RMU keeps dream alive with bid to NCAA tournament

Alec Balenciaga
Alec Balenciaga

The RMU men’s hockey team had the chance to become conference champions twice.  This year, no one expected them to have a third chance.

Were they ever wrong.

The RMU men’s hockey team managed to stomp out the Canisius Golden Griffins 7-4 in a pressure- and aggression-filled game.

The Colonials kept it real from the jump.  Grace under pressure was the phrase that came to mind watching the Colonials in the first period.  Izyk stood tall, offense as well as defense generated chances and shots, and defense kept the Golden Griffins contained.

However, all of their work didn’t pay off until the middle frame.

Cody Wydo rushed from the blue line and broke free of a few nagging defensemen to get a shot from the top of the faceoff circle to score RMU’s first goal of the night.

Canisius soon struck back with a goal of their own.  Doug Jessey slapped the puck from the blue line and forced it through traffic and Izyk.

Special teams got a workout of their own in the middle frame.  The penalty killing unit in particular had multiple opportunities to stretch their legs.  Those involved in the PK tried to get it on their own, having more than a few shorthanded opportunities.

Wydo tallied a second goal to close out the second period with a shot through traffic and an assist from Lynch to pull the Colonials ahead 2-1.

Similar to the night before, scoring increased dramatically in the third period.

Canisius’s Shane Conacher started the trend with a bar-down goal from the dot.  About 1:30 into the period, Greg Gibson of the notorious “Wagon Wheel” line would take a pass from John Rey and send it past Golden Griffin goaltender Tony Capobianco.

“Our goal for the team is to shut down other lines and provide energy for the team and I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that,” said Gibson of his line’s production.  “I have a lot of respect for my linemates Denham and Cope, they crashed and banged and they bring it every night.

The mood turned dark 30 seconds later.  Matt Cope was shoved against the boards, went down, and stayed down.  With aid from a trainer, he would manage to stand back up and work his way off the ice and into the dressing room.  A five minute major would result for Canisius’s Ben Danford.

But boys will tell stories about the man.  Cope would not only return to the bench, but take to the ice and score a goal of his own.  At the seven minute mark, David Rigatti took a shot that would bounce off of Capobianco’s pads.  Cope retrieved the rebound to get the goal.

“I think we just stayed positive the whole game…no one got down.  Everybody stayed positive.  It’s part of our process and coach tells us every game we’ve got to stay positive on the bench.

The Colonials parked themselves in the attacking zone, but there’s no doubt they struggled.  Canisius scored twice more before the clock ran out.

With a cluster of players in front of the net, Mitch McCrank spotted a loose puck and tapped it in at 10:27.  In their final goal, Kyle Gibbons had a cross-ice pass to Doug Jessey.  The defenseman sent it to Mitch McCrank  who one-timed it into the net.

RMU would one-up the Griffs’ pair of goals with three of their own.  David Friedmann had a shot from the dot for the first of the three.  Next was Gibson with a ripper with 15 minutes remaining.  Wydo completed the trio by lifting the puck up and behind the netminder for a hat trick.  The tournament MVP now has 30 goals on the season, a new record for the program.  He is also now tied for most career goals with 64.

According to head coach Derek Schooley, Wydo got the credit where it’s due, but could have achieved even more.

“The thing about Cody is he scores in bunches.  He had three today, but he probably could’ve had six.  We usually capitalize on fifty percent of them”

Schooley also noted that the story stayed the same for the Colonials from the beginning of the season.  They never changed it.

“We were the best last place team in the nation.  We had everything there, it was just a matter of putting it altogether and getting something for us to believe in,” said the bench boss.

“And in the end we had the pieces; the question was how to put it together.  And I think we’ve got the answer right here.”