MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The second-half surge from Robert Morris continued Friday night with a 3-1 win over visiting Air Force.
In an intense battle that produced a playoff-like atmosphere, the Colonials outshot their conference foe 41-24 and used a mix of opportunistic goal scoring, timely penalty killing and key saves from goaltender Terry Shafer to run their 2014 record to 5-1-1.
“The effort that we put into our backcheck and blocking shots tonight was phenomenal,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “Our work ethic, our mindset and our mentality was right tonight and the team that usually works hardest usually ends up giving themselves a really good chance of winning. Even our empty-netter at the end was an example of our work ethic tonight, where we hemmed them in five-on-six and got the goal. I thought Terry Shafer made some big saves when he had to as well and I was really pleased with our effort tonight.”
The Colonials set the tone early on in a first period that featured intense back-and-forth action and scoring chances.
Both Shafer and Falcons’ netminder Chris Truehl kept the scoreboard at zero apiece with a number of key saves.
Robert Morris ended up with a 13-7 shot advantage and outworked the Falcons to loose pucks while forcing a good many turnovers that they converted into quality scoring chances. In particular, the forward line consisting of Brandon Denham, Greg Gibson and Matt Cope seemingly kept the top Air Force line in check for great stretches of the game.
The scoring opened up at 1:15 of the second period when Colonials’ defenseman Chase Golightly slipped through the crease, taking a well-placed pass from forward Jeff Jones which he put through Truehl’s legs.
But the Falcons would ramp up their attack on a power play at 8:32 that featured two near misses, the first of which saw defenseman Adam McKenzie hit the left post, while Cole Gunner unleashed a shot from the left circle that missed a wide-open net. Had either opportunity dented the twine, perhaps the momentum swing would have made for a completely different outcome.
The Colonials seemed to feed off the near-misses and took their special teams to another level at critical junctures of the third period.
At 4:39 of the final frame, Colonials’ forward David Friedmann buried a shot from the right circle on a power-play chance to double the Robert Morris lead.
Then the Colonials killed off a two-man advantage for 1:31. The kill featured very little in the way of zone time for the Falcons thanks to numerous faceoff wins followed by three straight 200-foot clears from the Robert Morris penalty kill.
From then on, the Colonials kept it simple with a puck in, puck out approach that was executed well enough to keep the Falcons’ potent offense away from prime scoring areas in their attempt to get back in the contest.
With Truehl pulled and the extra attacker in play for Air Force, the Colonials put the game on ice with Denham’s fourth goal of the season at 18:11. The Falcons were able to get on the board with six seconds remaining as Mitch Torrel’s shot deflected past Shafer, spoiling his bid for his first shutout of the season.
“Robert Morris was very more determined than we were, they were pitching and we were catching the majority of the game,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore remarked. “We did have a couple of chances to score on the power play and it didn’t go for us, but when you’re playing as hard as they were playing the bounces usually go their way. As bad as it was going for us, Truehl gave us a chance, it was only 1-0 after two and we were outshot 32-13 and we needed to get that next goal and we didn’t.
“They were the better team tonight and they deserved to win and it wasn’t even close.”