RMU hockey edges Army in OT to reach conference title game
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – On Wednesday, Robert Morris senior winger Zac Lynch was named a Hobey Baker Award Top 10 finalist.
On Friday night he made sure his focus was still on hockey games and not hockey awards.
Lynch, a Shaler native, took a misdirected pass in the high slot and fired a shot past Army goalie Parker Gahagen at 12 minutes, 44 seconds of overtime, giving the Colonials a 2-1 victory over the pesky Black Knights in the Atlantic Hockey Conference semifinals.
Robert Morris (24-10-4) will play either defending champion Rochester Institute of Technology or Air Force in Saturday's 7 p.m. title game at Blue Cross Arena.
“You want the puck on the stick of the player of the year,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said, referencing the award Lynch received Thursday from Atlantic Hockey.
The goal came on the fifth RMU shot of overtime. Army had eight in the extra session and outshot the Colonials, 40-36, but were denied victory by Colonials senior goalie Terry Shafer, who was playing in his backyard.
Shafer is from Penfield, N.Y., a suburb of Rochester, and he probably had his own 25-fan cheering section comprised of family and friends.
“It's pretty special,” Shafer said. “I'd be excited for the game tomorrow if we were playing in the middle-of-nowhere Missouri, but to do it in my hometown is really special.”
The winning goal came on a quick-developing fast break out of the RMU zone, and David Friedman darted into the Army zone on right wing. He tried to pass to Greg Gibson but the puck bounced to Lynch in the high slot.
He took a stride or two before whipping a low shot that eluded Gahagen on the short side for his 25th goal of the season. He's tied for fourth in the nation.
“The puck just ended up on my stick,” Lynch said.
Up to that point, Shafer had been the Colonials' best player, though he deflected credit as well as he steered aside Army shots.
“I don't know how many shots I faced in overtime, but it could have been a lot more if not for some big-time shot-blocking,” Shafer said.
Shafer was injured when the Colonials won Atlantic Hockey's postseason tournament in 2014, so the championship game will be one chance at hometown glory.
“I love Rochester, and I couldn't ask for a better opportunity,” Shafer said. “It's home.”
His grandfather, Bill Shafer III, turns 85 on Saturday.
“It would be a nice birthday present,” Shafer said of an Atlantic Hockey title and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Army (15-15-9) scored first, taking a 1-0 lead at 18:29 of the first period on a goal by Clint Carlisle. The score didn't change until Lynch set up Eric Israel's goal at 13:24 of the second period.
“It's hard to end a team's season and hats off to Army,” Schooley said. “That was a tough out for us.”
Kevin Oklobzija is a freelance writer.