NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — For two periods, the Robert Morris Colonials looked comfortable in the drivers seat, up 2-1 on CHA conference foe Niagara. They had kept the lethal Eagles’ power play off the scoreboard and tallied one for themselves as well, playing a smart and patient hockey game through 40 minutes.
However, when any team has as great an amount of newcomers as the Colonials have, the wheels can come off at the most inopportune time.
RMU Coach Derek Schooley knows this all to well. “That was the sign of a young hockey team in the thrid period. We got frustrated, and we took some bad penalties.”
The game started off pretty much the same as the first 12 have for the Colonials, as they gave up the first goal once again. Niagara defenseman Armando Scarlato turned a Robert Morris neutral ice turnover into instant offense as he flew down the right wing boards and pushed the puck to the Colonials’ net, where Ryan Oldis finished the play to beat Wes Russell in net at the 11:29 mark of the first to give Niagara the lead.
Less than two minutes later, Colonials’ forward Stefan Lachapelle seemed to have beaten Eagles’ netminder Juliano Pagliero with a rifle shot that clanked off the right post which would have tied the score.
At the 18:47 mark of the first, Robert Morris forward Jason Towsley converted a pretty pass from Nathan Longpre to knot the score at one.
Niagara came out of the gate strong to start the second, earning many quality chances, but didn’t convert any thanks to some very good goaltending from Russell, who stopped 21 of 22 shots in the first two periods.
At the halfway point of the second, the Colonials started seizing control of the game, blocking shots, and not playing overly aggressive against the speedy Niagara forward units. With Purple Eagles’ forward Derek Foam in the box, Colonials’ forward Nathan Longpre punched home a rebound to give the Colonials the lead.
For the remainder of the second, the play got very physical and gave a glimpse of what to expect for the rest of the game. Led by Niagara senior defenseman Dan Sullivan, the Eagles hit anything that moved, and hit it hard. “Danny really played like a senior tonight,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder “He had a few big hits, which really helps the emotions on our bench. You need your older players, especially in a big conference (game) on the road like this, to play like seniors.”
The third period saw the momenteum completely shift Niagara’s way, with physical punishment being handed out, and offensive opportunities seemingly being created at will. The Eagles wasted little time in evening the score with Wes Consorti beating Russell just 1:55 into the frame.
Niagara has build a reputation as being a team with more than enough shorthanded specialists this season, and they didn’t dissapoint on this night either. When RMU got their first power play of the third, it appeared to be the break that would put the Colonials back in the lead, and if it hadn’t been for a great individual effort from Chris Moran, it just might have.
Capitalizing on a turnover, Moran sped down the right wing and fed Ted Cook, who beat Colonials’ backup netminder Brooks Ostergard, who was playing while Russell was having equipment being attended to, upstairs to put his team in the lead for good at 4:22.
“We’ve just been putting a lot of pressure on teams, and we’re trying to not let them set up, and we’ve been capitalizing,” said Burkholder on his teams performance in shorthanded situations. “I think our penalty kill has turned our season around.”
The Colonials then took turns in the penalty box for the rest of the third, and Niagara salted the game away at the 8:02 mark with Tyler Gotto’s goal, a cannon blast from the point, assisted by Brian Dowd.
Burkholder was very pleased with his teams effort on the night
“I thought it was a really gritty road effort, and it’s finally nice to have a third period go our way.”
On the other side of the coin, RMU Coach Derek Schooley seemed to understand that on a team with 21 freshman and sophomores, there’s going to be nights like this sometimes.
“We were playing hard and keeping to our systems; it was a just a very youthful third period by our team. We were getting physically banged up in that third period and the mature team won the game tonight. We did a great job killing penalties, but we turned the puck over.”
The Colonials take the ice again Saturday December 6th in Cleveland, Ohio at Quicken Loand Arana against the Ohio State University Buckeyes, who won the previous meeting between the two schools November 14th 4-0.