PITTSBURGH — In a fiercely-contested Atlantic Hockey showdown, the Robert Morris Colonials downed the visiting Air Force Falcons in an overtime thriller at the Island Sports Center. The fans in attendance were treated to a terrific battle that featured few stoppages, great tempo, and hard but clean hitting.
“It was really great hockey game tonight; both teams played well,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “You really can’t ask for any more from a hockey game.”
The first period opened up with both teams skating at a torrid pace, which might have indicated a wild, high-scoring affair was in order. However, both the Colonials and Falcons came equipped with excellent goaltenders, and they both rose to the occasion. Colonials netminder Brooks Ostergard and Falcons netminder Jason Torf each put on a clinic at times, Ostergard stopping 23-of-24 shots on the night while Torf pushed aside 35-of-37.
The game’s first big save came at the eight-minute mark when Torf robbed Colonials forward Cody Crichton, who was in all alone bearing down on the net. Both teams became more patient as the period wore on, trying to take advantage of what few mistakes were being made defensively.
The second frame began in the same fashion as the first, with plenty of speed and scoring chances. The Colonials used their power play to open the scoring at 8:32 of the period when forward Adam Brace buried a shot past Torf from the top of the left circle. Brace’s goal was assisted with a brilliant pass from freshman defenseman Tyson Wilson, who found Brace with a backhand that was as flat and teed up as one could ask for.
Less than two minutes later, Falcons forward Cole Gunner took advantage of a mishandled puck just inside the Robert Morris blue line. Gunner stripped the puck from Colonials defenseman Jimmy Geerin, then used some deft stickhandling and a well-placed low shot that evaded Ostergard at 10:40 of the second to tie the game at one. The Colonials outshot the Falcons, 15-8, for the period, but could only muster one marker past Torf, who made several sensational saves.
For as great as the skating and flow were for 40 minutes of hockey, the final period saw an increase in turnovers and stoppages. Both teams took turns pick-pocketing the puck throughout the neutral zone as the game became more of a choppy contest. However, when chances did arise, both Torf and Ostergard stood equal to the challenges. Ostergard stopped Gunner from netting his second goal of the night with a point-blank save early in the third frame, while Torf stonewalled Colonials freshman Scott Jacklin, who was camped out directly in front of the net, at the 9:30 mark. The Colonials had a golden opportunity to take the lead when captain Trevor Lewis was hauled down late in the period, but the Falcons penalty kill allowed Torf to have a breather, as virtually no Colonials shot came near the net due to some timely shot-blocking.
Even though the Falcons dominated the territory early in overtime, Schooley had been entertaining the thought of pulling Ostergard, since nothing less than two points would mean much in the Atlantic Hockey standings. However, it wouldn’t come down to such a desperate situation in the end. Ron Cramer found the back of the net 1:59 into the extra period, burying the puck past Torf for his second goal of the season. The play was made possible with a huge hit from linemate Brandon Blandina, who separated a Falcons puck carrier from the disc, allowing Cramer to put the loose puck on net. Torf made the initial save, but Cramer put in rebound for the most important goal of his career.
“For the second week in a row, we only scored one goal; the margin for error is too thin when you only score one goal, and we got out special-teamed as well.” said Falcons coach Frank Serratore “Robert Morris did a better job getting pucks deep tonight, and we really did not manage the puck well at all.”
The teams close out their regular season Atlantic Hockey season tomorrow night at 7:05 at the Island Sports Center.