PITTSBURGH — The Rochester Institute of Technology extended their conference winning streak to four games and firmly established their grasp on the top spot in the standings with hard fought 4-3 win over Robert Morris in a game played at the Pittsburgh Penguin’s Consol Energy Center Thursday night.
The Tigers got two goals from junior forward Tyler Brenner including the game winner late in the third period and goaltender Shane Madolora remained unbeaten this season by stopping 32 Colonial shots in the win, played in front of 6,957 fans.
“It didn’t feel like a first-place type of game tonight” RIT head coach Wayne Wilson said. “I thought our special teams did not play great tonight, but we got goals when we needed them.”
The pregame buzz and excitement surrounding the contest wore off very quickly after the drop of the puck, with both teams attempting to get a feel for the flow of the game, but the Tigers acclimated much more quickly to hockey after the holiday break and was the more prepared side early on.
The Tigers got on the board at the 4:57 mark of the first when forward Cameron Burt jumped on a rebound left in the slot, and pushed it past Colonial net minder Brooks Ostergard. The Tigers refused to be content up by the early lead, as they mounted an early shot and territory advantage. The Tigers also dictated the style of play, and kept the Colonials bottled up for most of the first period, causing numerous icings as well.
Brenner put the Tigers up by a pair at 11:28 of the first by slicing his way through the Colonial defense and then beating Ostergard with a wrister, but the goal didn’t deflate the RMU side much at all. The Colonials had developed a reputation as a team that can climb out of holes so far this season, and they found themselves in another tight spot.
Colonial forward Furman South slashed the Tiger lead in half when he blew a one timer from a perfect James Lyle pass past Madolora at 14:28 of the first, on RMU’s third power play of the game, it was South’s fifth goal of the season.
Any momentum from the goal was almost short lived though, as just a minute later, RIT appeared to score their third goal with a deflection by Adam Mitchell. However, the goal was deemed touched by a high stick and subsequently disallowed. The Colonials then sent traffic to the front of the Tiger net, and forward Joseph Harcharik tipped a shot that beat Madolora at 17:42.
The scoring frenzy then came to an end in the second frame as the pace slowed and the scoring chances diminished. The Tigers kept controlling the play though, and while they couldn’t score as often as they liked, their fore-check stole valuable time and opportunities away from the Colonials. Then at the 15:03 mark, Mitchell put the Tigers back in the drivers’ seat with a rising shot from the left circle that whistled past Ostergard.
In the third period the Colonials wasted little time drawing even, using a power play from an RIT penalty assessed at the end of the 2nd period, Colonial forward Trevor Lews knocked in a rebound off Adam Brace’s original shot just barely a minute into the final frame. For the remainder of the third, the team’s traded chances at a conservative pace, but with much more energy and passion, the intensity ratcheted up a notch.
And then, a seemingly harmless shot from Tyler Brenner squeezed through Ostergard at 18:41 of the third, giving the Tigers the go ahead tally with his 9th goal of the year. The Colonials couldn’t muster another comeback in the final minute and 19 seconds, and at the end of 60 minutes, the Tigers found themselves all alone atop Atlantic Hockey with games in hand as well.
“I think for two periods, we were still on Christmas break” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley stated in post game. “I give a lot of credit to RIT. They came out with a lot of energy, enthusiasm and passion. They (RIT) came in and used their size to their advantage.”
RIT (10-7-2) will next host Merrimack on Saturday, while RMU (12-5-2) will travel to North Dakota for games on January 8 and 9.