Robert Morris endured a 12-hour travel day last Wednesday from Pittsburgh to Anchorage to win two straight games and the Nye Frontier Classic last weekend.
And the Colonials upset a nationally-ranked team along the way, too.
RMU used three third-period power-play goals to topple then-No. 9 Boston University in its opening game last Friday.
“Christian Boucher (33 saves) played outstanding in goal for us tonight,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley of his senior netminder. “Our seniors stepped up in the third period and provided great leadership for our team. I am very proud of the team, but we need to realize this is just one game.”
The Colonials fell behind early with two BU goals, but RMU would not go away quietly, getting three goals in the final 14 minutes of the game from senior Sean Berkstresser, freshman Scott Kobialko (his first career goal) and senior Tom Biondich.
Robert Morris was then crowned the Nye Frontier Classic champion Saturday evening after defeating Wayne State, 4-1.
The Colonials have started the 2007-2008 season 2-0, which marks the first time that has happened in the program’s history.
“I can’t say enough how proud I am of this team and the effort that they gave this entire weekend in Alaska,” said Schooley. “We played great defense all weekend and combined that with stellar goaltending. We received many timely goals from many different players.”
On Saturday, RMU picked up in the first period where it left off in the third period of Friday night’s contest by scoring the game’s first four goals, including two markers in the first session.
Senior Ryan Cruthers, freshman Nathan Longpre (first NCAA goal), junior Jason Towsley and senior David Boguslawski scored in the victory.
Wayne State’s Jon Grabarek broke up RMU’s shutout bid with a power-play goal at the 17:06 mark of the third period, when he beat sophomore goalie and Quinnipiac transfer Wes Russell.
Russell played the final 9:05 of the game. Boucher had stopped all 19 shots that he faced to that point.
Three Colonials were named to the All-Tournament Team: Boucher, Cruthers and Towsley.
Next up is No. 13 Wisconsin this weekend in Madison. Is another upset in the making?
“The Badgers are a nationally-recognized program with some high-end first-round talent,” said Schooley. “They play a very good defensive game and are well-coached. The Kohl Center is an excellent atmosphere to play in, so it should be a very challenging, fun weekend for our program.”
“(Robert Morris is) an interesting team,” Badgers head coach Mike Eaves said in the Capital Times of Madison. “They have 14 seniors and they’ll be a crusty, old bunch of college students who are probably as old as Ross Carlson was (25) when he graduated.
“It’ll be a challenge. They’ll be strong, they’ll be physical and they’ll want to make another statement this weekend. So I think it’s a benefit the fact that they beat BU because that’s going to get our attention for sure. If anybody was thinking who the heck Robert Morris is, they put themselves on the map last weekend.”
Schooley wishes more people would take a look at that map.
“I don’t know how many people in Pittsburgh understand what we have here,” Schooley noted in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “It’s pretty special.”
Niagara Does Weekend Split
Son bested Dad in the father-son showdown at Merrimack last Friday night as the Warriors (and sophomore defenseman Dave Burkholder, Jr.) beat Niagara (and head coach Dave Burkholder), 4-2.
The Purple Eagles fell behind 3-1 after two periods, but came out on a mission in the third, outshooting the Warriors 11-5 in the final 20 minutes. Senior captain Matt Caruana scored in the middle period and Kyle Rogers in the third, but Merrimack added an empty-netter to seal the victory.
“Our third period was our best period of the night,” NU’s Burkholder said. “But we need to bring that for 60 minutes. Merrimack played unbelievable defense and their goalie played terrific.”
Following the game, Burkholder met near center ice with his son and the two shared a hug. The family affair took an interesting twist prior to the game, as Merrimack head coach Mark Dennehy’s wife gave birth to the family’s third daughter, Karolyn.
Saturday night, Niagara exhibited its blueprint for defeating Holy Cross: fall behind early and come storming back.
It worked last season in a 5-4 overtime thriller and it worked Saturday as the Purple Eagles beat the Crusaders, 6-2, to earn their first victory of the season. Niagara fell behind 2-0 in the first period and then scored six unanswered goals.
“In the first period, I felt that we played very well five-on-five, but we spent 13 minutes on the penalty kill,” Burkholder said. “We felt that once we got one, we would be all right. Then they came one shift after another.”
Sophomore Egor Mironov had his second three-point game of his career with a pair of goals and an assist and junior co-captain Vince Rocco added two third-period tallies to help freshman goaltender Adam Avramenko earn his first career victory.
Junior Ted Cook and sophomore Chris Moran also scored for NU and junior Les Reaney contributed three assists.
Cook’s goal, like 21 he scored last season, came on the power play.
Bemidji Arena Deal To Be Nixed?
Bemidji State president Jon Quistgaard has given the men’s hockey program two goals to reach by the end of the year — get into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (even though an expansion moratorium has been put in place by the WCHA) and raise $2.5 million to ensure the financial viability of the BSU program.
Easier said than done, but that may all go by the wayside if Bemidji City Council has its way and delays construction of a new arena in the city.
City Councilor Jerry Downs last week said the city is working with Bemidji State to try to reach a lease agreement on the proposed events center. He would prefer to delay the project one year rather than continue forward without a specific proposal.
“You can’t put a square peg in a round hole,” he said in the Bemidji Pioneer. “We’re not going to force this project.”
If questions are still unanswered by Dec. 15, Downs suggested that the project be put on hold for a year.
In a year, there may be no BSU hockey, even though Quistgaard has noted that he has no intention of folding the program a la Wayne State.
Former BSU hockey coach and current CHA commissioner Bob Peters said that the team had already raised $100,000 as of two weeks ago. Peters said the majority of the remaining monies would be raised through the sale of suites in the new rink. He also said that he recently spoke with the WCHA and the conference is all in favor of BSU’s efforts.
“There is a great deal of support coming from the WCHA,” Peters said in the same Pioneer article. “They do not want to see a team from the great state of Minnesota go down.”
But an arena needs to be in place first, and if that is delayed a year …
Bemidji State Sweeps Away Army
The Beavers christened their 52nd year of hockey at the university with a two-game sweep of Army last weekend on home ice.
Friday, junior Travis Winter fired a shot through heavy traffic in front of the net with 3:12 to go in the third period to break a 1-1 deadlock and lift BSU to a 2-1 win.
The Beavers found themselves down 1-0 before most of the 1,382 in attendance had time to get in their seats. Owen Meyer put the first shot of the season over the left shoulder of Bemidji State senior goaltender Matt Climie just 32 seconds into the game.
Senior co-captain Jake Bluhm buried a one-timer from St. Cloud State transfer Matt Francis to tie the game later in the period.
Army looked to have taken a 2-1 lead midway through the third period on a shot off the stick of Luke Flicek. Climie was taken out on the play and the referee quickly waved off the goal. After a brief discussion between officials and explanations to both benches, the goal was disallowed due to an Army player being in the crease.
Freshman forward Matt Read earned his first collegiate point with an assist on Winter’s game-winner.
Junior goaltender Orlando Alamano turned away all 22 Army shots he faced for his first collegiate shutout as the Beavers completed the two-game sweep over the Black Knights Saturday with a 3-0 victory.
Bemidji State defenders also blocked 10 shots.
Freshman Jamie Ruff netted his first NCAA goal to give BSU a 1-0 lead early in the third period. Fellow rookie Ian Lowe was credited with an assist on the play for his first collegiate point as well.
Seniors Matt Pope and Blaine Jarvis each added empty-net goals during the final 25 seconds to secure the victory.
Alamano, now 4-2-0 in his career, posted his first win since a Jan. 6 victory versus Wayne State. It was also the first BSU shutout since Climie made 21 saves in a 1-0 win over Wayne State last Dec. 1.
Bemidji State’s sweep of Army extends the Beavers’ winning streak to four games as the team is now 4-0 versus the Black Knights all-time.
Wayne State Off To 0-2 Start — Again
Wayne State lost both of its games last weekend at the Nye Frontier Classic and in doing so started the season 0-2 for the third straight year.
Senior captain Mike Forgie and junior Derek Punches scored for the Warriors Friday, but three straight goals by Alaska-Anchorage in the second period proved to be the difference in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
The Seawolves doubled Wayne State’s shot total, 26-13, while both sides went 1-for-4 on the power play.
Sophomore goalie Brett Bothwell stopped 21 shots for Wayne State.
With the loss to Robert Morris Saturday night, it marked just the third loss to RMU all-time and the first since Feb. 11, 2006.
“Last year, we went down there (WSU) and had a weekend we’d like to forget,” RMU senior forward Ryan Cruthers said prior to last weekend. “But then they came up here and beat us two straight. We need to turn that around.”
Freshman goaltender Kyle Funkenhauser, making his first collegiate start, totaled 18 saves and held Robert Morris to one power-play goal in eight chances.
Wayne State’s six-game road trip continues this weekend as the Warriors head to Ferris State.
UAH Blue-White Game Goes To Shootout
In an exciting come-from-behind contest, the Alabama-Huntsville White squad rallied from a 4-0 deficit to top the Blue team, 6-5 in a shootout, on Saturday afternoon.
The first three shots by junior forward Josh Murray of the Blue team found the back of the net. Junior forward Kevin Galerno made it a 4-0 lead minutes after Murray’s third goal.
The White squad finally got on the scoreboard when freshman Andrew Coburn scored. White junior forward Matt Sweazey then added a hat trick of his own.
Freshman forward Brady Cook then gave the White team their first lead of the afternoon at 12:34 of the second period.
Sophomore forward Cale Tanaka tied the game for the Blue team.
The shootout saw Morrison score the lone goal as the fourth man in the lineup for the White squad after both sophomore Blake MacNicol and freshman Cameron Talbot stood tall in net for the first part of the shootout.
“Defensively, I’m not real happy,” UAH head coach Danton Cole said in the Huntsville Times. “But once they settled down and remembered the system, they did all right. There were some good things, but this is going to be a process.”
Freshman goalie Wyatt Russell also saw action during the contest.
Colonials Get Local ’08-’09 Commitment
Robert Morris has reportedly received a verbal commitment from Pittsburgh-area native Furman South, a 19-year-old defenseman with the Baystate Breakers of the Eastern Junior Hockey League.
A Sewickley native, the 6-foot-2, 198-pound South has two goals and two assists with 20 penalty minutes in eight games this season.