NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — “No soup for you! You’ll get nothing and like it!
These words may very well have been used by both goaltenders during tonight’s scoreless tie between Niagara and host Robert Morris.
In a hard fought and physical contest, both Niagara goaltender Adam Avaramenko and Robert Morris’ Brooks Ostergard shared the limelight, stopping 34 shots apiece as each team locked up their respective places in the College Hockey America standings.
Niagara finishing in second place, and the Colonials staved off the CHA basement by finishing in third.
“I don’t know what more you could have asked out of two hockey teams for a weekend. They (Niagara) must have blocked about 100 shots on our chances. I’m very proud of our hockey team, we worked very hard this weekend,” remarked Colonial coach Derek Schooley on his teams performance.
The game saw the continuation of the current RMU unbeaten streak which is now at six games (3-0-3). And the recent streak also witnessed the Colonials achieving success against teams which had been very tough in the first meetings of the season.
After a three point home weekend in October versus Alabama-Huntsville, the Colonials had gone a combined 0-5-1 in their previous six conference games against UAH, Bemidji State, and Niagara. However, during this latest round of conference tilts, the Colonials now appear to have the defense performing on the same page, and also, the solution between the pipes the Colonials had been looking for, has arrived.
The game itself was not truly indicative of some of the more recent games between the two teams. The RMU-Niagara series over the years had built a reputation as one of the more action packed, free flowing, up-and-down the ice matchups in college hockey–trademarked by shows of offensive firepower, and highlight reel type goaltending.
Until recently, however, most of that goaltending had been supplied by Niagara netminder Juliano Pagliero. But things may just be changing in that respect.
“He (Ostergard) looks so comfortable in the net. That’s exactly what we needed, and I’m ecstatic with his play. He’s one of the prime reasons that we’re on a little bit of a successful run right now,” said Schooley
The first period saw each team getting some perimeter, if not prime, scoring chances, with each goaltender making 12 of their saves on the night. Niagara’s Avaramenko made the save of the period, stopping Chris Margott’s shot off a 2-on-1 with 2:45 remaining in the first.
In the second frame, the Colonials took turns in the sin bin for virtually the entire period, giving the Purple Eagles four power play chances. Niagara managed only five shots, though, and Ostergard made save after save look routine as the Eagles outshot the Colonials 12 to nine for the period.
All in all, the Colonial penalty kill was perfect on the weekend going 13 for 13, while Niagara’s penalty kill went 7 for 7. For two teams with fairly decent amounts of firepower, it was the attention to detail on the back end and penalty kill that helped salvage two points apiece for the conference foes.
The Colonials started opening up their attack more in the third, getting some good chances on their two power plays during the period, but Avramenko stood tall and slammed the door, stopping all four RMU power play shots.
During the overtime, RMU forward Kyle Burton almost scored the game winner with a perfectly timed wrap around attempt at the 3:00 mark, but could just not put the puck past Avramenko, who earned his first career shutout.
Coach Derek Schooley offered some perspective on the strides his team has taken in the last few weeks.
“Three weeks ago, we were written off for dead, he said. To go six games unbeaten against Bemidji State, Alabama-Huntsville, and Niagara, teams we hadn’t had success against is great. I like our hockey team right now.”
The Colonials also honored four graduating seniors, all time leading scorer Chris Margott, defenseman Jake Obermeyer, forward Jason Towsley, and defenseman Matt Krug at a special pre-game ceremony.
Coach Schooley added:
“The countdown had already begun. Four more games, twenty days, whatever it is and then when it comes, you wish you had 520 more days left. I don’t think the emotion will really hit for them, until we’re done playing.”
The Colonials travel to Bemidji State next weekend to wrap up their conference season.