MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials have never experienced a start to the season quite like this one, and they kept the good start rolling with an entertaining 3-2 overtime win over the Colgate Raiders on Saturday night.
Fueled by some key saves by goaltender Eric Levine, some timely penalty killing and a goal by Nathan Longpre 63 seconds into overtime, the Colonials won their 11th contest of the season, eclipsing last season’s win total before Christmas break.
“That was a very good hockey game. They [Colgate] don’t look like a team that has just three wins; they’ve got some very good offensive talent and some great goaltending,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “I thought our penalty killing was good and overall I thought our special teams were outstanding.”
The Raiders came out of the gate ready to play and hungry. In some non-conference battles, the feeling-out process can take a period or longer, but in this contest, the pace was blistering from the drop of the puck. The Raiders and Colonials exchanged scoring chances at will early on, with Levine having to make critical saves to keep the Colonials in the game as the Raiders kept their intense pressure coming shift after shift. The good Colgate start saw almost immediate benefits as the Raiders drew two early Colonial penalties.
The Raiders could have used either power play to gain the early advantage, but Robert Morris’ penalty killing on both advantages seemed to take the early momentum away until the Colonials found a way to get to their game. The Raiders simply could not find a way to gain any significant zone time, and the Colonials forced their opponent to have to carry the play up the rink too many times with some timely turnovers created by aggressive fore checking and good puck management.
The Colonials had survived the onslaught, and they took their turn on the power play and took the early lead when junior forward Furman South deposited his fourth goal of the season with a slap shot from the left circle at 19:06 of the first period.
The second frame started with more of the same torrid pace, with end-to-end action and few stoppages. But when action did stop, it was mainly the result of penalties. The second period was marred by seven penalties in all, which arrested the rhythm for the meantime. The Raiders tied the game at one with a strong individual effort from Francois Brisebois at the 7:47 mark. With a delayed Colonial penalty called and the extra Raider attacker on the ice, Brisebois came darting across the slot and lifted a backhander over Levine while Brisebois was falling to the ice.
With a power play to follow after the goal, the Raiders had a prime chance to take the lead and put the momentum in their favor, but they could not beat the Colonial penalty kill yet again.
Colonial senior defenseman Denny Urban put his team ahead with just 24 seconds left in the period when he beat Raiders goaltender Eric Mihalik during a five-on-three power play, with a clean and hard shot, his seventh goal of the year with assists going to Adam Brace and Longpre.
The goal looked as if it might hold up as the game winner, but with Colonial defenseman Brendan Jamison serving an interference penalty and Mihalik pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Raider forward Austin Smith found a way to preserve his team’s chances by tallying his fourth goal of the season at 19:13 of the third period when he knocked home a rebound during a furious front of the net scramble. The tying score gave life to a Colgate team that has been stung by its fair share of bad luck and close misses this season.
But their bad luck would continue in overtime when Longpre sent a shot that hit the pipe near Mihalik and bounced in off the goaltender for the game winner at 1:03 of the extra period. For Longpre, the game’s first star, it was goal number nine on the year and another example of what Colonial fans have come to expect from the senior forward.
“It’s disappointing,” Raiders coach Don Vaughn said. “We’ve been in a lot of our games but we have to find a way to win. We saw an entire microcosm of our entire year in this game tonight. We just can’t get too discouraged because we are very close.”