Strong start important for Robert Morris men's hockey team
The Robert Morris men's hockey team doesn't want to duplicate last season.
Of course, the Colonials want to win another Atlantic Hockey Association championship and reach the NCAA Division I tournament. However, they would like to make that journey easier this year.
Robert Morris closed December with a 2-12-2 record but rebounded to win 17 of its last 26 games en route to the program's first league championship. The team fell to top-ranked Minnesota, 7-3, in the NCAAs.
“We had won 20 games the previous year, and we thought it was going to be a lot easier than it was. I think we learned our lesson. We learned what we had to do better,” coach Derek Schooley said.
With 19 players back from last year's squad, expectations are high for the Colonials, who open their season 7:05 p.m. Saturday at home against Ryerson.
“The pressure is on us a little this after last year,” said senior forward Dave Rigatti, a Peters Township product. “We had a taste of winning a championship and making it far, but we always want more. That's part of being human. We want to make it back to the NCAA tournament and win a few games. This preseason, everyone has been clicking extremely well. Our practices have been great. I am excited to see how much this team can achieve in one year.”
Robert Morris had one of the country's top offenses, scoring 3.45 goals per game. Most of that firepower returns, including the team's top line of Cody Wydo, Scott Jacklin and Zac Lynch. Wydo, a senior captain, finished second in the nation with 31 goals and fourth with 54 points.
“We're just going to have to take it to another level than what we did last year,” Wydo said. “Everyone is going to be coming at us. If we pick our game up, we'll be able to stay strong as a team, and we should have a good record again.”
Lynch, a junior, and Jacklin, a senior, enjoyed breakthrough seasons as well. Lynch, a Shaler product, had 19 goals and 28 assists. His four short-handed goals tied for first in the country. Jacklin had 15 goals and had 23 assists.
“We really came together with a lot of chemistry at the end of the year. Cody Wydo is a phenomenal scorer, and Scott and I just get him the puck, and we know good things will happen,” Lynch said. “Scott sees the ice so well. I like to think I am decent playmaker that can score. We just all come together really well.”
Robert Morris also welcomes back five players who tallied 20 or more points: Greg Gibson (31), Brandon Denham (25), Jeff Jones (25), David Friedmann (23) and Matt Cope (21).
“When you return eight of your top nine forwards and 12 forwards that all played, it's a very good luxury. It's a good situation because it's competitive,” Schooley said. “I like our depth, and I like where we are as a hockey team.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.