MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials have made a habit of making things interesting so far this season.
And tonight’s contest against the visiting Holy Cross Crusaders was no exception.
Senior forward Cody Crichton’s goal 30 seconds into overtime ended a dramatic, hard-fought conference battle that featured numerous momentum swings. The win firmly placed the Colonials into the top three in the Atlantic Hockey standings and added a little more breathing room there for the time being.
“I think both teams got after it pretty good tonight.” said Holy Cross coach Paul Pearl. “We made a few mistakes to give them the lead, but we also showed a lot of fortitude as a team to tie it. We just didn’t match their speed tonight and we made some poor puck decisions, but a lot of those have more to do with what Robert Morris did throughout the game.”
Robert Morris clearly looked like a team on a mission from the drop of the puck.
The Colonials generated scoring chances on almost every shift throughout the first ten minutes of the first period, first from forward Nick Chiavetta, who was stopped on a breakaway attempt by Holy Cross netminder Thomas Tysowsky. Moments later, forward Ron Cramer clanked a shot of the left post.
The Colonials finally cashed in when freshman Cody Wydo got behind the Crusader defense and finished a brilliant pass from captain Trevor Lewis, beating Tysowsky at 7:31 to give Robert Morris the early lead.
The Crusaders didn’t stay down for long, however.
As the first period started to reach the halfway point, the Crusaders got to their game which included maintaining puck possession for much of the last half of the first frame. The hard work and patience paid off as the Colonials found themselves taking penalties. The Crusaders then found a way through the very difficult Colonial penalty kill which had been operating over 94 percent for the year. Robert Morris goaltender Eric Levine had kept the Crusaders at bay with a flurry of acrobatic saves through the consecutive penalty kills.
However, Crusaders’ defenseman Matt Clune’s shot from the top of the circles made its way through traffic in the slot, changed direction and then beat Levine at 17:12 to tie the game before the end of the period.
The second stanza started as the first had ended, with pressure being applied by the Crusaders, but Levine kept making critical saves to keep the score tied.
The Colonials tilted the momentum in their favor by way of forcing turnovers in all three zones, opening up the game in the process. The Colonials used the more open ice to take the lead at 10:49 of the second when defenseman Josh Jones helped finish what had appeared to be a stalled three-on-one scoring opportunity, scoring his first goal of the season with assists going to forwards Tom Brooks and Zach Hervato.
Robert Morris appeared to seize control of the game at 15:25 of the second when Wydo scored his second of the game with a quick shot off a faceoff win, putting him firmly in the team lead in goals scored with 11, while giving his team a 3-1 lead at the end of two periods.
However, the Colonials still had to find a way to keep the drama in the contest and the Crusaders had no intention of letting any crucial conference points slip away without putting up a heroic effort.
Senior forward Erik Voss scored twice in the final period for Holy Cross. The first came at 7:55 and the game tying goal at 17:56 when Voss flew down the right wing boards and sent a laser beam past Levine which appeared to hit the crossbar before going in.
The Crusaders outshot the Colonials 14-6 in the third period and brought the score to 3-3 heading into sudden death overtime where Crichton scored the game-winner in similar fashion to Voss’ game tying goal.
Crichton’s shot came from the left circle and clanked off the crossbar and past Tysowsky.
“I’m sick of not being able to protect a third-period lead.” said RMU coach Derek Schooley. “A two-goal lead should be lockdown time. It was a good win for us tonight though, a character win.”
The Colonials and Crusaders finish their two-game series tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m.