RMU Hockey: Colonials Explore New Frontier with Landmark Sweep at Air Force


RMU junior forward and Pittsburgh native Zac Lynch skates with the puck in a game earlier this season. (Credit: Paul Bereswill/RMU Athletics)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Consider it another mission accomplished for the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team, which notched a pair of program firsts on back-to-back nights at the Air Force Academy.

One night after ending a seven-game losing streak in the Rocky Mountains, the 20th-ranked Colonials earned their program-record sixth consecutive victory Saturday evening, 5-2 over the Falcons at Cadet Ice Arena.

“This is another box you can check on the way to getting where we want to be,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “We play hard and with enthusiasm, and when you do that it gives you opportunities to be successful.”

First-place RMU (19-5-4, 16-3-3 Atlantic Hockey) won for the fourth straight time on the road, improving to 8-1-3 as the visitor this season. The Colonials are now eight points ahead of second-place Canisius with six games left, skating closer to their first regular-season conference title.

“We’re sticking with the process of becoming the best hockey team that we can be,” Schooley said. “The guys have bought into it and believe in themselves. They know how to play in big games and they’re confident.”

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As it has for the majority of this six-game streak, the top forward line of Cody Wydo, Zac Lynch and Scott Jacklin supercharged the RMU attack. The potent trio combined for 10 points Saturday, with Wydo and Lynch each earning two goals and two assists.

With their matching four-point nights, Wydo and Lynch remained RMU’s top two scorers. The senior Wydo ranks third in Division I in goals (18) and points (38) goals, while the junior Lynch extended his scoring streak to six games, during which he has piled up 16 points (7g, 9a) to jump into the top 10 of the national scoring race.

“It’s really come together in the last couple of weeks,” said Lynch, who recorded his third career two-goal game and has 15 tallies on the season. “This is a tough place to play and a tough place to get wins. We came into the games focused this weekend and stuck to the plan.”

Not to be overshadowed, Jacklin’s two assists boosted him to 101 points for his RMU career, including 27 during his ongoing senior year. Brandon Denham also scored a goal for the Colonials, who have scored 30 goals during this current six-game run.

It wasn’t all about offense for RMU, though. The Colonials killed all six Air Force power plays Saturday, making them a perfect 10 for 10 on the weekend. Junior goalie Terry Shafer (26 saves) was a key part of that performance, as were all the skaters who smothered lanes and blocked shots.

“It was all about our preparation,” said senior forward David Rigatti, a regular part of the penalty-killing rotation. “Our execution was through the roof. There were no surprises and we handled everything well.”

The Colonials didn’t lead Friday until Tyson Wilson’s overtime goal, which capped a cathartic come-from-behind win. By contrast, they didn’t waste any time jumping on top Saturday, scoring just 41 seconds in.

RMU’s top line created a turnover in the offensive zone, with Lynch feeding Wydo for a one-timer that missed the net. However, Lynch alertly – and acrobatically – centered the rebound from behind the net for Wydo to pump into the open cage.

“We came out flying,” Rigatti said. “Winning yesterday just fueled the fire. Getting four points from them on the road is huge.”

Air Force tied it at 13:33 of the first when Alex Halloran’s point shot deflected off a Colonial stick and in, but RMU went right back ahead before intermission.

Lynch did the honors with 29 seconds left in the frame after getting a favorable break. Wilson jabbed the puck free at the right dot to Wydo, whose shot missed to the left, just where Lynch happened to be standing at the side of the net. The Pittsburgh native pushed in his 14th goal of the season to give the Colonials the lead for good.

“We can give (Wydo) credit for the pass,” said Lynch with a smile. “We’ve just really connected a lot lately. It’s been a lot of fun.”

RMU started quickly again in the second period, with Denham adding his eighth goal at 1:30. Greg Gibson charged off the bench and gunned a wrister just wide from the center of the ice, but Denham banked the end-board rebound into the goal off Girard.

Lynch nearly made it 4-1 against replacement goalie Chris Truehl when he charged in on a shorthanded rush, but he was interfered with as he tried to shoot. There was no penalty call, and Air Force went right down the ice and scored when A.J. Reid finished a give-and-go play just as RMU returned to full strength.

But Lynch would have his revenge moments later, when he was the beneficiary of a terrific diving pass by Wydo during an RMU power play. After battling into the right corner, Wydo laid out to poke a loose puck to Lynch, who drilled it past a helpless Truehl at 9:39.

Girard was back in the Air Force net for the third; he watched as both Wydo and Gibson fired shots off the right post in the opening half of the period. After limiting the Falcons (11-15-3, 10-8-2 AHC) to just four shots in the third, the Colonials sealed it with 29 seconds left when Wydo took a redirect from Lynch and hit the empty net from center ice.

“It feels unreal,” said Gibson of the weekend. “Historically we haven’t been good in this place, so it’s a great feeling to sweep. It’s tough to come back like we did (last night), so we wanted to make sure we weren’t chasing the game tonight.”

Following a perfect four-game road swing, RMU returns to the Island Sports Center next weekend, hosting second-place Canisius in a two-game series.

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