MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — In front of a standing-room only sellout crowd at the Island Sports Center, the Robert Morris Colonials used three first period goals in a span of less than four minutes to help defeat the visiting Rochester Institute of Technology. The win put the Colonials back in second place in the Atlantic Hockey Association standings, and more importantly, in the driver’s seat for the coveted first round tournament bye. The RIT loss also snapped goaltender Shane Madalora’s 20-game unbeaten streak between the pipes.
Coming into the game, the Colonials learned they would be without their leading scorer, Nathan Longpre, due to injury. That meant that the secondary scoring would have to play a big part for the Colonials, and they responded with five goals from five different forwards.
“Well, anytime you lose your premier forward, you have to have people step up, and I thought the guys did a great job with that tonight” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “We tried to get a little too cute when we had the lead later in the game, but overall, I’m very pleased with our performance tonight and the way we played.”
The first 10 minutes of the first frame saw each team create a few scoring chances chances, with neither side really able to grab hold of the early momentum. The Colonials matched the Tigers hit for hit,though with senior forward Chris Kushneriuk leading the charge.
After a short break in the action for some medical attention for linesman Chris Cogan, the Colonials put themselves on the board when forward Zach Hervato won a faceoff in the Tigers end and slid the puck to defenseman Brock Meadows, who sent a shot toward the net that Tom Brooks deflected past Madalora at 14:15.
The Tigers seemed startled and completely out of sorts, and for the next four minutes it was one Colonials rush after another. Forward Ron Cramer scored nearly three minutes later when he finished a perfect two-on-one, started by a heads-up play in neutral ice by Brandon Blandina, who took a crushing hit to make a play. Trevor Lewis was the recipient of the hard work, and he zipped a tight pass over to Cramer, who backhanded the puck past Madalora in a clear cut example of the puck moving faster than the man. It was Cramer’s seventh goal of the year.
Zach Hervato then extended the Colonials lead to three when he finished another two-on-one with a heavy shot that trickled past Madalora at the 18:01 mark of the first.
The initial ambush was over, and for the meantime and one had to wonder if the three goals were enough of a head start on the regular season conference champions. It almost wasn’t.
RIT came out for the second period and took the play to the Colonials, tilting the ice to the tune of a 19-10 shot advantage. At 4:15 of the second, Brian Potts scored his first goal of the season when he put home a loose puck in the crease with assists going to Tyler Brenner and Ben Lynch.
However, the Colonials answered at 10:07 when Adam Brace took advantage of a loose puck lying in the slot. Then, with Taylor McReynolds in the penalty box serving a hitting from behind penalty, the Colonials stretched their lead to four when Cody Crichton put home a rebound from freshman Colin South at 13:03 of the second period.
The Tigers were finally getting to their game and pulled to within three at 19:15 when defenseman Chris Saracino sent a howitzer shot from the top of the circles that was almost too fast to see with the naked eye.
The Colonials would only give back one more goal in the third though, as goaltender Brooks Ostergard stopped 16 of 17 shots in the period. Potts found the back of the net for his second goal of the game at 13:01 of the third, but it was much too little, much too late. for the Tigers. who were not able to overcome their shaky first period.
“I don’t think we came out with the edge that we really wanted,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson remarked. “We weren’t battling and we weren’t competing. I was kind of waiting for this to happen, we clinch first place and then we had a letdown. But there’s no concerns on our part. We know we can play much better; this loss gives us a chance to regroup.”
It was the final regular season home game for the Colonials, as well as senior night. The Colonials scheduled to graduate this year included forwards Scott Kobialko, Chris Kushneriuk, Nathan Longpre, and defenseman Denny Urban and Brock Meadows.