RMU Hockey Clinches First Regular-Season Title On Cody Wydo’s Late Goal


RMU’s Cody Wydo (with puck) stickhandles around sprawling RIT goalie Jordan Ruby for the winning goal in Friday’s 4-3 victory at the Gene Polisseni Center. (Credit: Steven Copeland)

HENRIETTA, N.Y. – For Cody Wydo and the Colonials, the moment was almost too good to be true.

The all-time leading scorer in Robert Morris University men’s hockey history looked up and saw the an aerial pass from Zac Lynch land within reach as he sprinted through the neutral zone, toward the opposing net.

With less than 15 seconds to go in the third period and the score tied at 3, Wydo would have time to gather the puck and get a shot on net. But those plans were accelerated when RIT goalie Jordan Ruby charged out of his net to challenge him for possession.

Advantage, Wydo. The senior Hobey Baker Award candidate tapped the puck past Ruby between the circles and calmly tucked it in the vacated net, giving 19th-ranked RMU a 4-3 lead with just under 10 seconds to play.

Moments later, the Colonials were celebrating not just their team-record 21st victory of the season, but also their first regular-season conference crown in 11 years of Division I hockey.

“I knew there wasn’t a lot of time left, and Zac and I connect pretty well, so I just flew the zone,” Wydo said. “Luckily the goalie came out to play the puck and I just beat him to it.”

With the dramatic victory, RMU (21-5-5, 18-3-4 AHC) officially put Atlantic Hockey rivals Mercyhurst and Bentley away, taking an insurmountable eight-point lead in the standings with three games to go. The Colonials fell behind 1-0 and 3-1 on Friday night at the Gene Polisseni Center, but rallied to stretch their unbeaten streak to a program-record-tying nine games (8-0-1).

“We’ve had a flair for the dramatic lately,” said head coach Derek Schooley. “Two of our wins during this streak have been in overtime and now we have one in the last 10 seconds. I thought we got better as the game went on. We played hard and were opportunistic.”

Greg Gibson scored the first two goals for RMU, which improved to 2-3-3 when trailing after two periods. Defenseman Chase Golightly scored the equalizer 3:51 into the third, the Colonials’ second power-play tally in five opportunities, part of a back-and-forth final frame that amplified the wild theme of the evening.

“It was almost like a boxing match,” Schooley said. “One team would have a run and then the other team would. It was a battle like we expected. They’re a good, physical hockey team and they fed off the crowd.”

A gathering of nearly 3,000 took in the historic night for the Colonials, although they fell to a dead silence after Wydo’s team-leading 19th goal of the season sealed the home team’s fate.

“Clinching a conference championship with a goal like that is a great feeling,” said Wydo, who also paces RMU in total points with 40. “I was pretty excited there, as you could probably tell.”

Wydo wasn’t alone in his elation, as the Colonials’ bench exploded with emotion, knowing that they will hang another banner at the Island Sports Center to go with last year’s Atlantic Hockey postseason flag.

More from Robert Morris University

“Everyone just went nuts on the bench,” said junior forward David Friedmann. “It was crazy…we thought we were going to OT. Tonight had a playoff feel for sure.”

RIT (12-14-5, 11-9-5 AHC) got that postseason buzz going at its brand-new building when Josh Mitchell scored just 12 seconds into the game off an assist from conference-leading scorer Matt Garbowsky. Greg Gibson answered at 7:32 when Brandon Denham pried the puck loose from Ruby’s pads during an RMU power play, but Max Mikowski restored the Tigers’ advantage 8 ½ minutes later with a right-wing wrister that fooled goalie Dalton Izyk.

That would be Izyk’s lone blemish on the night. The sophomore from Oswego, N.Y., denied Garbowsky twice on the doorstep to keep the Colonials within comeback range. Izyk stopped 30 shots while collecting his 12th win in 16 starts.

It would get worse for RMU before it got better, with RIT freshman defenseman Chase Norrish scoring his first NCAA goal on a redirect from the left circle 5:12 into the second period.

However, from the midway point of the second period on, the Colonials started to resemble the team that has led the AHC from wire to wire this season. Postgame analysis from players and coaches indicated that last week’s bye had a factor in the team’s late arrival.

“We were a little slow out of the gate, probably because of the off week, but we came back in the second period,” said Friedmann, who earned a pair of assists. “They were really aggressive and built off that momentum, but we relaxed and started playing our game.”

Moments after Gibson hit the post with a left-circle shot, the junior center chopped the RIT lead to 3-2 with 4:30 left in the second, knocking in the rebound of John Rey’s low wrister. RMU survived a late Tigers power play – clearing a puck off the goal line in the process – to set up the third-period surge.

Golightly’s equalizer, his second of the season and first in 18 games, was the result of decisive passing and bodies in motion that confused the RIT penalty killers. After a quick exchange of the puck from Daniel Leavens to Friedmann on the right wing, Golightly took a feed and ripped a wrister under the crossbar from the faceoff dot.

“We were moving the puck a lot better,” Friedmann said. “The faster we moved it, the more things started opening up.”

Combine all of the above – a pair of power-play strikes, timely goaltending, a relentless attack in the final 30-odd minutes – with a total of 25 blocked shots, and the formula resulted in the latest milestone triumph for this rising program.

Predictably, the Colonials remained focused on the future amidst the celebratory mood.

“It’s something you can never take away from this group of guys,” Schooley said. “They set the record for wins in a season and now they’re Atlantic Hockey champions, but this season’s far from done. They don’t hand out rings for who wins the regular season, it’s about who goes to the NCAA tournament.

“We’ve reached one of our goals. Now we have to finish the season and play our best hockey into the playoffs.”

The Colonials and Tigers face off again at 7:05 Saturday night to conclude their four-game regular-season series. RMU has won its past four meetings with RIT and is now 3-1-3 in suburban Rochester.

More from City of Champions