PITTSBURGH — The Robert Morris Colonials once again sprinted out to an early lead Saturday night against the visiting Army Black Knights, but unlike Friday night’s contest, they encountered a much more spirited effort from the Knights, who overcame two separate two-goal deficits, pulling even with the Colonials in the game’s waning minutes.
However, Brandon Denahm’s goal with just over two minutes remaining proved to be the back breaker, as the Colonials ran their unbeaten streak to seven games with a 6-4 victory.
“I thought we were better in the first tonight than we were last night; we just let in a couple of soft goals,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “It would have been easy for our guys to shut it down when they fell behind, but I’m really proud of how they hung in there and came back not once, but twice. Obviously, Robert Morris is a very good team and they’ve got a very high-powered offense and you saw that tonight, but we made this a game and I’m proud of that.”
RMU’s Colin South started the action just 2:15 into the first frame when he scored almost instantly from a faceoff to the right of Army goaltender Tanner Creel.
Colonials forward Jeff Jones then went to work with two goals in less than three minutes, the first of which came at 12:52 when he beat Creel from close range, with assists going to Scott Jacklin and David Friedmann. Then Jones deflected a shot from the point by defenseman Tyson Wilson to collect his sixth goal of the season, which set a career high for the junior.
The Knights didn’t seem phased though, as they kept the pressure on the Colonials by creating turnovers and creating chances. Jones’ second goal prompted Riley to make a change in net, as Parker Gahagen replaced Creel. From that point on, the Colonials found goals harder to come by and the Knights started converting the energy to scoring chances.
Army capitalized on its first power-play chance at 4:12 of the second period when forward Joe Kozlak cleaned up a rebound in the crease to trim the Colonials lead to two goals. Then at the 11:11 mark, captain Brian Schultz took a perfect pass from Clint Carlisle and split the Robert Morris defense for a breakaway, beating Terry Shafer to put Army back in the game.
The Colonials responded almost immediately however, when Zac Lynch scored his 13th goal of the season from just inside the right circle at the 12:12 mark. The goal didn’t dent the Army effort, but with an offense that came into the night managing just 1.91 goals a game, the questioned remained if they could come up with enough to mount another comeback.
In the third period, the Knights outworked the Colonials during several stretches, displaying a great deal of desperation, evidenced by their physical intensity and puck possession, and they were rewarded.
Carlisle released a shot that just managed to get behind Shafer over the goal line to get the deficit to just one goal at 12:02, and then just minutes later forward Josh Richards poked home a rebound at 15:38 to tie the game.
However, the Colonials kept pressing to get their lead back, as Denham dove at a rebound from forward Matt Cope’s original shot with just 2:01 left in regulation. It was true effort from Denham and company, as the line of Cope, Denham, and Greg Gibson were rewarded for their hard work in the game-winning tally. Cody Wydo then sealed the game with his 19th goal of the season as he took a pass from his own end all the way down for an empty-net tally.
“Give Army a lot of credit, they didn’t quit and they probably deserved a better fate,” said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “They worked extremely hard, they were physical, they played us tough and I don’t think that we handled that at times tonight. The difference between this team now and back in November is that we found a way to win. It was an ugly win. We have to limit the mental errors; we deviated from the system at times tonight and they made us pay.”