Senior laden Robert Morris men's hockey team hopes to erase last season's disappointment
The Robert Morris men's hockey team can't wait to take the ice Sunday.
While the battle against Guelph only is an exhibition, the Colonials are ready to get going for two main reasons , nine seniors return and they want to erase the memories of last year's postseason disappointment.
Last year, Robert Morris cruised to the regular-season Atlantic Hockey Conference title. However, a 4-3 overtime loss to Mercyhurst in the AHC semifinals cost the squad a chance to defend its league playoff crown and earn a second trip to the NCAA Division I tournament.
“It definitely motivates us. That one stung a lot,” senior forward Greg Gibson said at the team's media day Thursday. “It was one of those games where we couldn't buy a goal and then went to overtime where anything could happen.”
Nearly every starter is back from that 24-8-5 squad, including all three goaltenders who saw time, all eight defensemen and seven of the team's top nine forwards. That helped the Colonials top the AHC preseason poll for the first time in program history.
“We have nine seniors who have won a lot of hockey games for us, and that's a nice honor to get,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “But they don't give out championship banners based on a piece of paper in September. It's up to us to earn it.”
Robert Morris hopes to lean heavily on its senior class, which has won 63 games through its first three seasons. The Colonials return both main goaltenders in senior Terry Shaffer and junior Dalton Izyk. The two split time a year ago and are on track to share time again.
“Both goalies have proven they are No. 1 goalies. Both goalies have proven they are elite Division I goaltenders and elite Atlantic Hockey goaltenders,” Schooley said. “There's no reason why that won't continue.”
All of the defensive pairings are back in Chase Golightly-Wilson, Evan Moore-Rob Mann and Alex Bontje-John Rey.
“When you return all your goalies and all your defensemen, you should be good from the net on out,” Schooley said.
Senior Zac Lynch, a Shaler product, is the team's top returning scorer (40 points). The team graduated two of its top five all-time leading scorers in Scott Jacklin and Cody Wydo, who finished atop the list.
“You're not going to replace a Cody Wydo or a Scott Jacklin with just one person right off the bat. We hope that people grow into those roles. We hope people take their games up a bit,” Schooley said. “We haven't changed a thing from what we did last year. We just want to make sure we're ready to go at Game 1 and at the end of the season as well.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.