NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials have managed a couple of huge upsets in their brief history. However until tonight, none of them had taken place anywhere near their home ice, and none of them were as shocking as the one that occurred at the annual College Hockey Showcase in Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena this evening. The Colonials downed the visiting No. 1 Miami RedHawks, 3-1, using a timely short-handed goal and a huge performance by starting goaltender Brooks Ostergard.
“Give Robert Morris a lot of credit; they did a really good job of executing on all their chances.” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “The name of the game is execution; they did, and we didn’t.”
From the drop of the puck, Miami took the play to the Colonials, almost converting on several close chances which Ostergard turned away, opening up a 6-1 shot advantage in the game’s first few minutes and dominating the territory with one good shift after another.
“I thought we just needed to get into the game a little bit more; we turned a few pucks over and didn’t get things deep, but Brooks made the saves he had to until we got moving and playing a little better,” Colonials’ coach Derek Schooley said, commenting on his team’s tentative start.
The RedHawks, dominating the shot total and tilting the ice, did everything they had set out to do, except put a puck in the back of the net. The Colonials had no problem on their first good scoring chance.
With forward Ron Cramer in the sin bin for hooking, the Colonials’ penalty kill just managed to tip a loose puck past their own blue line, where it was picked up by junior forward Chris Kushneriuk, who sped past two RedHawks’ blueliners for a short-handed breakaway, converting the chance into a Colonials’ lead at the 19:39 mark of the first on a brilliant move.
“The first thought that was in my head was just to get my feet moving so I could get some separation ahead; I knew exactly what I was going to do, and I was just able to flip it by him,” Kushneriuk remarked on the goal, his 10th of the season.
The Colonials’ lead was short lived though. Andy Miele drew a penalty on a strong individual effort in the Colonials’ zone at 5:11 of the second, and on the ensuing power play, Carter Camper’s shot from the left circle beat Ostergard at 5:45 to tie the game at one.
The game then opened up for both teams, with good chances at either net and good saves by both goaltenders leaving a tied contest to be settled in the third frame.
The game turned in the Colonials’ favor with goals just over a minute apart in the third. The first came at 5:02, when JC Velasquez finished a two-on-one from Cody Crichton which seemed to stun the visiting RedHawks, who found themselves scrambling around in their own end on the next shift when freshman Stefan Salituro punched home a loose puck past an out of position Reichard at 6:13, giving the Colonials an insurance tally.
The two-goal lead held up as Ostergard made save after save, including several crucial ones on two separate Colonials’ penalty kills later in the period to help seal the upset.
“I think this game gives our whole team a sense of confidence and belief that we can skate with any team in the country; this game wouldn’t have been possible without the play of our defenseman and forwards; it was a whole team effort,” said Ostergard.
The win stopped a nine game winless streak for the Colonials, as they became the second CHA team to defeat Miami this season following Bemidji State’s 3-2 victory on November 27, 2009. The win also gave the Colonials their second win against a ranked opponent this season, and the program’s first upset of a No. 1 team.
The teams will resume the two-game series on Sunday when Robert Morris travels to Miami with a 4:05 start time.