NEVILLE TWP, Pa. — If the Air Force Falcons were expecting the Robert Morris Colonials to fold up during Saturday night’s game at 84 Lumber Arena, they had another thing coming.
What the Falcons encountered was a Colonials team that shook off its uneven performance in Friday night’s four-goal loss and played with a sense of urgency for a complete 60 minutes in a 2-1 victory that had a playoff atmosphere in front of a packed house of fans.
Sophomore forward Alex Tonge’s two goals proved to be enough offense, while at the other side of the rink, goaltender Francis Marotte got the call again after having been pulled the night before and rewarded the decision with a 23-save effort to help the Colonials rebound to earn a critical split in Atlantic Hockey action.
“I was really proud of how we responded to adversity,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “We had a lot of adversity going into the game. I thought our first period was outstanding, I thought we did what we needed to do in the second and in the third period. It was a war. There’s a lot of bumps and bruises on everyone’s body right now. It was a hard fought, exciting hockey game. Hats off to our guys who found a way to battle through it. ”
From the drop of the puck, the Colonials looked like the team that the Falcons were on Friday, winning the loose puck battles and being a stride quicker than their opponent.
Tonge put the Colonials in the lead with a power play tally at 4:25 when he put the puck behind surprise starting Falcons goaltender Billy Christopoulos who made some tough saves to keep his team in the contest. Both Christopoulos and Marotte could be credited with very good performances on the night.
“I thought both goalies were solid. And I thought in the third period it was more of a territorial battle,” Schooley said. “I didn’t think Franky had to be huge and outstanding, but he made every save he had to make. ”
For Marotte, it was a chance to shine in a critical game against one of the top team’s in Atlantic Hockey following a performance on Friday that saw him allow three goals in the first 25 minutes.
“We kind of hung him out to dry yesterday,” Robert Morris captain Rob Mann said. “So we talked about making sure we had a solid performance in front of him and like usual, he didn’t disappoint. ”
Tonge put the Colonials in front by two at 9:49 of the second frame, finishing a loose puck in a goal mouth scramble for his 13th goal of the season.
“I tried to simplify my game tonight because last night it really just wasn’t working out.” Tonge said. “So tonight we simplified, got to the net and I was lucky enough to be in the right spot. We definitely wanted to push them back and make them play in their end and we did that as much as we could. ”
And that was exactly just what the Colonials did in a third period where every puck advancement seemed to be met with physical punishment. The Falcons were not able to generate much in the way of momentum or scoring chances thanks to a Colonial side that perhaps learned a good bit about how to compete against one of the best teams in the conference year in and year out.
“I think we saw what happened last night in the second period, ” Mann said. “We had a lot of jump in our step and to come out and get a quick goal was huge. I thought we played a really good second period yesterday, so we wanted to take that period and replicate it. Having a good start was vital to this game and obviously we did that.”
Forward Daniel Leavens extended his scoring streak to seven games. … Freshman defenseman Sean Giles recorded an assist for his first career point. … Forward Kyle Horsman (back) played his first game Nov. 27.
The Colonials, now tied for third place in the Atlantic Hockey standings, are also just two points out of a share of the lead. The team travels to Holy Cross for games next Friday and Saturday.