Friday night opened Atlantic Hockey play for the first time since the Holiday hiatus. Atlantic Hockey’s leader, the No.20 Robert Morris University Colonials hosted the Bentley Falcons at the 84 Lumber Arena in Pittsburgh last night, for the first of a 2-game series.
Notable Topics from the Colonials and Falcons
The Colonials have been busy since their return to the ice on Dec.29th against then-ranked Penn State, already playing 4 games as they went into Friday night’s tilt against Bentley. After beating Penn State in the Three Rivers Classic, RMU went on a bit of a slide, going winless in their last 3 games, and only scoring 4 goals over that span, despite being College Hockey’s most potent offense heading into the holiday break.
While the Colonials have seen a lot of action over the past ten days, the Falcons have not played a game since Dec. 14th. Bentley currently sat in 3rd in Atlantic hockey prior to Friday’s game, trailing only the RMU and Holy Cross.
The matchup also featured two of the 56 recently announce Hobey Baker Finalists, in Bentley’s Alex Gladiuk, and Robert Morris’s Cody Wydo. Who both currently reside No.1 and No.2 in Atlantic Hockey’s scoring race, and Gladiuk sits atop of all Division I in scoring with 27 pts.
Any conference game following the holiday break is an important one in College Hockey, and this one was no different. The 1st period saw just about every player on the ice finishing their hits and playing a fast-paced style of game.
The game continued to go back and forth for the first 54 minutes of action, with Robert Morris obtaining the slight advantage in play for the most part.
A game which looked to be a sure fire 0-0 tie heading towards overtime, all of a sudden got flipped on its head thanks to a flurry of goals from Robert Morris.
After receiving a quick breakout pass from junior forward Matt Cope, junior Gregg Gibson wheeled the puck wide with speed through the neutral zone, creating a 2-on-1 opportunity for the Colonials. Junior Brandon Denham drove the net hard with his stick on the ice after beating a Bentley defenseman in a race to the front, where Gibson then opened up and feathered a pass to the front where Denham was then able to deflect the puck past the Bentley netminder to put the Colonials up 1-0 with under six minutes to play.
“That’s my game, to bring the puck to the net and always drive the net hard” said Denham. Whose 6th goal was good for his 2nd game winner of the season.
Shortly after the go ahead goal. Bentley’s Alex Kukiac took a hooking penalty, putting RMU on the power play. Sophomore forward Daniel Leaavens battled on the near side boards with a Falcons defender, found a way to come away with the puck and get it to junior David Friedmann right in front of the net who made no mistake, and buried the puck home for his 9th goal of the year. Extending the Colonial’s lead to two.
Daniel Leavens now has 18 points in 19 games this season, good for third on Robert Morris. Leavens was moved to the center position tonight because of freshman Brady Ferguson being out of the lineup.
“It’s a position I haven’t really played at all this year, but I think that Frieds (David Friedmann) and Jonsey (Jeff Jones) definitely helped me out. We didn’t play that much in the d-zone tonight, so it was a bit easier than I expected” said Leavens, on the position change.
Junior forward Zac Lynch finished off the late 3rd period outburst, by netting an empty netter with under a minute to play. Lynch picked up a loose puck in the slot of the Colonials zone, where he pushed it to the outside and was able to carry the puck to the Falcons zone and slide the puck into the yawning cage. It was also Lynch’s 18th point of the season.
RMU’s sophomore goaltender, Dalton Izyk, notched his 3rd shutout of the season. Backstopping the Colonials with 34 saves. Including 6 stops on Bentley’s Nation-leading power play, which went 0-2 on the night, thanks in large part to Izyk.
“I just did my job” said Izyk. “I made a few simple saves and the team did the rest, so I can’t complain. Hopefully we keep it up and if we play like that, it’ll be hard for us to lose.”
The three goals was the most Robert Morris has scored since the Three Rivers Class opener against Penn State. A team that was once the only team in DI averaging more than 4 goals a game, seems to be back on the offensive track after struggling to score the last 3 games. Robert Morris hosts Bentley again this evening at the 84 Lumber Arena, and can be seen on Atlantic Hockey TV.
Around Atlantic Hockey
Mercyhurst senior forward, Daniel Bahntge, had a career night at home for the Lakers. His 5 points helped lead Mercyhurst to a 7-2 home victory over Sacred Heart Friday night.
Canisius upset Atlantic Hockey’s 2nd seed, Holy Cross, in overtime. Freshman Ryan Schmelzer crashed the net and buried home his first career game winning goal to give the Griffins the win.
RIT hosted American International on Friday at Frank Ritter Memorial. RIT and AIC played to a 3-3 tie. AIC freshman tender Alex Murray notched 42 saves in the draw.
Air Force came from behind at home against Niagara to earn the 4-3 victory on two goals in the 3rd. Senior forward Chad Demers notched 3 points on the Falcon’s last 3 goals, and added his first game winner of the season with under 4 minutes to play.
Bill is a 2012 Graduate of Franklin Pierce University, where he played D3 NCAA Ice-Hockey. He covers Atlantic Hockey and D3 for the USCHO. He covers College hockey for THW.