap the scoring.

RMU will stay on the road next weekend as it attempts to set a new program record for longest winning streak to begin a season. The Colonials will challenge AHA foe Army next Friday and Saturday in West Point, N.Y.

“We’ve had a good start, but you’ve got to stay consistently focused every weekend,” Schooley said. “We’ve had two good weekends and now we’re going to have to put that behind us.”