HAMILTON, N.Y. — The inaugural meeting between the Colgate Raiders (6-7-2, 1-3-2 ECACHL) and Robert Morris Colonials (6-4-1, 3-1-0 CHA) came down to the wire. Colgate got into some penalty trouble in the waning minutes of the third period which gave Robert Morris the boost they needed, and the Colonials scored two goals in the final five minutes.
Ryan Cruthers scored with 13 seconds left on the clock to pull Robert Morris within one, and six seconds later off the face-off Robert Morris was able to generate a 4-on-2 odd-man rush and Jason Towsley came within inches of tying the game. However, stand-up goaltending from Colgate’s Mark Dekanich secured the Raiders’ win 4-3.
Colgate’s leading point-scorer Tyler Burton kicked off the scoring seven minutes into the first. Defenseman Kevin McNamara cradled the puck at the offensive blue line and zipped a slap shot on net that Burton redirected. Robert Morris goaltender Jim Patterson made the kick save, but Burton picked up his own rebound and skated around the fallen Patterson to bury his seventh of the season.
A little over a minute later, the Raiders tacked on another goal to go up 2-0. Francois Brisebois picked off a breakout pass just outside the Robert Morris zone and made a nifty move around a defender to get off a backhand shot on net. Patterson got a shoulder on it, but the puck bounced up and landed by the stick of a crashing Joe DeBello, who knocked the puck home.
Assistant Coach Brad Dexter kidded before DeBello came out to meet the press after the game that DeBello “blacked out” after the play and did not remember the goal. “I didn’t think it went in, I headed to the bench after I hit the puck,” admitted DeBello. All of a sudden, he heard loud cheers and was swarmed by his teammates congratulating him on his first career collegiate goal.
Colgate opened up the scoring in the second a mere 39 seconds in. Tom Riley skated coast-to-coast, made a move that allowed him to slide the puck between the legs of a Robert Morris defender and skate around him, and finished off the play by feeding Colgate’s leading goal-scorer, Brian Day, who was following up on the opposite side of the net. Day one-timed in his eighth of the season to give Colgate a 3-0 lead.
Robert Morris finally got on the board midway through the second. Deep in Raiders’ territory, Chris Margott sent a pass to Colonials’ leader Cruthers behind the net. Cruthers skated out in front and in one motion spun towards the net and roofed a shot on the near side for his seventh of the season.
No more scoring action took place for the remainder of the second, but tempers flared at the 19:00 mark after the Raiders crashed hard toward Patterson’s net after a squelched Raiders offensive opportunity. Robert Morris’ Brett Hopfe got into two separate skirmishes after the whistle with the Raiders’ Peter Bogdanich and team captain Jesse Winchester. Gloves were dropped by numerous players, so the officials had to actively take charge and spend several minutes explaining the penalty situation to both sets of coaches when all players were designated to their respective penalty boxes (a total of six penalties were delved out between the two teams). Robert Morris ended up with a power play at the end of the ordeal, but was unable to capitalize on it.
Kevin McNamara extended the Colgate lead to 4-1 with his own premier collegiate goal, following up the rebound of his initial shot from the left point and burying it through goaltender Patterson’s pads.
With six minutes left, Colgate displayed some undisciplined play and proceeded to go down five-on-three. Robert Morris did not squander the opportunity, scoring about a minute into the power play. Chris Margott received the puck on a give-and-go at the point with Chris Kaufman and one-timed a shot past Dekanich’s extended left leg for his fourth goal of the season.
Colgate took another late penalty which Robert Morris was not able to capitalize on, but the team did have a goal negated because it was kicked in with a skate. “It was the right call,” Colonials’ coach Derek Schooley affirmed after the game.
The Colonials followed up the controversial play by netting one with an extra-attacker on the ice at the 19:47 mark. Cruthers notched his second of the game off a Chris Margott cross-ice pass on the rush into the Raiders’ zone. Dekanich sprawled toward the open side of the goal mouth but was not able to get there in time. Dekanich redeemed himself with a stellar chest save on the four-on-two rush that the immediately followed the center-ice faceoff, sealing the Raiders’ victory.
“We weathered the storm,” Raiders’ head coach Don Vaughan commented after the game. “It was a good win for us.”
Vaughan felt that the overall effort from his team was good. “Robert Morris is a good team. They play with an edge, and they’re well-coached,” he said.
Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley approved of the play of his own team, and complemented the Raiders on playing with energy and burying the chances they were given. “We need to minimize our mistakes,” said Schooley.
Cruthers assessed that his team came out slow to start off the game, which he attributed to having the weekend off last week. He was extremely impressed with how the Colonials were “all over” the Raiders in the final two minutes. “The game ended a couple minutes too early for us,” Schooley summed up.
The teams play again Sunday afternoon at Starr Rink at 4 p.m.