MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — For the first 20 minutes Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena, the first-round Atlantic Hockey playoff contest between Robert Morris and Army looked as if it would be a tight affair with a close outcome.
But the Colonials took over the game with authority, using a six-goal second period that featured six different scorers, and cruised to an 8-4 win.
“That was a tough game tonight,” Colonials’ coach Derek Schooley said. “When you play so hard to get an 8-1 lead, it’s almost human nature to relax a little bit, but I thought we did a good job of keeping our foot on the gas. It’s tough to end a team’s season. We know Army’s going to come out with every thing they can tomorrow – they’re going to play hard and compete. We can’t look at it like it’s going to be easy tomorrow.”
The opening frame saw the Knights employing a spirited effort, resulting in a goal at 16:44 from Andrew O’Leary, who deflected a shot from the left circle from Zak Zaremba on the game’s first power play.
Starting Army goaltender Parker Gahagen turned back all eight RMU shots in the first, many of which seemed destined for the back of the net.
But the light at the end of the Army tunnel might just have well been an oncoming train.
The Colonials responded with a record period for which the Knights had no answer.
Colin South got the Colonials rolling in the second period when he put a rebound from a David Friedmann shot past Gahagen and then just 19 ticks later, Brandon Denham put his team out in front 2-1 by putting home a loose puck in the crease for his 10th goal of the season.
Matt Cope then added a goal at 4:16, which prompted a timeout from the Army bench.
However, if that stoppage was meant to refocus the Knights, the message wasn’t received.
The game opened up even more as Scott Jacklin and Cody Wydo both scored at 6:21 and 9:19, respectively, followed by Daniel Leavens’ first career goal at 11:56 to complete the dominant effort.
Leaven’s goal was a highlight-reel effort as he flew down the right wing boards, passing several Black Knights’ defenders en route to the net where he beat goaltender Tanner Creel, who had replaced Gahagen following the fifth Robert Morris goal.
The Colonials then added two more tallies for good measure coming off the sticks of Zac Lynch at the 32-second mark and Wydo, the game’s leading scorer with two goals and two assists, less than two minutes later to finish off the Robert Morris scoring.
The Knights didn’t collapse, though, coming up with three tallies in the game’s final 10 minutes to close the scoreboard gap.
“We felt pretty good after the first period,” said Army coach Brian Riley. “We were in a pretty good spot to be on the road and we gave up those two quick goals early in the second and you could see it just kind of gave them confidence. But I’ve said it about our team all year long, that we’ve got a lot of character and we showed that in the third period by not giving up and coming back with a couple of goals late. We just have to put this behind us tonight, tomorrow’s a new game and a chance for us to get it to a third one.”