PITTSBURGH – In a penalty marred game two of the opening round Atlantic Hockey playoff series between Robert Morris and Army, the Black Knights got the early lead and held on for a 4-2 victory to ensure a third game Sunday night. Army captain Brian Schultz led the way for the Knights with two goals, while goaltender Parker Gahagen stopped 34 of 36 shots he faced in the win.
“Obviously, tonight was a situation where we had to win to extend the season,” Army coach Brian Riley said. “I thought our guys responded tonight with a solid 60-minute effort. Tomorrow is a great opportunity; we get to play another day and I don’t know how many people would have thought we’d be in this position after Friday’s game, but the guys in our room did and we’re looking forward to another great game tomorrow night.”
From the drop of the puck, the Black Knights looked to hit anything that moved and were the more physical side in the early stages. Army opened the scoring at 18:55 when Schultz beat Colonials netminder Terry Shafer from the slot. The rest of the opening frame saw Army play with intensity while employing enough physicality to frustrate the Colonials, who were outshot 11-8 for the period.
However, Army was perhaps not in as good a shape as it could have been, as it watched four power-play opportunities fail to score. Army carried the lead into the first intermission, but instead of losing focus as it had the night before, kept the intensity and pressure sustained for the rest of the game.
They did so with help from a defensive effort that consistently blocked shots and an offense that managed to bury enough chances to keep the Colonials attack at a distance, while a steady stream of players went in and out of the penalty box, leading to very little in the way of even-strength play.
Army pushed its lead to two just 1:27 into the second when Joe Kozlak scored the first of two Army power-play goals, then managed a third goal at 4:38 when Schultz’s second of the night found its way past Shafer. Robert Morris forward Scott Jacklin then put a damper on the Army hopes when he batted a puck out of mid air into the net at 9:51, and for a brief moment it had appeared that the Colonials were on the way to a comeback.
However, Army defenseman Maurice Alvaraz took the air out of the Colonials momentum with his power-play goal at 14:28 to give the Black Knights their three-goal lead back. Jacklin then scored his second of the night when he found a rare Gahagen rebound, which he put into the cage with less than a minute to go in the period.
The Colonials would get no closer, as one Colonials penalty after another killed any chance of a comeback. Many of them were borne from frustration courtesy of a total commitment from Army to get the Colonials off their game. The teams ended up combining for 64 penalty minutes, as Army finished with an astonishing 11 power-play chances for the game while the Colonials managed seven.
“When you have to kill almost twenty minutes, it’s tough to get into any kind of flow,” said Colonial coach Derek Schooley. “We have to do a better job staying out of the penalty box and we have to find a way to get into some rhythm and some flow. We had some good chances tonight, but Gahagen made some good saves.”