KALAMAZOO, Mich. — One senior, three juniors, 13 sophomores and three freshmen make up the roster of the Robert Morris Colonials, a team that came into Lawson Arena in only its second year of existence and skated out with a 5-2 victory over the Broncos.
“It’s probably the biggest win for our program,” said Colonial head coach Derek Schooley, “to come in and beat a school with history and tradition. This team has been to three NCAA tournaments, its been around forever. Great hockey players have come through here, but just to be able to compete with and beat this program is probably our biggest win as a program.”
The win didn’t come easy for the Colonials, who were tied with the Broncos after two periods. The scoring didn’t start until the 16:16 mark of the first with Bronco senior Brent Walton took a pass from Reid Yantzi and used the Colonial defensemen as a screen to put the Broncos up 1-0.
Robert Morris answered with a power-play goal, its first of four, just over two minutes later when Jake Sparks lit the lamp to tie the score at 1 after one period of play.
Early in the second, Western Michigan lost one of its top four defensemen when Nathan Ansell took a five-minute major for checking from behind and received a game misconduct.
“Nate plays in all situations,” said Bronco head coach Jim Culhane. “In the early part of the year you are still working on those things; now you’re down to five (defensemen). That’s an excuse. We want to be able to overcome those things,”
Still, the Broncos killed off the major penalty to keep the score tied at 1. The Colonials struck soon after, though, with their only even-strength goal when Brett Hopfe deked goalie Daniel Bellissimo and put the puck high glove-side to put his team up 2-1.
Six minutes later, Dave Krisky received a pass from Ryan Mahrle, that sent him in on a breakaway. He beat Colonial goaltender Christian Boucher to send the teams back to their locker rooms tied at 2.
At the start of the third, Western fans were caught off guard when Scott Foster replaced Bellissimo in net.
“We had talked and I don’t go back on my word,” Culhane said. “I said to the guys going in, ‘Dan is going to play the first two (periods) and Scott is going to go in the third.’”
Bellissimo stopped 11 out of 13 shots fired his way in the first two periods.
One minute and 18 seconds into the third period, Kurt Wright gave Robert Morris the lead for good, again on the power play. Robert Morris also received third-period goals from Tom Biondich, shorthanded, and a second goal from Sparks for the 5-3 victory.
Boucher stopped 25 of the 27 the Broncos put on net.
“Christian was excellent. He didn’t see the puck very well against Canisius. He was unbelievable tonight,” Schooley said. “He worked to find pucks. The goals he gave up you can’t fault him for.”
Special teams played a huge role. Robert Morris finished 3-of-7 on the power play and added a shorthanded goal. Western finished 1-of-9 on the power play.
“The difference in the game is special teams. If you look at it, they scored four power-play goals and an even-strength goal. We got an even-strength goal and one power play,” said Culhane.
Robert Morris moves to 1-1-0 on the season, while Western holds a 0-1-0 record going into next weekend’s game against Niagara.