Goalie tandem of Shafer and Izyk solid for Robert Morris
At 8-1-3, the Robert Morris men's hockey team owns one of the best records in Division I. A big part of the Colonials' success has been the play of their goalie.
Make that goalies.
Junior Terry Shafer and sophomore Dalton Izyk have made six starts each for coach Derek Schooley. They have combined for three shutouts and rank 1-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference in goals-against average (Izyk 1.72, Shafer 1.95) and save percentage (Izyk .946, Shafer .930).
“Both of them are there every night making big-time saves and bailing us out,” redshirt junior defenseman Tyson Wilson said.
Schooley knew what he would get from his goalies this season. That wasn't necessarily the case a year ago.
In 2013, Shafer was the only returning goalie with D-I experience — all of four games. Izyk was expected to contribute as a freshman, but he suffered an ankle injury 35 minutes into his first collegiate start, leaving the bulk of the season in Shafer's hands.
Shafer responded with a .911 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA to earn third-team AHC honors. But in Game 3 of the Colonials' first-round AHA tournament series against Army, Shafer suffered a torn labrum in his hip, pressing Izyk into service.
Izyk had played just five games to that point, but he led the Colonials to their first NCAA berth by going 5-0 in the AHC tournament. He stopped 162 of the 172 shots (.941) and was named to the all-tournament team.
“(The injury) definitely wasn't the greatest start,” said Izyk, whose save percentage ranks fifth nationally. “But I look back now, and it was probably a good idea to learn the college game and the style and the speed. I picked up on small things that (Shafer) does well and what I should change or do.”
“I had all the confidence in the world in Dalton,” Shafer said. “He played incredible all the way through the playoff run last year.”
That left Schooley with a dilemma in the offseason. He now had an all-league goalie and an all-tournament goalie at his disposal.
Schooley told Shafter and Izyk they would platoon for at least the early part of the season. But with their success, he sees no reason to change.
“They both picked up where they left off last year,” Schooley said. “They both haven't done anything to lose the job, so with that, we went with it.”
Neither seems to mind.
“Dalton and I have a great relationship,” Shafer said. “We're both competitors, and we both want to be in the net. But we know it's a game where there's only one net, and right now, we're just going back and forth, and we've only lost one game so far.”
“I wouldn't change anything,” Izyk added. “As long as we're winning and getting points for the team, that's all I really care about.”
Both goalies credit the defense for making their jobs easier. The offense has been strong, too, led by Cody Wydo and his 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists).
The combination has Robert Morris ranked 20th in the latest U.S. College Hockey Online poll. While the ranking is noteworthy, the team has loftier aspirations.
The euphoria of their NCAA Tournament berth was trumped by a 7-3 loss to Minnesota in the opening round. The Colonials are aiming for more than simply making it back.
“The goal is to go back to the NCAA Tournament and make some noise there,” Shafer said, “instead of just being a participant.”
Chuck Curti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.