NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — In losing their previous five games, Robert Morris had played well at times, but had no positive result at the end of the night to show for the effort. Tonight, the Colonials outworked the Bemidji State Beavers, putting together a solid, 60 minute effort against a conference foe that had won five in a row coming into tonight’s game. The difference in this game, was the performance of the the man between the pipes.
Freshman goaltender Brooks Ostergard stopped 32 Bemidji State shots on the way to posting the first shutout by a Colonial goaltender in over two seasons, as the Colonials found the back of the net three times en route to a conference victory, their first conference win in their last eight games.
“The difference tonight was our goaltending. It gives you a lot of confidence when your goalie plays like that. I’m very happy for him, and very pleased with his (Ostergard’s) effort,” said RMU coach Derek Schooley concerning the performance by his freshman net minder.
The game didn’t exactly have the same physically punishing tone that the last two meetings between the conference rivals had, though both teams did finish their checks on a consistent basis throughout the game. The Colonials seemed to have the right idea from the drop of the puck, win the battles for loose pucks, work the cycle in the Beaver zone, and get the puck to the net.
Not a difficult formula, but often a difficult task against a disciplined and experienced BSU squad that had been yielding a mere 2.0 goals a game in conference play. The workmanlike effort of the Colonials, opened the door for the only goal of the game that RMU would need.
With BSU forward Shea Walters serving two minutes for interference, Colonial forward Chris Margott took a cross ice pass from Nathan Longpre in the left circle and blasted a shot to the top left corner that whistled past Beaver net minder Matt Dalton at the 12:26 mark of the first, to give the Colonials a 1-0 lead.
RMU worked their game plan flawlessly for the rest of the first stanza. And Colonial freshman forward Ron Cramer almost doubled the lead in the final minute of the period as he stick handled between the Bemidji State defense and put a point blank shot on the cage which Dalton saved and gave back instantly by way of a rebound, which Cramer barely failed to put home at the :28 mark.
Cramer played the game as if possessed, finishing checks all over the ice, turning loose pucks into scoring chances, and getting under the skin of his opponent at every opportunity.
“Ron was very good tonight, but a little snake bitten,” said Schooley.
In the second frame, the Beavers tried desperately to take back control of the game. And as it turned out, two consecutive Colonial slashing penalties, just 41 seconds apart, might have been just provided what was needed to turn the tide back to the favor of BSU, had it not been for Brooks Ostergard.
In what was most likely the most important penalty kill of the season for the Colonials, a 5 on 3 for 1:19, Ostergard remained calm, and turned aside one shot after another from point blank range as the Beavers worked the puck around the zone for what seemed like an eternity. Yet they could not convert their opportunity.
The Colonials stayed the course for the remainder of the game, winning most of the loose puck battles, and outworking the Beavers one shift at a time. But a one goal lead can be a fragile thing.
RMU senior forward Jason Towsley put the Beavers in an even deeper hole at the 12:59 mark of the third, on an outstanding individual effort. Towsley found a loose puck in the BSU zone, and skated in hard on Dalton, getting him out of position by cutting at a sharp angle along the crease while putting the puck into the cage to extend the Colonial lead to 2-0.
The Beavers would almost climb back into the game at 17:56 of the third, when after a goal crease scrum, the puck appeared to cross the goal line. However it was waved off by the officials who ruled that the puck had been directed by the body of a BSU player.
And then, to close the scoring in a fitting fashion, Cramer finally got the goal he’d worked so hard for, finding the empty net after a multiplayer scramble near the BSU net to make it 3-0.
“Hopefully this is a step in the right direction. Last week (vs. Niagara) was definitely as step in the right direction, and this game will give us some more confidence,” added Schooley, commenting on quite possibly his team’s finest performance of the year.
The Colonials and Beavers will finish the fourth installment of the series Sunday at 5:05 at the Island Sports Center.