Robert Morris battles their way to the Three Rivers Classic title

Daniel Kitchen and Daniel Kitchen

The Colonials knew entering the Three Rivers Classic that they would be facing an uphill battle to win their first Classic trophy since the inaugural tournament in 2012. The Colonials, unranked (though receiving votes) in the USCHO poll, had to face the fourteenth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in the first round, and then a likely matchup with an even better U-Mass Lowell squad (eighth in the nation) to win it all. The first battle was won Monday, in a 6-4 victory over PSU, but the second would be even harder.

“Hats off to our guys for battling,” said head coach Derek Schooley. “We battled to get it back to three-three, and then we had one period for the win. Our guys really buckled down and blocked a lot of shots.”

The Colonials were able to emerge victorious in the Classic, winning the championship 5-3 over the River Hawks. That win was only possible because of the contributions across the entire team, from the goaltender all the way up through the forwards.

“I thought Dalton Izyk was solid. I don’t know if he really had to be outstanding. I think he just had to be solid, and that’s what he did,” said Schooley. Izyk made 27 saves on the night, earning the win for the champion Colonials. He got some help from his defense, which blocked almost just as many shots (24) as Izyk himself saved, led by defenseman Rob Mann’s four blocks, and three apiece from Alex Tonge and Zac Lynch.

The game looked to be nearing an early end for Robert Morris in the second, when a Ryan McGrath goal gave Lowell a 3-1 lead, something RMU is no stranger to.

“You’re going to expect us to get down in that situation. We kind of looked at it last year, we got down to Colgate in the same situation and they just kept it to us. So, it was weird, we jumped right up and tried to take it to them,” said Lynch.

Just 22 seconds after McGrath’s goal, Lynch received a pass from behind the net and sent the puck sailing over goaltender Kevin Boyle, beginning a streak of four straight tallies for the Colonials. The other two Colonials to score during that streak were Matt Cope and Brandon Denham, the physical players who had been causing problems for Lowell players the entire game.

Denham’s goal turned out to be the game-winner for RMU, something he has a history of. Denham also netted the game-winner (and only goal of the game) in the Colonials’ first championship in the inaugural Classic against the Miami RedHawks.

For Denham and Lynch, the win was even more special – this is their senior season, and they were able to begin and end their careers with tournament wins. Lynch was also named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and headlined the All-Tournament Team, next to his goaltender from the first game, Terry Shafer.

A Pittsburgh native, Lynch had the added benefit of being able to win in his hometown. “It’s pretty special. I had a lot of family here, so to be able to do that in front of them was pretty good. But ultimately, being able to bring home another championship, just like freshman year, going out senior year with a championship, it’s pretty special.”