COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Robert Morris Colonials are off to their best start in program history, improving to 3-0 on the young season with a 4-3 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in front of 2,003 at Value City Arena Friday evening.
“We have an older, veteran team with 15 juniors and seniors,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “Anytime you have that age factor, you want to get off to a good start. Obviously being in the new league, we have less non-conference games now and these [wins] are a premium for us.”
Robert Morris never trailed during Friday’s tilt. They had to skate without one of their top forwards in senior Nathan Longpre, who was suspended dating to last Sunday’s match against American International.
“Not much went right,” Ohio State forward John Albert said. “We had a lot of turnovers. They out-competed us. We had a lot of shots which was good but that is about it.”
Ohio State survived a first period where it lost freshman Chris Crane on a contact-to-the-head call at 5:06. The Buckeyes managed to kill off the five-minute Colonials’ power play, thanks in large part to three blocked shots by sophomore defenseman Sean Duddy.
“We talked about it right away,” Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. “He has to learn from those. Obviously you can’t leave your feet and hit somebody in the head. He had two shifts, two penalties. It worked for him, probably, in the USHL — in Green Bay, but it is not going to work for him at our level.”
Robert Morris scored two goals within 79 seconds of each other to take a 2-0 lead in the second period. The first goal came 7:15 into the frame when Cody Crichton’s breakaway shot beat the stick of Buckeyes’ goalie Cal Heeter. The play was started after a blue line turnover by Ohio State defenseman Devon Krogh. The Colonials’ second goal was a Zach Hervato redirection of a shot from the left circle by Chris Kushneriuk.
Ohio State’s three goals were scored from inside Colonials’ goalie Brooks Ostergard’s crease. The first came 12:49 into the second when Sergio Somma tipped in a rebound off of a Shane Sims shot. The Buckeyes then tied the game 31 seconds before the second intermission when Alex Lippincott shot a loose puck past Ostergard. It was Lippincott’s first career collegiate goal.
Ohio State’s newfound momentum was short-lived as Ron Cramer scored a short-handed goal 5:52 into the third to put Robert Morris back on top, 3-2. However, the home team answered with a power play goal midway through the third by C.J. Severyn on yet another loose puck in the crease.
“We knew we had to get to the net if we were going to score goals,” Cramer said.
James Lyle scored the eventual game-winner with 7:58 remaining on his shot from the left circle which beat the stick of Heeter. After five unsuccessful power plays, Lyle was able to turn the tide and give the Colonials a much needed notch late in the game.
“We have to take care of the puck,” Osiecki said. “(The puck) is a precious thing. I think for a positive, if you’re looking for a stat – the way we keep stats – blocked shots, hits, scoring chances. I bet we out chanced them. I bet we had more blocks. I bet we out hit them. We led the charge in blue line turnovers and that is a really distinct issue with our team right now especially having 10 seniors.”
“Our resiliency was tremendous and our power play which didn’t do much earlier in the game came through in the clutch,” said Schooley, countering with optimism. “Obviously you would like to extend the lead when you have it, but I’m really proud of our guys. It was a character win.”
Robert Morris will get the chance to try out the ice at Consol Energy Center, the brand new home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, on Sunday. The game also brings the start of the Atlantic Hockey conference season against Air Force.
“It is pretty exciting getting to play in a new facility like that,” Cramer said. “I think the way the team has to take a look at it is it’s just another game. We do have to place a premium on it because it is a league game and our goal is to win the league.”
Osiecki and his team will get the rest of the weekend off followed by visiting Ferris State next weekend.