NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — In a gutsy effort on Saturday night, the 20th-ranked Robert Morris Colonials erased a late two-goal deficit late in the third period and ran their winning streak to five games as junior forward Aidan Spellacy’s goal broke deadlock in overtime for a 5-4 victory over the visiting Niagara Purple Eagles.
Spellacy pounced on a loose puck in the neutral zone and broke for the Eagles’ net, cutting through the right circle where he snapped a shot that made its way past goaltender Michael Corson at 2:47 into the extra frame. The win moved the Colonials’ record to 10-3-0 as the halfway point of the regular season approaches.
“That was a tired hockey team in the third period,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We were tired and we didn’t do a very good job of puck management. We just found a way to gut it out.”
Following a scoreless first period that saw the teams generate nine shots each, the Colonials struck for the early lead as freshman forward Kyler Head deflected a shot from long range that beat Corson 2:37 into the second period for his first career goal.
The teams then traded goals less than two minutes later as Niagara’s Justin Kendall beat Robert Morris netminder Noah West at 4:26. The freshman scoring parade continued just seconds later when defenseman David LaFrance scored his first career goal for RMU, putting a rebound past Corson to put the Colonials back in front.
The Eagles then proceeded to take over the game with a seemingly constant stream of offensive zone pressure, forcing the Colonials into turnovers and mistakes, followed by numerous icing calls. Niagara seized total momentum from the drop of the puck in the third period and tied the game on Kendall’s second goal of the night at 1:39. A goal by Ludwig Stenlud at 7:53 and a shorthanded tally from Christian Gorscak at 10:07 put Niagara firmly in control with a 4-2 lead and chased West from the net in favor of Dyllan Lubbesmeyer.
Robert Morris found a way to climb back into the game following some tremendous energy shifts courtesy of the line of Gavin Gulash, Cameron Hebert and Head and started turning momentum their way, tilting the ice towards the Niagara net where the RMU top line made its impact felt. Captain Nick Prkusic took a brilliant pass from freshman Randy Hernandez and beat Corson to make it a one goal game at 14:23. Then with the extra attacker in play in the waning minutes, Hernandez came through with yet another clutch goal as he wristed the puck from the right circle past Corson with a minute left in regulation.
“We knew Randy was an offensive talent and he’s been maturing as a hockey player the last couple of years,” Schooley said. “The Brooks Bandits did an outstanding job developing him as a player and to be able to finish that play to tie it and have chances to win it in overtime was huge.”
The win was the third in a row over their Atlantic Hockey rivals and second straight overtime victory following Thursday’s 3-2 victory in Niagara. To beat any team three times consecutively is a tall order indeed, and for the Colonials to accomplish that when the team’s finish their weekend series on Sunday, they’ll need to come hungry and bring energy.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Schooley said of the Niagara squad. “We’ve had back-to-back overtime games that we found a way to get the job done. Hats off to them, give them a lot of credit for the job that they did to put us in the hole. We feel fortunate to walk out of here with two points. We have to capitalize on the energy we played with in the last eight minutes of the game. We didn’t play with enough energy in the first 53 minutes of the game. They’re going to be a hungry hockey team and we need to make sure that we’re prepared and ready to go. “