RMU hockey falls to Minnesota in NCAA Tournament

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 8:28 p.m.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Robert Morris' first foray into the NCAA Tournament was a microcosm of its 2013-14 season: The Colonials fell behind early before rebounding midway through the contest.

But unlike its regular season, in which Robert Morris bounced back from a 2-12-2 start to win 17 of its next 25 games to make the tournament, the Colonials' comeback fell short in a 7-3 loss to No. 1 seed Minnesota at Xcel Energy Center.

The Colonials trailed 4-0 midway through the second period before Cody Wydo and Zac Lynch each scored in the final 6:12 of the middle stanza — Lynch's goal came with 43.5 seconds remaining — to pull within 4-2.

“Once we made it 4-2 heading into the locker room after the second, everyone was pretty upbeat,” Lynch said. “We thought if we could get a few power plays that we would have a pretty good chance.”

That's as close as RMU got. The Gophers tacked on three third-period goals, including two in the final two minutes, to pull away and advance to Sunday's regional final against the winner of St. Cloud State and Notre Dame.

“When you spot a team a 4-0 lead it's really easy for that game to get away from you, and that game did not get away from us,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “It's a team that wouldn't quit. It's a team that worked so hard; I'm so proud of how we went about things.”

Lynch and Wydo finished with a goal and an assist each, and linemate Scott Jacklin chipped in two assists. David Friedmann added a goal in the final period, only 25 seconds after Hudson Fasching scored to give Minnesota a 5-2 lead with 5:38 to play.

RMU freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk made 42 saves, including three from point-blank range late in the second leading up to Lynch's late goal.

“Our goalie gave us a chance,” Schooley said. “He played well, he made big saves, he kept the game close.”

The game was scoreless, and the shots were nearly even through the first 16 minutes, before the Gophers erupted for three even-strength goals in the closing minutes of the first period.

Nate Condon, Michael Brodzinski and Justin Kloos scored in a 3:30 span for the Gophers to break open what had been a close contest.

“We thought that we really didn't play that poorly in the first period. We let it get away from us a little,” Robert Morris captain Colin South said. “Our attitude was still pretty positive even though we let the three goals in.”

A little more than five minutes after Kyle Rau extended Minnesota's lead to four at 8:12 of the second, Lynch carried the puck into the slot and slid a pass to Wydo in the left circle. Wydo lifted a backhand shot past the outstretched glove of Wilcox for the junior forward's 31st goal of the season at 13:48 to trim the lead to 4-1.

The Colonials concluded their season with a 19-18-5 record and an Atlantic Hockey championship.

“It's really neat to see where this program has come,” Schooley said. “It's a pretty good way to celebrate your 10th anniversary.”

Brian Halverson is a freelance writer.

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