Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Christopoulos blanks RMU in ppening game of crucial series

Erik Baskin
Air Force celebrates Erik Baskin's goal. -- JENN HOFFMAN

NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Solid goaltending from Air Force net minder Billy Christopoulos and some missed opportunities at critical points of the game, including what looked like a certain goal in the waning seconds, kept the Robert Morris Colonials from halting their current four game losing streak as they took a 1-0 loss at RMU Island Sports Center on Friday night. However, even with the loss, the Colonials still have a chance at a first round bye.

“I feel really bad for our guys because I thought we played very well,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said. “We missed four breakaways, and two wide open nets at the end. I hurt with them, because that’s a game we could have and should have won. we just didn’t score. We played so good and we didn’t get rewarded and that’s what hurts.”

The game was similar to the Atlantic Hockey tournament championship game between the two teams nearly a year ago with the Falcons clinging to an early lead and holding on at all costs to close out victory.   Falcon forward and leading scorer Erik Baskin provided all the offense his team would need when he buried a shot from the slot that beat Colonials starting goaltender Frances Marotte at 4:03 of the first period. Marotte would stop everything he saw the rest of the way, managing 22 saves on 23 Falcon shots.

EVERYTHING BUT THE GOAL

After a fairly even first period that saw the teams level at nine shots apiece, the Colonials took the play to the Falcons for the majority of the rest of the game, winning seemingly every loose puck battle and race for the entire second period. Christopoulos saved the day for the Falcons as he came up with shorthanded breakaway saves on Timmy Moore and Brady Ferguson and several other key saves on 10 Colonial shots to keep his team in the lead. The Colonial penalty kill stepped up and killed off a five minute major with precision and purpose, blocking shots at will and turning 50/50 pucks near the blue line into instant offense as they pushed the pace hoping to find a tying goal. While at even strength, Robert Morris seemed to gain more confidence with every shift.

In the final frame, Robert Morris managed 10 more shots, but perhaps the best chance came on a puck that Colonial forward Spencer Dorowicz barely missed which trickled to the open side of the net in the final five seconds of the game with Christopoulos completely out of position. For the Colonials, it was yet another microcosm of the season to this point which culminated in an effort that didn’t receive the reward it probably should have as they seemed to win the game in many aspects, but not on the scoreboard.

“It stings with the point we’re at in the season,” Colonial defenseman Sean Giles said. “Obviously these games are huge for the standings and seeing how it will shake out in the playoffs, but I think we played a really good game, I thought our effort was definitely there. Some nights it just comes down to execution and we’re just going to make sure those bounces go our way going forward. We just have to make sure that we stay with our game plan and keep getting everything to the net and if we’re hungry around the net we’re going to find those rebounds and that’s what’s going to get us over the edge. We’re a brotherhood and we know when we play our best and that execution follows that we can beat anyone in the country.”

CURRENT SCENARIO

Robert Morris now finds itself in a position to claim the fifth and final bye position in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs with a win and some help from others. The Colonials can take fifth with a win, an Army loss to Sacred Heart and an RIT loss to Mercyhurst. They’ll finish sixth with a win and an RIT loss and seventh with any loss or tie.

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