A lot of collegiate teams sometimes underachieve in their respective conference tournaments.
But certainly not the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
Neil Ruffini scored the lone goal of the game and goaltender Cameron Talbot made 29 saves as Huntsville edged Robert Morris 1-0 in a semifinal of the final College Hockey America Tournament at Dwyer Arena on Friday afternoon.
The third-seeded Chargers advance to Saturdays tournament championship game at 8 pm EST against the Niagara-Bemidji State winner.
In what has become almost an annual rite of March, the Chargers (6-10-2 CHA), 11-17-3 overall) advanced to the CHA championship game for the seventh time in the 11-year history of the tournament.
I thought our guys did a great job, UAH head coach Danton Cole said. We worked hard between the whistles. There was not a lot of open space out there, and I was proud of the way they worked. When there was a breakdown, Talbot was there.
While the Chargers celebrated an excruciatingly hard fought triumph, the second-seeded Colonials — who finished 6-9-3 in the CHA and 10-19-5 overall — were understandably feeling melancholy.
There wasnt a lot of space in that hockey game either way, RMU head coach Derek Schooley said. Both teams did a good job and played hard. It is a shame that a tipped goal decided it. Both teams had chances and both teams had good goaltending.
As so often happens this time of the season, a single break can determine the winner of a game — and in this case — it was Ruffini who turned out to be the heroic figure.
With RMUs Ron Cramer off for high sticking midway through the second period, Ruffini deflected Brennan Barkers shot from the point off the crossbar behind RMU goaltender Brooks Ostergard at 11:57.
I saw it (the puck) go out to the point, and the place where you score is in front of the net, and thats where I went, Ruffini said. I saw Bark had the puck. I decided to stand in front of the goalies eyes so he couldnt see it, because it would have a better chance of going in. I got a stick on it and it went into the top corner.
It was nice to see that go in.
While Talbot was sharp in recording his fifth shutout of the season the work of Ostergard cannot be overlooked. He finished with 23 saves.
There are a lot of good goaltenders in this league, and Ostergard is one of them, Schooley said. I dont know what more you could have asked him to do.