MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Robert Morris looked to be in a precarious position as the second period got underway in Sunday’s decisive Game 3 of the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals against Bentley.
The Colonials were down a goal to a determined Falcons team that was starting to get to their game — until the floodgates opened.
Daniel Leavens and David Friedmann scored two goals apiece in an eight-minute span that gave the Colonials all the offense they needed in a 6-3 victory that sent them to the conference semifinals for the third consecutive year.
“I thought in the second period we were outstanding, we played in their end, we played with emotion, we played physical and we took pucks to the net and capitalized on our chances,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “And I thought our third period was horrendous. We shouldn’t be in the box five times in a period. We found a way to survive, but we made it way too hard on Terry Shafer tonight. We did not finish the game the right way. We should win and lose with class and I don’t know how much of that we displayed in the third period. Hats off to Bentley. To play six games in 10 days and without some of their top guys is difficult, [but] they gave it their all. Ryan Soderquist did a great job in getting them to Game 3 of the quarterfinals.
Falcons defenseman Matt Blomquist put his side ahead at 8:51 of the opening frame when he found himself with the puck at the top left circle and with seemingly all day to shoot, Blomquist picked the top corner and sent a slapper that caromed off the iron and behind Shafer.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the rink, Falcons netminder Gabe Antoni pushed aside all 13 Colonial shots he faced, including several from point-blank range to help keep his team’s lead going into the locker room after 20 minutes.
The momentum appeared to follow the Falcons as they found a way to get a few more scoring chances early in the second period, but at 7:38, Leavens found a Chase Golightly pass in the crease and sent it through Antoni to give the Colonials the equalizer. He scored again less than two minutes later, sending a shot from a faceoff past Antoni at 9:33 to double the Robert Morris advantage.
The Falcons had a prime opportunity to provide a much needed response with a man advantage courtesy of a Greg Gibson boarding penalty at 10:13, but Matt Cope singlehandedly skated the puck out of his own end until he was deep in Falcon territory on the ensuing penalty kill and Jake Ahlgren was called for elbowing, negating a golden chance for Bentley to equalize.
Then Friedmann netted his pair of goals at 12:34 when he took a pass from Brandon Dehnam and waited out Antoni and then at 14:14 when he one-timed a wrister past Antoni from the top of the right circle to put the Colonials firmly in the driver’s seat at 4-1.
Zac Lynch then finished off the scoring for the period with a power play tally at 17:51
The third period saw a parade to the penalty box as Robert Morris went down a man five times in the final 20 minutes, opening the door for a potential Bentley come back. However, the cumulative effect of six games in 10 days appeared to take its toll on the Falcons, who had a hard time maintaining pressure or entering the zone on several occasions.
Michael Reardon beat Shafer with a shot at 7:58 to pull his team to a three-goal deficit until Golightly came through with a power-play goal of his own at 17:27.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the guys in this room,” Soderquist said. “They battled hard and gave it all they had.”
The win puts the Colonials in Rochester, N.Y., next Friday evening where they will battle Army West Point in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals.
Bentley ends the season at 14-20-6.