The first round of the CHMA Tournament is in the books. The higher seeded team came out victorious in each of the first two matchups as IUP took down Duquesne, thanks to a natural hat trick by Dom Glavach, and Slippery Rock outlasted John Carroll, defeating the Blue Streaks by a single goal in the first round for the second straight year.
Slippery Rock will play Pitt in the semfinals Saturday at 1:20 p.m. at Alpha Ice Complex. IUP will play Robert Morris at 4:20 p.m. at Alpha Ice Complex. The winners will meet at 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 1 at Alpha Ice Complex.
No. 1 Pitt vs. No. 4 Slippery Rock
Pitt record: 26-4 (13-1 CHMA)
Slippery Rock record: 11-13-2 (8-5-1 CHMA)
Season series winner: Split (SRU 6-5 Oct. 18, 2019 at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex; Pitt 8-1 Feb. 14, 2020 at Alpha Ice Complex)
Pitt last 10: 8-2 (7-0 CHMA)
Slippery Rock last 10: 6-4 (6-3 CHMA)
Who has the edge?
While Slippery Rock remains the only conference team to defeat Pitt in the regular season, the Pride’s most recent memory of the Panthers is the 8-1 pummeling they took at Alpha Ice Complex on Feb. 14, 2020. Pitt goaltender Matt Snader shut out Slippery Rock for most of that game and comes into this semifinal matchup well rested. Slippery Rock will most likely choose Kevin Belanger once again in net. He took a beating in Friday night’s game against John Carroll, making several desperation saves to secure a close 3-2 victory for his club to even get them to this point. Belanger is 8-6 in 17 games this season with a 3.91 goals against average and a 0.892 save percentage. It must also be noted that in that matchup just two weeks prior, he was chased after allowing 5 goals on 12 shots to Pitt. Expect Jon Szynalski to be prepared to step in Saturday if something goes haywire.
Pitt can also score at will from anywhere on their roster. In that Feb. 14 game against Slippery Rock, the Panthers scored eight goals from eight scorers, not including their top two – Oldrich Virag, out with an ankle injury, and Austin Tonkovich.
The Panthers, as a result, seem to have a decisive edge in this semifinal.
No. 2 Robert Morris vs. No. 3 IUP
Robert Morris record: 24-11-1 (11-3 CHMA)
IUP record: 18-10-1 (8-5-1 CHMA)
Season series winner: Robert Morris (3-2 Nov. 23, 2019 at RMU Island Sports Center; 10-1 Feb. 7, 2020 at S&T Bank Arena)
Robert Morris last 10: 6-4 (3-2 CHMA)
IUP last 10: 6-4 (3-3 CHMA)
Who has the edge?
Despite the most recent result between these two teams being a lopsided 10-1 victory for Robert Morris, IUP can prove, and has proven, that they can hang around with the best of the best. The Hawks took an early 2-0 on Pitt on Feb. 8 before falling 3-2 in that game. They held off a Duquesne rally the following week after leading 2-0 to secure the 4-1 win. Most recently, IUP’s quarterfinal win over Duquesne is the biggest reason why the Hawks can upset the Colonials Saturday. After scoring the opening goal then falling behind 2-1, Dom Glavach scored three straight to put IUP up 4-2 in the third period. That kind of 60-minute effort can propel a team into championship games.
On the other side, Robert Morris is no stranger to close games, but the Colonials can blow you out if needed. They have won seven games this season by five goals or more and six by a single goal. Regardless of how IUP plays them, Robert Morris has shown they can keep up when it matters.
Robert Morris also has a goal differential of +38, compared to IUP’s +11.
Do not be surprised for an IUP upset, but Robert Morris seems to have a slight edge.