RMU Hockey Rallies, But Suffers Overtime Heartbreak In Atlantic Hockey Semifinal


The Colonials celebrate Scott Jacklin’s third-period go-ahead goal in Friday’s Atlantic Hockey semifinal game, which Mercyhurst won 4-3. (Credit: Steve Copeland/RMU Athletics)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The Robert Morris University men’s hockey team had its monumental season end in cruel fashion Friday night at Blue Cross Arena, as Mercyhurst’s Zac Frischmon scored 3:04 into sudden-death overtime to steal a 4-3 victory in an Atlantic Hockey Conference semifinal game.

The regular-season champion Colonials set a program-record for shots on goal with 62 – including a season-high 27 in the second period – while rallying from an early 2-0 deficit to take the lead on Scott Jacklin’s goal-mouth tally with 5:19 left in the third.

But Mercyhurst, which constructed an improbable comeback to advance out of the quarterfinal round last weekend, tied the game with 35 seconds remaining in regulation when Chris Bodo deposited a rebound from the side of the net. Rather than preparing for a Saturday night matchup, the Colonials had to regroup for more high-stakes hockey.

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“We had the opportunity in the final minute to win a couple battles, but we couldn’t get the puck out,” RMU head coach Derek Schooley said. “But I thought we played really well. Anytime you double a team in shots (62-29) and have the Grade-A opportunities we had…you’re doing something right.”

Overtime began with Greg Gibson nearly sending RMU (24-8-5) through to the championship game, but freshman Lakers goalie Brandon Wildung made the best of his 59 saves, lunging out to stop the junior center.

“I thought we played unbelievable,” Gibson said. “We just didn’t bury our chances. It stings right now, but we know we left it all on the ice. Obviously, when you get to overtime, anything can happen.”

Moments later, Frischmon wheeled a shot from the top of the right circle that beat goalie Dalton Izyk on the glove side, showing the 20th-ranked Colonials the opposite side of the emotion they felt last year in the AHC semifinals, when Jacklin netted an OT goal to top Niagara. RMU went on to beat Canisius to clinch its first postseason title and NCAA tournament appearance.

The right guys showed up on the scoresheet for RMU on Friday, with Jacklin, Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch recording a goal and an assist each. For Jacklin and Wydo, two of RMU’s six all-time 100-point scorers, it was an honorable and representative way to end their collegiate careers.

“They had chance after chance,” Schooley said of the graduating duo. “They played like it was an elimination game for their career, and unfortunately it ended up being that way. They rose to the occasion.”

Junior Pittsburgh native Lynch started the comeback with a first-period power play goal, his 19th of the season, while Hobey Baker Award finalist Wydo cashed in his team-leading 20th to tie the score in the final minute of the second.

Jacklin put the Colonials in line for their second consecutive AHC title game when he poked the rebound of John Rey’s point shot between the legs of Wildung. Jacklin’s 14th of the year was upheld after a video review to ensure that his crease-crashing linemate Brandon Denham didn’t direct the puck into the net with his skate.

He did not, and so RMU went about protecting its late lead. After some back-and-forth action, Mercyhurst pulled Wildung with 1:29 to play, setting up a frantic final sequence. Izyk stood tall to make a trio of saves as time ticked under a minute, but the sophomore had no chance to deny Bodo’s follow-up opportunity. It was the first extra-attacker goal the Colonials had allowed this season.

“A loss is a loss,” Schooley said. “It ended our season and it’s disappointing, but hopefully it doesn’t take away from what we accomplished this season.”

The Colonials found themselves down a pair in the opening seven minutes when Kyle Just and Ryan Misiak netted power-play goals 2:03 apart. Just snapped a wrister under the crossbar from the high slot at 4:47, then Misiak powered a slapper through traffic from a similar spot with 6:50 gone.

Instead of shrinking from the winner-take-all scenario, RMU embraced the challenge from there, starting with Lynch’s opportunistic goal at 8:12. Taking a goal-line feed from Wydo, Jacklin tried to center for Gibson between the circles, but the puck deflected to Lynch at the left post for the slam-dunk finish.

After cutting the Lakers lead in half, the Colonials shifted into an entirely new gear in the middle frame, totaling 27 shots on goal and 51 total attempts – both season highs for a single period. Linemates Jeff Jones and Spencer Dorowicz each had glorious chances to tie the score, but Wildung stretched out to turn them away as the period moved along.

Finally, with 41 seconds to go before intermission, RMU equalized. On a give-and-go counterattack play, Gibson handed the puck to Wydo, who deftly navigated his way to the right post for a stuff attempt. Wildung got a piece of it, but not enough to prevent it from hopping over the goal line.

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  • “We did a good job staying positive on the bench,” Gibson said of the second-period mentality. “We knew if we kept shooting, one would go in.”

    Wydo, who finished his spectacular RMU career with a program-record 150 points, generated another gold-plated opportunity midway through the third when he dangled through a pair of defenders, only to shove a backhand wide from the lip of the crease. Nevertheless, when Jacklin capped a hardworking shift alongside Denham and Matt Cope with his third goal in three games, the Colonials could see the finish line.

    Instead, they’ll have to reconcile their immediate feelings of disappointment with the accomplishment of building RMU’s rising stature on the college hockey landscape. The Colonials not only claimed a program-best 24 wins and their inaugural regular-season title, they were also regularly ranked in the national top 20 from the start of November on.

    “We had a target on our backs all year,” Schooley said. “We were never trailing in the standings, and when you do that, you get everyone’s ‘A’ game. We took everyone’s best shot all season, but unfortunately in a one-game knockout tonight, we’re going home.”

    Next: Wydo becomes RMU's first-ever Hobey Baker finalist