HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama-Huntsville junior Joe Federoff scored an extra-attacker goal with just 21 seconds left in regulation against his old teammates at Robert Morris to tie the game, 4-4, as both UAH and RMU ended play for 2007.
An early hooking penalty by Colonial captain Rob Cowan allowed Charger freshman Neil Ruffini to lead off scoring for the homestanding Chargers with his first collegiate goal, which came with just 2:19 gone in the first period.
“Our guys played hard and were disciplined tonight, and we saw a lot of the things that we like to see on the ice,” said Charger coach Danton Cole of his team’s overall game in general and the start in particular. “Robert Morris is a great hockey team, and I felt like we did a good job tonight.”
Kyle Burton answered Ruffini’s goal less than three minutes later as he and Ryan Cruthers finished a strong rush in front of Charger netminder Blake MacNicol. Josh Murray put the Chargers back in the lead with his fourth goal of the season a little over halfway through the first.
The Chargers seemed set to go into the first intermission with a precarious one-goal lead until Brandon Roshko and Mike Ward took penalties 1:40 apart to put the Chargers down two men at the end of the period. Ryan Cruthers put home his ninth goal of the season on a shot that appeared to many to be taken with a high stick.
“I thought it was a real easy call, and I could see the crossbar under the puck. That’s why they made the crossbar instead of the shoulders to make it an easier call, but that’s it,” said Cole. “The guys didn’t get down, though, and they kept playing.”
Charger defenseman Matt Baxter put the Chargers back on top by a 3-2 margin with his first collegiate goal at 2:34 of the second, jumping into the play and putting the pressure on Colonial netminder Christian Boucher.
“Matt’s going to be a very good offensive defenseman,” stated Cole. “We’ve been pushing him to jump in there at the right times, and every time he went tonight, it was the first time to go. We look forward to having him here for four years.”
Cruthers answered with his second power-play goal of the night with about four minutes remaining in the second, carrying his team to the second intermission again tied. Unlike the previous night, the third period was quiet, with no penalties recorded by either team. Jeff Gilbert picked up a loose puck and fired it past MacNicol for an unassisted goal with eight minutes left in the game, a goal that appeared to take the wind out of the home team’s sails.
Cole pulled MacNicol with 1:13 left, and after the Colonials appeared to miss an opportunity for an empty net goal, the Chargers stormed back down the ice and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Boucher, who made a series of saves but was unable to solve the last opportunity be Federoff, who transferred from Robert Morris to Alabama- Huntsville during the 2005-06 season.
“Joe showed why we always teach our guys to throw everything to the net in those situations,” noted Cole. “It was one of those things where the puck bounces your way for a change. It was good to come out with a tie.”
The Chargers next take the ice at home against CHA rival Bemidji State on January 11th, while Robert Morris kicks off 2008 on the road against American International on January 4th.