NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — Fans in attendance of tonight’s tilt between RMU and Niagara got their money’s worth, and then some.
Niagara’s Vince Rocco scored with just 4:10 left in the third to send the back and forth contest into an overtime period, which had almost as much action as the full 60 minutes before it.
The opening frame started off with a bizarre twist, with both teams losing one player each for checking from behind, within one minute of each other. Niagara forward Brian Dowd left the game at 6:05 of the first, followed by RMU defenseman Josh Jones at 7:04, both receiving game misconduct penalties.
At the 12:48 mark of the first, Colonials’ freshman forward Trevor Lewis opened the scoring with a hard shot from between the circles that beat Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero top shelf, on an assist from Chris Margott, for the first of his three assists on the evening.
The Colonials outshot the Purple Eagles 15-9 in the first, and dominated much of the play and the territory, while Pagliero kept Niagara within one goal.
Niagara seemed to get back to their game in the second period, creating chances and opening up the flow, as the action went back and forth with good scoring chances developing for both teams.
Purple Eagles’ junior defenseman Tyler Gotto saw an opportunity to move down low and make something happen for his team when his shot from the lower left circle beat Colonials’ netminder Brooks Ostergard on the short side, with a good amount of traffic in front to knot the score at one, with assists from Bryan Haczyk, and Vince Rocco, at 6:34 of the period.
It was then Ostergard’s turn to shine.
After a Colonials’ defenseman slipped at his own blue line, Niagara forward Chris Moran found himself all alone on a breakaway with enough time to pick his spot or figure out a move, but his chance was thwarted by Ostergard, who made a spectacular save to keep the score tied.
The scoring and the pace picked up in the third, which saw the Colonials fall behind, tie the game, take the lead, and then end up tied again.
Just 1:22 into the third, Niagara forward Ryan Olidis gave his team the lead from close range with an assist from Haczyk.
The Colonials, displaying a confidence that had been growing during their current five-game unbeaten streak, never appeared frazzled.
Colonials’ sophomore forward Nathan Longpre scored his 11th and 12th goals of the season, at 6:19 and 11:05 respectively. His first goal came almost directly from a left circle faceoff in the Niagara end, with an assist from Margott. Longpre’s second came on a beautiful shot from near the right point that beat Pagliero clean and gave RMU a short-lived 3-2 lead.
The Colonials seemed to be in control of the game, melting time off the clock and keeping the puck in the Purple Eagles’ zone, but a defensive zone turnover led to the game-tying score off the stick of Rocco, who found the loose puck and shot low on Ostergard at the 15:50 mark.
The Purple Eagles were then thrust into the driver’s seat at the 16:06 mark when RMU defenseman Jake Obermeyer was sent to the box for tripping. However the Colonials’ penalty kill, which went seven-for-seven on the night, combined with the sharp goaltending of Ostergard to keep the game tied.
RMU mustered one last chance to win the game in regulation when a two-on-one developed between Margott and Longpre with just less than 15 seconds remaining. Pagliero made an outstanding save on the Longpre shot, driving him backwards into his net, as he kept the puck from going over.
The overtime saw golden opportunities for both teams. Niagara’s Ted Cook missed a great chance with a nearly open net. The bonus frame also saw the Colonials hold on for dear life in a two minute penalty kill which saw one blocked shot after another as the Eagles furiously tried to net the game-winner.
The final chance for either team occurred in the final minute when Longpre found himself on a breakaway, but he was turned aside once again by Pagliero.
RMU coach Derek Schooley was pleased with the point his team earned tonight, and with the recent play of his team.
“That was a good hockey game tonight, back and forth, up and down the rink, with chances galore in overtime. We played hard, but we made some mistakes. We had guys selling out tonight, especially in the end. That was playoff hockey, and that’s what we’re going to see down the stretch.”
Robert Morris and Niagara finish their weekend series Saturday night at 7:35.