MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — In many games, the score doesn’t always indicate how the game was played. Tonight, the 3-3 score at the end of overtime was completely indicative of the action on the ice.
The Robert Morris Colonials and Army Black Knights waged a highly-entertaining battle in front of a large crowd at the Island Sports Center. The Colonials, missing several players due to injury, had to resort to dressing freshman forward David Rigatti as a defenseman. Rigatti performed better than expected, displaying a surprising amount of calmness both with and without the puck. The Colonials were able to take three very important conference points on the weekend.
“We showed a lot of guts and a lot of heart this weekend,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “We left it all on the ice tonight; we didn’t have much more. I thought that was a great hockey game; I told our guys they had nothing to hang their heads about.”
The Colonials were up against quite possibly the hungriest opponent in college hockey in the Black Knights, who came into the weekend with only one win on the season, though their efforts had been strong all season long.
“We wanted to come out with a much better effort tonight, which I thought our guys did; I’m proud of how our guys played tonight,” said Army coach Brian Riley
The Black Knights struck just 1:29 into the first period when forward Danny Colvin knocked in a loose puck that had just trickled past Colonials goaltender Brooks Ostergard.
From that point on, the game took on a choppy tone, as both defenses stayed focused and aware, daring the other side to bring the attack over the blue line. However, Colonials senior forward and team captain Trevor Lewis found his way down the right wing boards around Army captain Marcel Alverez, who ended up in the penalty box for holding at 7:52.
Less than two minutes later, sophomore Colin South tied the game with his second goal of the year from the slot on a deceptive shot that evaded starting Army goaltender Rob Tadazak. The freshmen netminder made amends on a short-handed breakaway save on Colonials forward Nick Chiavetta just several minutes later.
Army seized the lead back at 17:01 with a power-play goal from defenseman Mac Lalor, who rifled a shot into an open net as Ostergard had been forced from his position to make two saves and could not get back quick enough. Just when the scoring looked to be complete, the Colonials evened the game with just 15 seconds remaining on a surprising shot from a faceoff win in Black Knight territory. Freshman Scott Jacklin sent the sharp angle shot past Tadazak for his third goal of the year, with the assist lone coming from Cody Cartier.
Late period goals can turn the momentum of a game, and this one would have appeared to have given the Colonials an advantage going into the second period, but Tadazak kept the Colonials off the board despite many good chances. The game opened up in the second period, and one good Colonials chance after another was gobbled up in Tadazak’s glove, including a point-blank robbery of Colonials forward Adam Brace early in the period.
After some critical penalty kills, the Black Knights went to work on Ostergard, tilting the shots for the period in their favor. Rigatti, in only his second game as a defenseman, broke up a near-perfectly setup two-on-one in the Colonials end with just under eight minutes to play.
The stage was set for a classic finish. Both teams kept the flow from the second period rolling, as each shift seemed to produce chances. Then at the 2:52 mark, Alvarez atoned for his earlier penalty by sending a long shot past Ostergard through traffic on a play where the Colonials had an opportunity to lift the puck out of the zone safely, but failed. It was a perfectly placed shot that might not have been as hard as he would have liked, but was deadly accurate.
With the goaltending clinic from both keepers still being performed, it seemed that it would take an extremely brilliant effort to score once again. That’s exactly what it took to tie the game.
Colonials senior forward Cody Crichton found himself in the right place at the right time and in perfect position to take the puck in neutral ice behind the Army defense, in a play that had resulted from a 50/50 puck battle in the Colonials end. Once he received the loose puck, Crichton was off to the races, and easily pulled Tadazak out of position for the breakaway goal at 3:40.
With the game tied, both teams kept their foot on the gas in an effort to score the game-winner. The hitting aspect of the contest heightened, and the breakaways and two-on-ones kept coming at a torrid pace. The fans in attendance were treated to some of the most thrilling hockey of the year thus far, and both teams gave every ounce of energy for securing the game-winning goal. However, at the end of 60-hard-fought minutes, the score remained tied.
In a bizarre twist in overtime, following a scrum near the Colonials net, both teams found themselves without three players at the :54 second mark. The Colonials had to go without the services of Crichton, Brace, and defenseman Tyler Hinds, and Army without Andy Starczewski, Mike Hull, and Colvin.
The complexion of the overtime completely changed at 2:44 when Army forward Brian Schultz was sent off for hooking. The stage was set for a Colonials victory, but Tadazak saved his best for last, stopping all six shots in overtime to preserve his team’s hard-earned point.
“This was a very entertaining game for the fans, but it’s kind of tough for coaches,” said Riley. “Some of his (Tadazak’s) saves at the end, he came up huge. He’s played some great games for us; we just need to find a way to score some goals.”
The tie moved the Colonials’ record to 5-6-1 on the year, while the Black Knights now find themselves 1-6-5 thus far. The Colonials will travel to Sacred Heart next weekend, while Army will entertain Mercyhurst in Atlantic Hockey action.