Robert Morris forwards Brady Ferguson and Timmy Moore might not be household names yet to those who’ve been following along with the Robert Morris Colonials the past few years, but in the first two games of the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals versus the Bentley Falcons, they’ve come to the forefront with timely scoring and great attention to the defensive aspects.
Combined with forward Daniel Leavens, they’ve accounted for nine points thus far and on Saturday night, they provided the offense while goaltender Terry Shafer and the defensive corps stepped up their game a notch in a 4-1 victory to tie the series at a game apiece.
“We stuck with the process tonight and got timely goals,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “When you’re playing in the other team’s end and outshooting them 22-9 in the period, you’re going to get your goals. And in the third, we were advancing pucks and we weren’t trying to do to much and we played our game. You can’t say enough about how hard our guys played, we did everything we needed to do to be successful tonight.”
It was clear from the opening puck drop that the Colonials had one thing in mind: get a lead and keep applying the pressure, Ferguson provided the lead just 2:14 into the period when he took a perfect pass from Moore and cut to the net, sidestepping a Falcons defender and burying a shot past Bentley netminder Gabe Antoni from close range.
Robert Morris then went to work on stringing together one great cycling shift after another as the lines took turns living in the Falcons end early in the going, disrupted only by a Bentley power play that failed to score.
Despite the dominance, the Colonials stated the second period only up one goal, as Bentley desperately sought the equalizer at the start of the second frame. The Falcons had just started to apply somewhat consistent pressure for the first time in the contest, but they could not beat Shafer early on, though defenseman Billy Eiserman struck the iron to the left of the Colonials’ net in the opening moments.
Ferguson then doubled the Colonials lead at 6:38 of the second period when he took a Moore pass from behind the net and snuck it past Antoni from a sharp angle. The Falcons were still in the contest, but not for much longer as Colonials senior Brandon Denham found himself in a great position courtesy of a brilliant pass from David Friedmann. Denham took the long pass in stride near the Falcons blue line and went in on the breakaway, where he beat Antoni with a low shot to put Robert Morris firmly in the driver’s seat at 9:56
Bentley got one back at 15:47 of the middle frame when freshman winger Cody DePourcq redirected a Max French shot past Shafer to cut the Colonials lead to two goals. However, they could not muster another goal as the Colonials simply refused to be outworked for the remainder of the contest. Moore then provided the final margin at 16:24 when he blocked a Falcons shot at the blue line and ended up with the puck on his stick in a perfect position in the middle of the ice. Moore turned on the jets and put the puck past Antoni
The final frame saw the Colonials keep the puck out of their end, staving off any attempt at a Falcons comeback as the ice remained tilted for most of the final period. The two teams will settle the series Sunday evening at 84 Lumber Arena, and Bentley may be without forward Andrew Gladiuk, who was injured in Friday’s game, adding to an already depleted lineup, which Bentley coach Ryan Soderquist alluded to.
“Puck management is really important against Robert Morris, they’re a good transition team,” Soderquist said. “If you let them beat you in transition of odd-man rushes, you’re in trouble and we didn’t do a good job on the offensive blue line. We had three turnovers that ended up in our net. Our puck management has to be better and our first pass coming out of our zone has to be quicker. We have seven forwards in the stands injured right now so we have our challenges, but we’re going to be excited to take it on. We just need to keep them to the outside and limit their chances and we’ll be fine.”