It’s postseason time. It’s the time of year when heroes and legends are made and games become etched in the memory of coaches, players and fans alike.
As the Robert Morris Colonials embark on their postseason journey this week, we’d like to review some of the most exciting playoff games that have been played in program history. Will one of this year’s games make the list? It’s hard to say. How does a game make the list to begin with? First of all, it’s got to be an entertaining. Playoff hockey should keep fans on the edge of their seat, but some games have moments meant for standing on occasion and these all had those moments, and perhaps secondly, it had mark a moment in program history or be a moment where another step forward could have been taken.
So, enjoy the list, and for those who are new to Robert Morris men’s hockey, prepare for a little history lesson on some of the greatest postseason games in program history.
2015 Atlantic Hockey Semifinal
Robert Morris 3, Mercyhurst 4 (OT)
“Unfortunately, the hockey gods were not with us tonight.” — Derek Schooley
One Colonial loss makes the list here. In the semifinal matchup between RMU and Mercyurst, the Colonials were very deserving of victory, holding a 62-29 shot advantage and keeping the puck in the Lakers’ end for most of the game. RMU did almost everything they could to advance to the finals, with the exception of getting a lucky bounce.
They overcame an early two-goal deficit as Kyle Just and Ryan Misiak both struck on early power plays. All-time leading scorer Zac Lynch cut the advantage in half with a first-period goal. In the second frame, the Colonials took over complete control of the game, out shooting the Lakers by a 27-6 margin. But freshman netminder Brandon Wildung turned aside 26 of them for the Lakers.
Cody Wydo pulled RMU even at 19:19 and Scott Jacklin put the potential game-winner behind Wildung at 14:41 of the third period, but an extra attacker goal with less than 30 seconds left put the game into overtime where Zac Frischmon put it away for Mercyhurst just over three minutes into extra time. The Colonials’ 62 shots still stand as an Atlantic Hockey playoff record as does Wildung’s 59 saves.
2007 College Hockey America Semifinal
Robert Morris 7, Bemidji State 5
“Every time they scored, we responded.” — Derek Schooley
The Colonials came in as a slight underdog, finishing third in the five-team CHA. Though Robert Morris did manage a 3-1 record in conference play against a Bemidji State team that had won back to back tournament championships, had a wealth of veteran talent, and a future NHL goaltender between the pipes in Matt Climie.
However, this was a bizarre tournament that saw both top seeds fall in the semifinals. RMU dealt Bemidji State a 7-5 loss to advance to within one win of their first NCAA tournament berth just three years into the program. And they did so on the strength of power play goals from Brett Hopfe, Sean Berkstresser, Chris Margott and Ryan Cruthers. Captain Joel Gasper added a shorthanded tally to help RMU salt away their first semi final victory in team history. It was a microcosm of the Colonials season, a year that saw them as high as 8th in the country in combined special teams.
Following a first period that saw the teams trade goals, both sides combined for six goals in the second stanza and the Colonials owned four of them. For almost every Bemidji goal, there was an RMU response, against a defensive corps and goaltender that made a living keeping the puck out of the net and scoring enough to win. For the Colonials, it was one of the biggest wins in program history to that point, one that put them into serious NCAA tournament talk for the first time.
2014 Atlantic Hockey Semifinal
Robert Morris 5, Niagara 4 (OT)
“The puck was bouncing all over the place. It bounced to Lynch and I was wide open and I called for it. I whiffed on it. It hit the heel of my stick and actually went in off the toe of my skate.”- Scott Jacklin
Scott Jacklin’s overtime goal put Robert Morris into their third conference championship game in program history in a 5-4 victory over its oldest rival while serving up a bit of revenge at the same time.
The Niagara Purple Eagles had eliminated the Colonials three times in postseason play coming into the semifinal match up. But on that night, RMU controlled the scoreboard with goals from Greg Gibson and Matt Cope. Meanwhile, at the other side of the rink, freshman Dalton Izyk managed to stop 51 of 55 Eagle shots.
Heading into the final frame, the Colonials held a 2-1 lead, but the game turned sharply twice in the final 20 minutes. Colin South and Cody Wydo buried shots past Jackson Teichroeb to put RMU in the driver’s seat by a 4-2 margin with around seven and a half minutes to play. The Eagles would not go gently though, and stormed back with two goals in the final five minutes from Patrick Divjak and Hugo Turcotte. It was a game that didn’t need to go to overtime, but once sudden death started, RMU missed two potential game-winners by mere inches before Jacklin’s heroics put the Colonials on the verge of their first NCAA tournament appearance.
2012 Atlantic Hockey First Round, Game 3
Robert Morris 4 American International 3 (OT) Atlantic Hockey 1st Round Series Game 3- March 4, 2012
“As coaches, we had to pick ourselves up after that third period in order to go in and pick the players up.” — Derek Schooley
Robert Morris found themselves playing in their first ever Game 3 in a playoff series against the visiting AIC Yellow Jackets due in part to a wild first two games that saw the Colonials give up an uncharacteristic ten total goals, including seven in the series-tying loss the night before.
However, in Game 3, it looked like they were back in their groove, putting up a large shot disparity while taking a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard with 17 minutes to play in the third period. The series looked to be all but wrapped up, but AIC forward Nielsson Arcibal had other ideas. Arcibal put his team on his back and came up with a natural hat trick in the final 15 minutes, including the game tying goal with just 11 seconds remaining, to force overtime.
In the extra frame, current Coloniasl assistant coach, Brandon Blandina was the recipient of a Ron Cramer shot from a sharp angle as the puck glanced of Blandina’s stick and made it’s way past AIC net minder Ben Meisner, who stopped 54 of 58 Colonial shots in the loss. Blandina’s goal advanced the Colonials to the second round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. It was a valiant effort by the Yellow Jackets, who gave RMU all they could handle that weekend and then some.
2014 Atlantic Hockey Championship
Robert Morris 7, Canisius 4
“Going into the third period we had a 2-1 lead and I wanted to lock it down, that just meant outscore them.” — Derek Schooley
Midway through 2013-14, the Colonials burned the scorecard, moved on and this time, the Colonials finished the job.
Robert Morris wiped the slate clean following a 2-12-2 start to the campaign and they never looked back, riding the renewed enthusiasm all the way to the Atlantic Hockey Championship game. They went up against a Canisius team that knew how to win these types of games, coming off a tournament championship the year prior.
It was perhaps the most entertaining postseason contest in Colonials history, putting on display, the excitement, passion and energy that have become synonymous with NCAA postseason hockey.
After 40 minutes of play, RMU held a 2-1 advantage thanks to two Cody Wydo goals. If the score would have stayed that way, it would have been perfectly fine with head coach Derek Schooley. But the two teams unleashed one of the most frenzied third periods in recent NCAA postseason memory, a period that had to be a coaches nightmare and a fans delight.
Canisius forward Shane Conacher tied the game just 1:16 into the final frame, but he was answered with goals from Greg Gibson and Matt Cope that gave RMU its first two-goal lead of the night. The Griffins would simply not go away, as they hung around with two goals that sandwiched a Colonial goal from David Friedmann. RMU clung to a 5-4 lead with less than seven minutes remaining, but instead of simply smothering their opponent, they kept the foot on the gas pedal, making certain that this Championship game, their third attempt to earn an NCAA Tournament berth, would wind up with a trophy coming back home to Pittsburgh.
Gibson and Wydo closed out the Griffins with two late period goals to seal the championship in a thrilling game in which the score did not resemble the closeness of the battle.