Featured Flashback: Robert Morris hits the national stage in 2014
In part two of our series about the Robert Morris Colonials, we’re going to take a look back at the season where the program reached the national tournament for the first time in its history: 2013-14.
Looking to build upon a successful 20-14-4 campaign from the previous season, the Colonials had high hopes heading into the fall of 2013. However, it didn’t start out exactly how the team had planned with Robert Morris going winless in the first four weeks of the season with a 0-5-1 record. Tough interconference games against Lake Superior State, Ohio State and Penn State put the team in an early hole. In fact, it set the tone for the first half of the season. By the time the calendar flipped to 2014, the Colonials were staring down a 2-12-2 record. The Colonials even ended up in fourth place out of four teams in the Three Rivers Classic; a Pittsburgh holiday tournament RMU hosted in December that the team had won just the year before.
If the Colonials were going to dig themselves out of the hole they created, the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors. The second half of the season saw RMU begin play with four away games in seven days. Perhaps the team felt it had nothing to lose and played loose or Coach Derek Schooley made the necessary adjustments but no matter what it was, the team won three of the four games. This began a run of games that resembled what the team expected to do at the onset of the season. The Colonials ended up going 11-4-3 in the second half.
This impressive second half pushed the Colonials to a 5 seed in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. With an automatic bid to the national tournament on the line, 8 of the 12 teams faced off during the first weekend of March in best-of-three series. The top four seeds received byes. Robert Morris hosted Army and easily won 8-4 in the opening game. Army bounced back to win the second game to force a deciding game three. In this third game, Army scored first but the Colonials rallied for three unanswered goals to advance to the next round. Robert Morris traveled to UConn to take on the Huskies in the best-of-three Quarterfinals. The Colonials blanked the Huskies in game one 3-0 and swept the series 3-2 the following night to earn a spot in the semifinals in Rochester, New York.
It would be single elimination from here on out for the four remaining teams in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament with the victor earning a bid to the national tournament. The Colonials squandered a 4-2 lead to Niagara late in the third period and the game ended up going to overtime. Scott Jacklin was the hero as he scored with five minutes left in overtime, sending RMU to the championship against 7 seed Canisius. The Colonials took home the hardware by defeating the Golden Griffins 7-4 behind a hat trick from Cody Wydo. It was the first (and only) AHA Tournament title for RMU. Four Colonials made the All-Tournament Team with Wydo receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Robert Morris received a tough draw for the national tournament. During the tournament selection show, the team learned they were going to face the number one overall seed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in their backyard in St. Paul on March 29, 2014. The Colonials put up a good fight for the majority of the first period but three Gophers goals in three minutes and thirty seconds late in the first period proved to be too much. Wydo put RMU on the board in the second period. Goals by Zac Lynch and David Friedmann later in the game weren’t enough to overcome the early deficit as the Gophers won 7-3. In the accompanying photo, goalie Dalton Izyk makes a sprawling save while losing his stick in the second period at the Xcel Energy Center.
Looking back seven years later, it can be considered a successful season for the Colonials. The team overcame a very rough first half of the season and could have easily packed it in after winter break. Instead, the team went on a very impressive run of games and won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. The Colonials made it to the national tournament for the first (and only) time in school history and eventually lost to the national runner-up in their home state. All involved should be proud about what they accomplished during the 2013-14 season.