NEVILLE TWP. — Coming on the heels of the Robert Morris Colonials win at Ohio State on Friday night, every Colonial player, and a majority of fans in attendance at 84 Lumber Arena completely expected the Buckeyes to come out swinging in Saturday night’s contest.
The Buckeyes did just that, amassing a two-goal lead in the game’s first eight minutes. But the Colonials refused to flinch. Led by freshman Luke Lynch’s two remarkable goals — one via penalty shot and one on a shorthanded breakaway — Robert Morris erased two separate two-goal Ohio State leads en route to a 4-4 tie and a three-point weekend in their home-and-home series with the No. 11 Buckeyes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot at the start,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We knew they were going to come out with pride and they were going to come after us because we poked the bear last night, and they did. We came back, but we chased the game the whole time. Every time we’d get close, we’d shoot ourselves in the foot. I’m very proud of the effort and proud of the resiliency but we’ve got to eliminate some of our flaws. I thought our defense tried to do too much at times joining the play and turned some pucks over. All in all though, three points against the No. 11 team in the nation, it’s a pretty good weekend. But I still think we could have had four if we’d have played a full 65 minutes tonight.”
The Colonials had a good bit to overcome on Saturday night, more than their somewhat inconsistent play at times. Starting netminder Dalton Izyk was sidelined at the 1:27 mark of the first period when he came up looking worse for wear following a save, prompting Schooley to turn to junior Andrew Pikul.
Pikul was beaten for a goal from behind the net by Ohio State forward Kevin Miller just 2:59 into the game. But from that point on, Pikul would remain fairly solid and got better as the night went along. It was a performance that saw him make some highlight reel saves down the stretch to preserve the tie as the minutes wound down.
“I thought Andrew Pikul came in and settled down and made some big saves in overtime,” Schooley said. “I thought we worked hard and competed hard, at times we worked hard and took it took it too them and other times we didn’t seem to want to do that. I like our progress. I like where we’re starting to climb. It’s a young, inexperienced team that’s getting better and better and we should take some confidence from this weekend.”
The Robert Morris power play had been a huge portion of their offense coming in, scoring at a 28-percent clip coming into the evening. But without one to be had on the night, they’d have to turn to the five-on-five formula, and it was senior forward Daniel Leavens that got the Colonials rolling at 15:21 of the first, when he put the puck behind Buckeyes goaltender Matt Tomkins during a goalmouth scramble to make it a 2-1 game heading into the dressing room following 20 minutes of action.
That’s when the freshmen took over for the Colonials.
First, Matthew Graham stripped a Buckeye defender in his own end and and went in on Tomkins with the puck and buried his chance at 2:29 to tie the game. But the tie was short-lived as Buckeye forward John Wiitala beat Pikul twice in five minutes to put his side back in the driver’s seat by two goals with just under half the game left to play.
Lynch then picked the perfect opportunity to score his first career goal when he was awarded a penalty shot at 14:52 of the second that he buried past Tomkins.
Luke Lynch, Penalty Shot, GOOOOOOAAAALLLLL pic.twitter.com/1gZBnJDTO8
— Pgh Hockey Digest (@pghhockeydigest) November 6, 2016
Lynch wasn’t quite finished there. On a crucial penalty kill early in the third frame, he timed an Ohio State pass perfectly and took it in on goal, where he once again beat Tomkins for the equalizer.
It was a night when the Colonial’s resiliency was tested, and came through against a top opponent who was looking for revenge in front of a sizable crowd. And it was a moment that the Colonials found out more about what they’re made of.
“We gave them a good kicking last night so we knew they were going to come out strong,” RMU senior Daniel Leavens said. “Luke Lynch really stepped up with those two goals. We would have loved to have won that game, but it didn’t come our way tonight. You look at Matt Graham, Daniel Mantenuto and Lynch and they’ve all started to chip in more and that’s huge, it takes some pressure off of the top lines. We told the freshman this week that it’s going to be tough, Ohio State is a good team and a skilled team and we showed that we can hang with the big guys.”