PITTSBURGH, Pa. — A all-time record crowd of 1,589 witnessed the eighth installment of the Robert Morris/Ohio State series at Island Sports Center Saturday night. The contest kept alive a tradition that has remained since the teams first started playing one another in 2007, of the home team never being able to win.
The Colonials and Buckeyes forged an entertaining 2-2 tie that saw the Colonials take two separate one-goal leads in the first and third periods which were erased by two timely goals from the Buckeyes back line. In stark contrast to the previous night’s game, marred by many penalties and stoppages resulting in a ridiculous amount of faceoffs, Saturday’s game saw only six combined penalties and better flow for much longer stretches.
“Obviously, tonight was a lot easier for the players to play, there were fewer stoppages and much more flow than last night,” said Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki. “I think Brady (Hjelle) played really well for us tonight and made some really key saves, and RMU’s goaltender and defense worked well, they cleared out well for him. I thought it was great to see a couple of our defensemen step up with goals tonight; now we just need some of our forwards to do the same.”
The Colonials came out prepared to weather a Buckeyes storm in the first period, a storm which took a good length of time to organize. From the drop of the puck, the Colonials were the more intense side, carrying the bulk of the physical play and early scoring chances while the Buckeyes looked in need of a wake-up call.
That call came at the 5:47 mark of the first period when forward Adam Brace emerged from a neutral zone battle with both the puck and an open teammate to his left side, creating an impromptu two-on-one which Brace finished with a well-placed shot past Hjelle.
Around the midway point of the first, the Buckeyes got to their game, giving Colonials netminder Eric Levine his first action of the night. At the nine-minute mark, Ohio State nearly missed tying the score when leading scorer Tanner Fritz hit both pipes from close in. However, the momentum was short-lived, as the Colonials seemingly kept possession of the puck for much of the remainder of the opening frame.
The second period saw both teams playing an intense, physical, and well-played game. On a power play, Buckeyes winger Alex Szczechura sent a pinpoint pass to defenseman Devon Krogh at the top of the right circle, and Krogh fired it into the back of the net to tie the score at one.
It seemed that the goal might just open the floodgates for the Buckeyes, but the Colonials patiently went about the business of clogging the neutral zone and creating turnovers, winning loose puck battles on every shift.
As the third period opened, both teams’ game plans looked altered, as the skating opened up and the teams traded chances back and forth, putting the crowd on edge in anticipation of the next goal, which came at the 1:53 mark when Colonials defenseman Tyler Hinds used a perfect deke to create space while leaving the puck behind for a waiting David Friedmann, who put home his fourth goal of the season.
The Colonials then patiently sent one Buckeyes attack out of their end after another for most of the period, until they made the crucial mistake of icing the puck in the game’s waning moments. With just 3:24 remaining in regulation and a faceoff in the Colonials end, Buckeyes defenseman Craig Dalrymple tied the score at two, burying a faceoff win from Tyler Lundey past Levine.
With the game in overtime, the Buckeyes were awarded the last power play of the evening when Brace was sent off at :59 but they could not convert, thanks to a Colonials penalty kill that did not allow even one shot at the most crucial part of the game. The Colonials could not find the back of the net with any of their five shots in the extra frame. The final buzzer ended a three-point weekend for the Colonials, which pleased coach Derek Schooley.
“I was pleased with our effort tonight, but we stopped playing when they scored the goal to tie it in the third,” Schooley said. “We have to learn to put teams away. But overall, I thought our effort was outstanding this weekend. I thought Adam Brace was excellent tonight.”
The Colonials travel to Penn State for their first-ever meeting with the Nittany Lions next weekend, while the Buckeyes host conference foe Miami.