NEVILLE TWP.,Pa- On a night when they needed their best players to be at their best, they indeed were. The Robert Morris Colonials matched their highest offensive output of the season, led by goals from Daniel Mantenuto, Jake Coleman, Nick Jenny and Alex Robert and defeated the Holy Cross Crusaders by a score of 5-1 on Sunday night at the Island Sports Center. The Colonials blew a close game wide open with three-third period goals while keeping their discipline in check. Meanwhile, at the other end of the rink, goaltender Justin Kapelmaster stopped 32 of 33 shots he faced in collecting the victory and seemingly never let the Crusders into the game as Robert Morris punched their ticket to the second round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs.
“I thought we were pretty complete tonight,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought we did a really good job getting one early which was outstanding. Our third period may have been one of the best of the year. We felt that if we got to a good start and we could extend the lead and do a little bit better job.”
Mantenuto got the Colonials off to an early lead when he swept a loose puck from between the circles to make it 1-0 at 2:12. Robert Morris then kept the pressure on the Crusaders and goaltender Matt Radomsky for the majority of the period, amassing a 16-10 shot advantage at one stage. However, the Crusaders turned their effort up a notch towards the final minutes of the opening frame and quickly closed the gap, testing Kapelmaster often between the final five minutes of the first frame and well into the second.
Perhaps the goal that turned the momentum of the game for good came off the stick of defenseman Nick Jenny who sent a shot from just inside the blue line past Radomsky at 11:57 of the second period. Jenny’s goal ignited his teammates as they would go on to seemingly dominate the territory for the rest of the period.
“The power play goal with Nick Jenny was a big boost,” Schooley added. “Because once we got that it kind of woke us up a little bit. Holy Cross tilted the ice in the second half of the first period and beginning of the second and we did such a good job tilting it back in our favor after the goal and had a really good ending to the period.”
In the final twenty minutes, the floodgates opened as Coleman, Robert and freshman forward Garrett Clegg vanquished any hope of a Crusader comeback with goals in rapid succession, making Radomsky, whom had performed at a very high level all series, look human in between the pipes. The offensive outburst seemed to exorcise the demons so to speak, as a Colonial offense which had been short on finishes in recent weeks, came roaring to life. In the end, the seniors were indeed the best players on the ice for the Colonials on Sunday night, and led the way to a critical series victory.
“You rely on your seniors,” Schooley said. “Your seniors have to be your best players. Credit to our seniors, here we go again. We’ll see if its the same magic as it’s been where we continue playing but that’s the goal every Monday, to still be alive and here we are.”
The series win puts Robert Morris through to the second round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs where they will travel to take on the Sacred Heart Pioneers. The Colonials were swept in their only weekend set against Sacred Heart this season dropping a pair of games by a combined score of 10-2. However, both teams have gone through some amount of change since then. Robert Morris finds themselves in somewhat familiar territory having defeated Bentley on the road in a second round series last year and other playoff road series wins in program history points to more than a punchers chance for the Colonials with the experiences to draw upon.
“They’re an outstanding team.” Schooley remarked. “They took it to us out there, they’ve got a deep team. We were beat up and injured. Kapelmaster didn’t play as much, he was sick. We’re a different team right now. They played a tough series against RIT last year and didn’t get to advance and they’ve got a lot of seniors, they’ve been built for this. We’ve got to make sure we get off to a good start but the biggest thing now is to recover.”