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RMU hockey, Hobey Baker finalist Lynch continue quest

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10:29 p.m.
Robert Morris' Zac Lynch fights with UMass-Lowell's Tommy Panico in the championship game of the Three Rivers Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Robert Morris' Zac Lynch fights with UMass-Lowell's Tommy Panico in the championship game of the Three Rivers Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, at Consol Energy Center.

On Wednesday, Zac Lynch matched R.J. Umberger in one capacity when it comes to local products' achievements in college hockey.

This weekend, Lynch hopes to surpass Umberger in another area.

A Shaler native and senior forward for Robert Morris, Lynch was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist Wednesday. The honor effectively recognizes the Colonials' all-time leading scorer as one of the nation's 10 best college hockey players this season.

Lynch also becomes the first local player to be a Hobey Baker finalist since Umberger, a Plum alum, in 2003 for Ohio State.

Umberger's Buckeyes qualified for the NCAA Tournament that season. Lynch can play in the NCAA Tournament for a second time if he can help Robert Morris win its next two games.

The Atlantic Hockey Conference regular-season champion Colonials (23-10-4) play Army West Point (15-14-9) at 5:05 p.m. Thursday in Rochester, N.Y., in an AHC semifinal. The winner advances to Friday's conference championship game, with an NCAA berth on the line.

“It's the best time of the year — the playoffs,” Colonials goalie Terry Shafer said. “This is what everybody looks forward to.”

None more than Lynch, one of nine seniors on what is the nation's third-highest scoring team at 4.11 goals per game. The 6-foot, 190-pound Lynch is tied for second nationally in scoring with 52 points (24 goals, 28 assists) in 37 games.

During Game 1 of a three-game series victory against Bentley in the AHC quarterfinals last weekend, Lynch surpassed Cody Wydo's 150 career points to become the top scorer in program history.

Wydo was Robert Morris' first finalist last year for the Hobey Baker, which is considered the Heisman Trophy of hockey.

“To be able to follow him in that is pretty cool,” Lynch said. “It says a lot about this program. You don't see many guys honored like that on losing teams, so it shows how well the team has been doing lately, and it shows we are a program that can compete.”

The Colonials have shown that in recent years, winning the AHC tournament in 2013-14 and taking the regular-season conference title last season.

Offense has headlined the team in its defense of that title this season, with Lynch and fellow senior linemate Greg Gibson (28 goals, 49 points) among the nation's top six scorers (Gibson is third in goals).

The Colonials have Division I's fourth-ranked power play (27.7 percent), and their 10 short-handed goals are tied for second. Only five of the nation's other 59 teams have more short-handed goals than Lynch's NCAA-leading eight.

“He skates extremely well, he's a power forward, he's got good hands and he's got great anticipation — and that's why he leads the nation (in short-handed goals),” RMU coach Derek Schooley said.

“He does a lot of things well. I wouldn't say that he's got any deficiencies.”

But Robert Morris, offensively, is more than just the top line of Lynch, Gibson and Matt Cope. Seven players have at least 10 goals; nine have at least 23 points in 37 games.

“Depth scoring is what we're going to need to be successful from here on out,” Gibson said. “We have had guys contribute in the playoffs, as well, that don't usually score, so it's been great so far.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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