ROCHESTER, N.Y. — When bodies get tired and nerves get a little worn, it’s often not the pretty play that gets the job done in overtime.
Robert Morris nearly had a highlight-reel goal twice in OT, but it was the right bounce in front of the net that led to its 5-4 win over Niagara to advance to the Atlantic Hockey championship.
Atlantic Hockey playoffs
See the tournament bracket and get links to schedules and stories at Atlantic Hockey Playoff Central.
“The puck was bouncing all over the place,” said Jacklin. “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.
“But we’ll take it,” he said.
“If he could shoot, he’d have 30 goals,” deadpanned coach Derek Schooley about Jacklin. “He’s got 15.”
“Sometimes they’re never pretty in overtime,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “It bounced off of the helmet of one of our guys and onto the tape of a guy in white.”
It almost did come down to a dramatic goal in overtime, though.
Robert Morris defenseman Chase Golightly was called for holding just 1:42 into the extra period. Leading Colonials scorer Cody Wydo rushed up ice short-handed as the crowd held its breath, but he was stymied by the extended right pad of Niagara netminder Jackson Teichroeb.
“I’ve got to get that upstairs really to get that in,” said Wydo. “I just didn’t get enough of it.”
Moments later, Wydo found himself alone again in front of Teichroeb, but again could not lift the puck over the Purple Eagles netminder.
Pressure at both ends of the ice shifted the tide toward one team or the other for short spans over the next 12 minutes.
As dramatic as overtime was, it never should have gotten that far, said Schooley, whose team was still up by a pair with just over three minutes left.
“We should never have been in overtime,” said Schooley. “A young team needs to not get caught up in the moment. They need to play for 60 minutes.”
The Colonials had taken a 4-2 lead at 12:29 of the third period when Lynch worked the puck along the right wing boards and headed toward the net, feeding Wydo coming in from the left side.
But two goals by Niagara in 47 seconds, including the tying goal banged home by Hugo Turcotte on a rebound, sent the game into overtime.
“We were a little lackadaisical on the backcheck,” Jacklin said.
Robert Morris got on the board before three minutes had elapsed in the first period on a pretty play when Matt Cope slid a pass from the right half wall to the slot, where Greg Gibson fired it over Teichroeb.
The teams traded goals from there until Robert Morris opened its two-goal lead in the third, with Niagara peppering Robert Morris goalie Dalton Izyk with 36 shots through 40 minutes.
With both semifinal games going into overtime and pushing the start of this game to 8:58 p.m. EDT, it’s a quick turnaround for the Colonials after a prolonged day.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what’s going on right now,” said Jacklin, as the clock ticked past 12:30 early Saturday morning. “You prepare the same way for 38 straight games and then you have to wait an extra hour and a half, two hours?
“I’m just glad we know the game is at 7:05 tomorrow,” he said. “We’ll be ready.”