NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Fueled by a strong effort in goal from Francis Marotte and a shorthanded defensive corps that got the job done, the Robert Morris Colonials took a 1-0 win over Holy Cross and a series lead in their opening-round playoff match up.
Marotte managed to stop 30 shots for his eighth career shutout, including an impressive 17 saves in the first period. Meanwhile, sophomore forward Nick Prkusic provided the only goal needed as the Colonials finished the determined effort which saw them put up 30 shots of their own.
“I think we played real well and the shots I didn’t see were blocked,” Marotte said. “That’s a huge plus when that happens. Obviously they were shooting everything and I was controlled the shots pretty well today so I felt good off the get go. We’re playing really well the last couple of weeks defensively so that’s making my job a whole lot easier.”
The Crusaders came out on fire, shooting at will on Marotte in the first half of the opening frame, however once the barrage started losing steam, Robert Morris took control and tilted the ice in a second period that saw the Colonials dominate play at times.
“It got a little tense but that’s playoff hockey and we found a way to get the job done,” RMU coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought we were really good in the second period and good in spurts in the first and third but we defended well. We have to get away from neutral zone turnovers because we were really good down low and if we can play down low against them we like our chances.”
Prkusic forced a turnover in the Colonials’ end and managed to tip the puck past the last Cursader line of defense, finding himself alone on a breakaway which he put behind starting Holy Cross goaltender Tommy Nixon at 6:43 of the second period.
“I was going pretty fast, so I thought I might be able to catch him by surprise so I brought it back and flipped it up and tried to get it past him,” Prkusic said. “The first period was a little bit getting the playoff jitters out of the way but the second period I think everyone was on the same level and playing playoff hockey and that was probably the difference. Winning three in a row and getting the first one in the playoffs is huge.”
Meanwhile, the Colonials’ defense was delivered a blow when freshman defenseman Nolan Schaeffer left the ice injured, leaving the team with a shorthanded scenario on the back line for yet another game. However, the remainder of the corps pulled it together, allowing just 13 shots over the final 40 minutes to make Marotte’s job easier and help preserve the victory.
“We were missing a senior and a junior tonight in Eric Israel and Sean Giles, two guys that have played a lot of games and we had four freshman in the lineup and they stepped up,” Schooley added. “Then to lose Nolan Schaeffer in the middle of the game to go down to five guys, we had to have some guys come up with a yeoman like effort. I thought Brendan Michaelian was good, Alex Robert was good and the other guys had some spurts and defended well and we got the job done.”
The two teams resume action on Saturday night at RMU Island Sports Center with the puck drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m.