PITTSBURGH – If looks can be deceiving, than consider tonight’s tilt between the Robert Morris Colonials and Niagara Purple Eagles testament to the adage. The Colonials were outshot 44-23 by the visitors, but made the most of their opportunities en route to a 5-0 victory. The win kept Robert Morris within one point of a top four position in the Atlantic Hockey standings with just four games remaining.
“Our goaltender was outstanding tonight, said Colonials coach Derek Schooley. “Terry was really good with tracking the puck tonight; he found it all night long. We blocked a lot of shots to keep that shutout going too. When you look at the shots, it looks like we got pummeled, and we were in our end a lot but I thought we did a good job of withstanding the pressure by keeping the puck to the outside and we made the most of our shots tonight.”
The Colonials were off and running early in the first when Scott Jacklin came cruising through the slot just in time to take a brilliant pass from leading scorer Cody Wydo, which Jacklin one-timed past Niagara goaltender Jackson Teichroeb just 2:05 into the game.
The Purple Eagles then put Colonials netminder Terry Shafer to the test by peppering him with 16 first-period shots which Shafer stopped, and when rebounds were left, a focused Robert Morris defensive corps steered them to safe areas consistently all night long. The Eagles almost drew even just past the halfway point of the first frame on a shot from close range from forward Patrick Conte, who had what looked to be an open net only to watch Shafer slam the door with a highlight-reel save.
However, Niagara wouldn’t let itself succumb to frustration. The Purple Eagles brought the same intensity over into the second period and looked primed to tie the game when almost every shift resulted in a scoring chance for stretches. Zac Lynch thwarted the Niagara momentum at 8:04 on a goal made possible by a key play from Jacklin, who kept a precarious puck from exiting the Purple Eagles’ zone. Jacklin then passed to Wydo, who gave the puck to Lynch in the slot, who beat Teichroeb to put the Colonials up by two.
Colonials captain Colin South then added to the lead at 16:04 of the second when he deflected a Chase Golightly shot, giving Robert Morris a three-goal.
In the long running rivalry between the two schools, it can be safely said that almost no lead has ever been safe, and though the Colonials had achieved a sizeable lead to start the third period, the possibility existed that it still wasn’t enough given the Purple Eagles determination.
However, goals by Brandon Dehnam at :59 of the final stanza, a long range shot that ended Teichroeb’s night, and David Friedmann’s tally at 4:32 made possible by an amazing effort from Jay Llewelyn, who found Friedmann at the side of an open net, made the final difference on the night, as the Colonials closed out the scoring and Niagara’s hope for a comeback.
“We actually did a lot of good things tonight,” said Niagara coach Dave Burkholder. “We stopped a very dynamic power play and we held an explosive team to 23 shots and when you hold a team to that, more times than not you’re in games and winning games. Robert Morris was opportunistic, their top guys got it done and we didn’t. But we didn’t quit, we worked hard and played clean. Shafer was the best player on the ice for both teams out there. If there wasn’t a scoreboard, this game looked like it was played by two really even teams.”