NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. — Playing in front of one of the largest crowds in their program’s history, the Robert Morris Colonials defeated the visiting Alabama-Huntsville Chargers, 3-2, running their current winning streak to three games and earning their second conference win of the season in a hard fought and very physical game
If the Chargers were in awe of the Colonials stunning sweep of the Miami RedHawks last weekend, they didn’t show it. From the start of the first period, they outworked the Colonials shift after shift, creating offense both on the rush and cycling the puck in the Colonial end for the majority of the period amassing 13 shots and missing a few golden opportunities.
“I think Huntsville was excellent in the first period and we were lucky to get out of there at one to nothing,” said Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley. “They came out and took it to us, but I think as the game went on we got better, we competed better and won battles and found a way to get it done.
For all the prime scoring chances the Chargers had in the first, it was a sharp angle shot on the second Alabama-Huntsville power play that opened the scoring as defenseman Davide Nicoletti sent the puck off the crossbar and behind Colonial goaltender Brooks Ostergard at 9:06 of the first period.
Robert Morris managed to ramp up their intensity in the final three minutes of the first, coming close to tying the game with a couple of goal mouth scrambles. However net minder Cameron Talbot stood tall and made a few tough saves from close in, including a point blank save on Colonial forward Brandon Blandina from just beyond the crease at the 18:30 mark.
The Chargers started the second just as they started out the first, winning their share of loose pucks and physically taking the play to their opponent, but as the period went on, the Colonials started to find their game. Sophomore forward Trevor Lewis tied the score with a timely deflection of an Andrew Blazek shot from just inside the blue line at 11:52 with the second assist going to Nate Longpre.
The teams traded chances for the rest of the second as the momentum seemed to swing from shift to shift until the 19:23 mark when Colonials’ defenseman Denny Urban, whom had just finished serving a two minute minor penalty, emerged from the box and found himself the recipient of a Brendan Jamison pass and no one but Talbot in front of him.
Urban used his speed on the breakaway and then put the moves on the Chargers’ goaltender, scoring his seventh goal of the season, giving his team the 2-1 advantage going into the dressing room.
The Colonials came out roaring in the third, employing a solid transition game that turned Charger shots into chances going the other way, with both goaltenders making save after save.
However, the Alabama-Huntsville side would not fold as they started to win more loose puck battles from the middle of the third period on, resulting in a rush that forward Keenan Desmet converted into a goal when he knocked in a rebound from Nicholetti at the 13:40 mark to tie the contest at two.
The excitement in the building went up another notch at 15:53 of the third when Chargers’ forward Neil Ruffini was sent to the box for contact to the head. The Colonials sent out their top power-play unit which came close several times to giving their team the lead, but Talbot stood strong, stopping everything that he saw.
In the end, it came down to the one shot that the goaltender doesn’t always see that gave the Colonials the victory in this game.
With the second power-play unit on the ice for Robert Morris set up, and time dwindling down, sophomore Ron Cramer tipped a shot from James Lyle at 17:36 that changed direction and found its way past Talbot as the Colonials took the lead with precious little time left.
The Chargers pulled Talbot around the one minute mark but could not find the back of the net with the extra attacker, and the Colonials had earned two points the hard way against a determined conference foe.
“Well, you know when you come into this building you have to match their intensity,” said Alabama-Huntsville assistant coach Chris Luongo. “Their calling card as a team is intensity and we’re familiar with them enough as an opponent to know that if you come in here flat, they’re going to be all over you; we really felt overall that our game was really solid, it was just a play here or there at both ends of the ice that made the difference. We’ll take that going into tomorrow night’s game.”
The teams meet again tomorrow night at the Island Sports Center with a 7:05 pm start.