NEVILLE TWP., PA — Another Robert Morris freshman from the state of Florida came up huge on Sunday as Sanford native Matt Guerra scored a goal and added two assists to lead the Colonials to a 4-3 win over the RIT Tigers on Sunday evening at the Island Sports Center.
Captain Nick Prkusic provided the game winning tally in a win that gave Robert Morris their third series sweep of the season, upping their record to 8-3-0 on the season and a taking a temporary lead in the Atlantic Hockey standings.
The sweep, coupled with the gutsy loss to No. 7 Bowling Green on Thursday could potentially result in a national ranking when polls are released on Monday.
“There was a lot of heart and a lot of guts,” Derek Schooley said. “Guys stepping in and playing roles, Matt Guerra did that tonight and Geoff Lawson came in and provided some energy and we found a way to hold on.”
The Colonials overcame not only fatigue, but a skilled and hungry RIT squad that played with desperation at times.
“We definitely talked about fatigue,” Prkusic said. “But it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. They had to travel and play some games as well. We talked about when we are fatigued that we have to take care of the simple details, not turn pucks over and taking care of the neutral zone. We wanted to play a very structured game today and let the puck do the work.”
The two teams wound up getting chances as RIT worked in the Colonials end for extended shifts throughout the game, while Robert Morris found success with a strong counter attack game. The Colonials got on the board first at 3:52 of the first period when freshman Gavin Gulash chipped the puck out of the zone and followed it over the RIT blue line, sliding the puck over perfectly and Guerra who beat starting Tigers net minder Logan Drackett.
“We got a lead and played with a lead and extended the lead which was the most important thing,” Schooley said.
Leading scorer Grant Hebert made it a 2-0 game with a slippery power-play shot at 1:40 of the second period. The defense and goaltender Noah West went to work, keeping the Tigers off the board as the shots piled up. RIT was not able to capitalize and the Colonials seemed to do more with less.
Near the midpoint of the second period the Colonials top line turned a loose puck in their own, into a three on one in the neutral zone. Prkusic and Randy Hernandez worked their magic with a perfect passing play, and the freshman wound up in the left wing circle blowing it past Drackett, giving Robert Morris a stout 3-0 lead.
RIT got on the board during a late power-play courtesy of a major boarding call on Colonials forward Kyler Head. Former Johnstown Tomahawk Nick Bruce beat West from the bottom right wing circle, cutting the Colonials lead to 3-1. Robert Morris was able to kill the remaining major and went to the dressing room with the lead despite being outshot 29-15.
Prkusic found himself with a puck somewhat unexpectedly, corralled the biscuit and placed it upstairs to extend the Robert Morris lead at 7:08 of the final period. As the Colonials began to play a protect and survive game, the energy escaped them, and in the waning minutes and the Tigers climbed back into the contest. Daniel Willet fired home a shorthanded goal, and an extra attacker goal from Jake Hamacher with :35 seconds remaining rounded out the scoring.
“We were fatigued but our mind shut off there in the third period after we got that power play,” Schooley added. “We made it a lot harder on ourselves than it should have been. If there would have been a couple more minute we could be talking about a collapse but we found a way to get nine big points in three days.
The Colonials will next travel to Niagara University to take on the Purple Eagles on Thursday, January 7 at 5:05 p.m. The two squads will face off three consecutive matchups, with the final two being contested at the Island Sports Center on Saturday and Sunday.