The Time 'Iz' Right
Freshman Comes Off Bench to Lead RMU to NCAAs
by Mike McMahon/Staff Writer
Robert Morris freshman goaltender Dalton Izyk lost out on his chance to even compete for the starting job this past fall due to injury. Yet in an ironic twist during these playoffs, it was an injury – this time to starter Terry Shafer – that thrust the rookie back into the crease.
It happened in the second period of an elimination game against Army during the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs. Robert Morris was on the power play and Shafer went to the corner to stop a Black Knight clear that began to wrap around the backboards. His pass to a teammate went awry, and Shafer needed to dart back to his crease and make a diving effort.
He was too late.
Army took a 2-0 lead on the play – a shorthanded goal – with 17:58 left in the second period.
Shafer also injured his knee and Izyk, a rookie with just six games of experience, was suddenly tapped on the shoulder.
“I wasn’t sure really what happened at first,” Izyk said. “I didn’t realize Terry was hurt. Then when I realized what was going on, I just tried to get ready as quickly as possible. It’s a little different not starting a game, but it has happened before and you just have to be ready to go. The only thing that was just a little different is when you come in like that, it’s not usually a close game. But even with that, it doesn’t matter. You have to approach everything exactly the same.”
The Colonials came back to win that game; it was Izyk’s first career win and he didn’t allow a goal.
In the meantime, Shafer remains sidelined and Izyk has shined, posting a 5-0-0 record, beating Connecticut in the quarterfinal round and last week leading the Colonials to their first ever Atlantic Hockey championship. His save percentage since taking over is a sparkling .942 – sixth best in the nation over the same time period – and his goals-against average is 2.06.
“Dalton coming in didn’t wake us up, but I do think we took our game to a new level,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “Guys realized they needed to play hard in front of him. I think we only allowed two shots the rest of that (second) period against Army after he went into the game.
“Since then, he’s been great. We brought him in this year thinking he would be a great goalie for us, that he and Terry would compete for that starting job, and now that Dalton has his chance to shine a little bit, he’s run with it.”
After playing Oct. 12 against Lake Superior State, Izyk injured his ankle and wasn’t ready for game action until December. In that time, Shafer had nailed down the starting job.
“We had to ride Terry, who was playing really well,” Schooley said. “It was unfortunate what happened. We thought we were going to have a goalie competition. Dalton got hurt early and then Terry was playing so well, we couldn’t go to a rotation at that point. He was playing too well. Our record wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but it wasn’t because of Terry or our goaltending.”
Izyk’s next action was a relief appearance at Bentley in December. The following night, he was pulled after allowing five goals in just over 30 minutes before making two more appearances in January and late February.
“I don’t think he was ever discouraged,” Schooley said. “We weren’t playing well at that point, as a team. When we caught fire after Jan. 1, again Terry was in goal and we couldn’t not ride him, he had played so well.”
Izyk didn’t mind the wait.
“I think practicing with these guys every day definitely has made me a better goalie,” he said. “Terry has also been a great help. He’s taught me a lot just in this year. I hated to see him get hurt. I feel like we’ve come together the last few months, and as soon as it happened and I was in there, guys were letting me know right away that they were behind me and we were going to come back and win that game.”
Izyk’s rise has put an exclamation point on a terrific second half for the Colonials, who sat in last place in Atlantic Hockey on Jan. 1 with a 2-12-2 record.
Since, they’ve gone 17-5-3.
“It has been one of the most impressive turnarounds I’ve ever been a part of,” Schooley said. “It’s just a special group of guys. How easy would it have been for them to pack it in when we were in January? Even in the playoffs, we lose the guy who had played in goal for us almost all season, we’re down 2-0, how easy would it have been to give up? These guys have worked at it all year and it’s been great to see them, and Dalton, all get rewarded.”