In their first game in three weeks, the Robert Morris Colonials gave a solid overall effort from the net out and found some badly needed secondary scoring in their 5-2 victory over visiting American International College.
The 781 spectators on hand were treated to a physical game, without much open ice, that once again saw the Colonials overcome failing to score the first goal, extending that dubious streak to 16 games. However, behind a somewhat retooled power play and some great saves by Colonials’ netminder Wes Russell, Robert Morris seized their first win since November 22.
The first period opened with both teams trying to shake off some expected rust from the holiday break with the Colonials having the advantage in territory and shots 10-6. A good number of home run style breakout attempts were thwarted by either team and had they connected, it could have set off an offensive showcase.
Just when play started to settle into more of a rhythm, the Yellow Jackets opened the scoring when sophomore forward Tom Mele punched home a loose puck for his sixth goal on the season with assists from Matt Woodard and Mike Millan at the 19:01 mark.
AIC opened the second period with seemingly all the momentum, creating turnovers in neutral ice and beating RMU to the loose pucks, yet they could not make the most of their opportunities thanks to some stellar play from RMU netminder Wes Russell, who made some point blank saves and kept the Colonials within one goal.
Then the rust came off the sticks. RMU freshman forward Cody Crichton tied the game at the 10:26 mark of the second. Taking advantage of a miscue courtesy of Yellow Jackets’ goaltender Tom Fenton, Crichton pushed the puck into a wide open cage for his first goal as a Colonial.
RMU then went to work on the power play, which coach Derek Schooley had recently retooled before the winter break.
“Sometimes we can get a little too cute, so we took a little of that cuteness out of it and made it a bit more disciplined.”
The preparation paid off, as Colonials’ sophomore defenseman Denny Urban let it rip from the center point, a shot which perhaps deflected somewhat before it escaped Fenton to give RMU a 2-1 lead at 14:32 of the second with assists from Chris Margott and defenseman James Lyle.
The last 5 minutes of the second frame saw Fenton keep his side in the game with a huge save on a short-handed breakaway by sophomore forward Chirs Kushneriuk and a stop on a Jason Towsley shot as he intercepted a pass in neutral ice and came storming down the slot.
However, the lead was short-lived. At the 1:28 mark of the third, AIC junior forward Chris Campanale took advantage of a Colonials’ turnover by firing a laser in the top right corner, beating Russell to his glove side, knotting the game at two.
The Colonials’ power play produced the game winner at the 3:36 mark. Margott skated with the puck over the blue line until he found the right angle and beat Fenton top corner to give his team a 3-2 lead which would not be relinquished.
After taking the lead, the Colonials quickly started looking like they had all facets of the game working well, skating with a purpose, forechecking with determination, and finishing their opportunities. RMU freshman defenseman James Lyle, the game’s first star, picked his spot and put the puck there with a rising shot from the left point to give the Colonials a 4-2 lead at the 16:17 mark. It was Lyle’s first goal of the season.
RMU sophomore forward Scott Kobialko put the icing on the cake with his empty-netter coming at 19:05.
Coach Derek Schooley put a letter grade on his teams effort tonight. “I’d give them a B-. We had some adversity in this game, and I liked the way we responded to it. I’m very pleased with our guys tonight. We had some mistakes, but for our team, to start off the new year like this, it’s good.”
RMU and AIC will meet again at 4:05 p.m. Sunday, January 4 once again at the Island Sports Center.