COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s all in the way you respond. That’s what the coaches were saying after Robert Morris beat Ohio State, 4-3, after the Colonials tied the Buckeyes in Pittsburgh Friday night.
After Sergio Somma scored at 6:36 in the second to give OSU a 1-0 lead, RMU responded less than two minutes later with two goals within a minute, Jason Towsley’s sixth of the season and Tom Biondich’s first, to give the Colonials the 2-1 lead midway through the middle period.
Towsley’s goal was unassisted at 8:13, a mini-breakaway after he picked up the puck on a bad pass between Buckeyes Jason DeSantis and Nick Biondo, and Biondich’s marker went in with four Buckeye skaters plus goaltender Joseph Palmer in or near the OSU crease at 8:59.
Robert Morris never looked back, but Ohio State certainly blinked.
“Obviously they got the first goal, but they gave us some momentum,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. “They turned the puck over and gave us the partial breakaway and that was kind of something that when we scored that, that gave us some life.”
“I thought we came out and played another good first period,” said OSU head coach John Markell, “and in the second period…we go D-to-D in front of our net, a bad bounce and it’s in our net, and our guys just can’t seem to regroup. The other team makes a push, and all of a sudden you’ve got guys missing off their gaps — unfortunately it’s the older guys — and then it’s in our net.”
Towsley, Biondich, Brett Hopfe and Chris Margott scored for the Colonials, and Christan Boucher made 34 saves as OSU outshot RMU 37-26. Somma had two goals for the Bucks, Tommy Goebel netted his team-leading fourth marker after RMU’s final goal in the third, and Joseph Palmer stopped 22-of-26.
“I don’t think we had a very good first period today,” said Schooley. “We didn’t have a lot of shots and we didn’t have a lot of attempts, either. They were kind of dictating the play a little bit. We had some power plays, and it was kind of a bouncy period. We got better as the game went on. We were able to regroup after the first period and take another step forward as far as our team went in the second period.
“I just thought we needed to play better. That was the common theme. We … scored the Hopfe goal and the Biondich goal, which were just…goalmouth scrambles, hard-working goals. Those guys were very good for us tonight, and they don’t get a lot of credit, but they deserve it for turning the tide of the game.”
Somma opened the scoring on the OSU power play at 6:36 in the second, a sniper’s goal from the right circle that beat Boucher between the right shoulder and the bar to give the Buckeyes their only lead of the night.
The pass from DeSantis to Biondo that went awry in front of the Buckeye net less than two minutes later may have skidded off of the intended recipient’s skate, but however the play transpired, the final result was the same. Towsley’s aggressive play put him in a place to capture the puck, turn around, face Palmer and score, tucking it in low on the stick side to tie the game, 1-1 at 8:13.
Less than a minute later, Towsley made taking the put to the net look easy, as he threaded three OSU defenders close to the crease, lost possession briefly to Joel Gasper, then picked up the puck again to force the second goal at 8:59, with four Buckeyes — including three seniors — crowding the crease.
The Colonials took at 3-1 lead into the third period on Hopfe’s goal, a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle at 15:19.
Somma’s second goal at 6:52 in the third brought the Buckeyes to within one, but Margott scored on a two-on-none breakaway at 12:07 to put RMU ahead by two again. Goebel’s power-play effort at 12:48 made the game seem closer than it really was.
“We’re very excited about the performance this weekend,” said Schooley, whose Colonials overcame a three-goal deficit to tie the Buckeyes 5-5 Friday. “Down 5-2 in the middle of the second, we thought we were playing pretty well. We weren’t playing well defensively, and out goaltending wasn’t as good as it was tonight. We got better as the weekend went on, that’s for sure.”
Schooley said that Robert Morris, which currently sits atop the CHA standings, knew what this series meant for the Colonials prior to the opening drop of the puck Friday.
“I think you stress your nonconference games because you want to…get the respect in the nation,” said Schooley. “You do well, and nobody really knows how hard we play or what we do, so when you’re playing a nonconference opponent such as an Ohio State, a Notre Dame, a Boston University, teams like that, you want to do well because people notice you. They notice what Robert Morris is about.”
The Buckeyes also felt the gravity of these two games coming into this weekend, but for very different reasons. Ohio State is now winless in its last 10 games (0-9-1), having been outscored 25-10 in second periods this season. OSU has yet to taste victory at home this year, having been outscored 27-9 in Value City Arena.
“We have to work between the ears,” said Markell. “Their challenge is being a hockey player. There’s going to be bad bounces in a game, but it can’t be an excuse for you just to shut it down and that’s what disappointing.
“If that were going to happen, they should have never have come here.”
OSU finished the night 2-for-6 on the power play, RMU 0-for-4.
Robert Morris (6-3-1) will take the Thanksgiving week off and face another nonconference foe, Colgate, on the road in Hamilton, N.Y.
Ohio State (2-9-1) will travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., for the holiday weekend to face a Western Michigan team that has only one more league win than does OSU — one, to be exact. The puck drops for the first of two games in Lawson Arena at 7:35 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23.