Three Rivers Classic: RMU Can’t Stop Relentless Colgate In Championship Game Loss


RMU junior winger Matt Cope (foreground) leads the forecheck early in Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Colgate in the Three Rivers Classic championship game. Cope netted the Colonials’ lone goal of the night at Consol Energy Center. Photo: Jason Cohn)

PITTSBURGH – For the second time in the three-year history of the Three Rivers Classic, Robert Morris earned a spot in the championship game.

Unlike 2012, however, the Colonials will not be bringing the Confluence Cup back to Neville Island, as they fell 6-1 to No. 14/17 Colgate on Tuesday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

Matt Cope’s early goal staked 19th-ranked RMU (12-3-3) to a 1-0 lead, but a relentless Colgate squad stole the advantage back before the end of the first period and added two goals apiece in the second and third to take command.

The Raiders’ victory means that the Three Rivers Classic trophy has gone to three different programs in three years, as the Colonials won the inaugural event and Boston College claimed the holiday title last season.

“We’re disappointed because we wanted to win a championship in our hometown,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. “We’re a good, fast hockey team, but we were a step behind tonight for whatever reason. Colgate exploited that.”

The Colonials, who downed No. 20 Penn State 4-2 on Monday to advance to Tuesday’s title tilt, won’t have too much time to think about their most lopsided loss of the season. Robert Morris has a modified home-and-home series coming up against nationally-ranked Bowling Green, starting with the first outdoor game in program history Saturday at Toledo’s Fifth Third Field.

“We’re going to put this behind us,” Schooley said. “Last time I checked it’s one game of 34. You can’t take anything away from what we’ve done so far. We were sitting here last year at 2-12-2, so hat’s off to our guys who’ve turned it around.”

Goaltender Dalton Izyk has been a large part of that about-face. After leading the Colonials to the Atlantic Hockey postseason title last spring as a freshman, he has excelled in tandem with junior Terry Shafer this season. Although the six goals allowed were the most Izyk has allowed as a sophomore, he set a new personal record for a regulation game with 45 saves.

“He has just carried over from last year,” Schooley said. “He battles, he competes, he’s got a nasty streak that fuels him to play better. I thought we hung him out to dry at times, but he was outstanding.”

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The start of Tuesday’s game had a positive feel for the Colonials, who came out in their new red alternate uniforms for the second straight night on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ home ice. They jumped to a 7-1 advantage in shots and a 1-0 lead at 7:26 of the first period on a superb individual effort from Cope.

The junior winger from Colorado collected a long lead pass from Jeff Jones and burst in on net from the Colgate blueline. Cope had the puck skip ahead of him on the rush, but he dived to swat it through the legs of Colgate goalie Charlie Finn for his fifth goal of the season.

“Matt Cope was very good,” Schooley said. “Not only did he score our first goal, he was a very noticeable presence.”

Colgate (11-6-1) got its offense revved up in the latter half of the first period, eventually firing 17 shots in the opening 20 minutes. Kyle Baun tied the score 63 seconds after Cope’s icebreaker, banking a loose puck into the net off an RMU defender during a goal-mouth scramble.

The Raiders went ahead 2-1 at 15:26 on a left-point blast by Jake Kulevich, a hard drive that found its way through traffic and past Izyk’s glove hand.

RMU went to work on the power play five minutes into the second, creating a handful of good chances in the process, but couldn’t tie the game. Zac Lynch had the best chance when he fired high on a partial breakaway, only to have Finn reach out to glove the shot. Finn, a sophomore, was named tournament MVP after allowing just two goals on 56 shots.

Izyk answered with several outstanding saves to keep the score 2-1, including lunging denials of Mike Panowyk, Tylor Spink and Baun. However, the Colgate offensive pressure finally became too much to bear when Joe Wilson (13:20) and Panowyk (16:43 – power play) scored on rebounds to increase the Raiders’ lead to three goals.

“I don’t think (Colgate) had tremendous chances, but they capitalized on them,” Schooley said. “It was 2-1 halfway through the game and it just went downhill from there. We had a power play right before that where we had a tremendous amount of chances.”

Colgate finished the middle frame with 25 shots on goal, the most against the Colonials in a period this season. RMU was outshot 52-27 for the game, but managed to stay within reach of Colgate for the opening 33 minutes thanks to Izyk and a sacrificial style of team defense. The Colonials blocked 21 shots for the game, giving them 48 for the tournament.

“We did a good job blocking shots and keeping them to the outside, but we were in our own end a lot because had too many turnovers,” Schooley said. “They’ve got a dynamic group of forwards that’s very good. They pinned us back. We have to do a better job of advancing pucks.”

The Raiders capped their offensive outburst when junior linemates (and twin brothers) Tylor and Tyson Spink scored six minutes apart in the third period. In addition to Finn’s accolades, Colgate’s Baun and Kulevich were also named to the Three Rivers Classic All-Tournament Team.

Robert Morris’ Daniel Leavens was held off the scoresheet Tuesday, but the sophomore winger nevertheless took home a spot on the all-tourney team for his goal-assist effort on Monday evening. In a rarity, RMU leading scorer Cody Wydo (11 goals, 14 assists) didn’t register a point for the third straight game – his longest drought since going four matches without scoring in December 2012.

“Cody had some good looks last night and three more shots tonight, but it just didn’t go for him,” Schooley said. “He scores points in bunches, so I’d hate to be on the other side when he breaks out.”

Wydo and the Colonials will seek that breakout in the open air of northwest Ohio. Faceoff is set for noon Saturday at the home of Triple-A baseball’s Toledo Mudhens. RMU will then play its fourth game in seven days when Bowling Green makes the trip to 84 Lumber Arena for a 7 p.m. matchup Sunday.