MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Colonials forward Adam Brace, a Canisius transfer, picked the perfect night to net his first two-goal performance of the season, propelling the Colonials to a hard-fought conference victory Saturday night over the Canisius Golden Griffins at the Island Sports Center.
Brace’s goals, coupled with a spectacular night from Colonials goaltender Brooks Ostergard, who made 48 saves, and an outstanding penalty kill that went six-for-six, proved to be too much for the Griffins to overcome. The win was huge for the Colonials, who moved into second place in Atlantic Hockey thanks to Mercyhurst’s victory over Niagara.
“I thought we did a very good job blocking shots tonight” Colonials coach Derek Schooley remarked. “Furman South had a couple of huge blocks for us late in the game when it was 2-0. We also extended the lead tonight, and that was something we talked about, especially when we’ve been giving up leads lately. It was a pretty complete hockey game by our team tonight.”
Both teams came out firing to start the game, and golden scoring chances were plentiful, as both teams nearly capitalized on two-on-ones in the game’s opening minutes. However, once both teams started finding rhythms, it became clear what type of game to expect. The Griffins made offensive zone time a top priority, and kept the Colonials penned in their own for extended shifts, while Robert Morris worked toward finding their opportunities patiently, and then exploiting the Canisius defense with the puck in transition.
After an initial exchange of power plays, the Colonials found themselves recipients of a five-on-three when Canisius forward Vincent Scarsella was sent to the box for a boarding major and Preston Shupe followed up with an unsportsmanlike conduct just 21 seconds later. Brace’s first goal opened the scoring at 11:14 of the first period when he took a nicely threaded pass from Colonials scoring machine Nathan Longpre and buried it past Griffins goaltender Dan Morrison from the right circle.
Just minutes later, Colonials forward Cody Crichton almost gave his side a two-goal lead when he appeared to knock home a loose puck that was precariously close to the goal line; however, the net became dislodged in the ensuing goal-mouth scramble.
The physical play from both teams then intensified, and the game started to develop a nasty edge to it, as evidenced by two elbowing minors and two roughing minors in the first period alone.
Canisius came out in the second period bound and determined to slash the Robert Morris lead in half, as they set up camp in the Colonials end for the first two minutes and managed some good scoring chances. However, Colonials defenseman Denny Urban found a loose puck during all the cycling and quickly started a breakout the other way which developed into a three-on-two in a mere blink of the eye. Urban slid a smooth pass toward forward Ron Cramer, who then blasted the one-timer past Morrison to increase the Colonials lead to 2-0, with the second assist going to forward Nick Chiavetta.
Ostergard then started taking the game over. The junior goaltender stopped all 18 shots he faced in the second period and 48 of 49 for the game. “Brooks Ostergard was fantastic tonight” said Schooley.
Going into the third frame, the Colonials had to be wondering if they would be able to put this opponent away. They’d blown third period leads in their last two games, and were staring at another familiar set of circumstances.
Canisius worked extremely hard again in the third, putting another 18 shots on the net, but the game was put out of reach by the Colonials when Urban, who ended the night with three points, put his shot from the left circle past Morrison at 15:25. Then, just 10 seconds later, Brace notched his second tally of the night with assists going to Cramer and Urban.
Canisius forward Cory Conacher spoiled Ostergard’s shutout bid at 19:46 with his 19th goal of the season, but it was a case of too little too late. The win broke the previous Robert Morris school record for wins in a season (15).
“I like the way we played for the most part” said Canisius coach Dave Smith. “I thought that their goalie (Ostergard) played very well and their shot blockers were very desperate, and that made the difference.”
Both teams take on conference opponents next weekend in home-and-home dates. Canisius will tangle with RIT while Robert Morris will finish their season series with Mercyhurst.