NEVILLE TWP., PA. — Freshman Randy Hernandez picked the perfect time to score his first career NCAA goal, sliding the puck over the line during a late third period power play to give the Robert Morris Colonials a 4-3 win over the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers at Clearview Arena on Sunday evening.
The game-winner capped off a weekend sweep of a Chargers that displayed some heart and character but was unable to come up with goals.
“There were a lot of people put in different situations and for us to gut it out with two power play goals to tie it, and then win it, was good,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “I really liked our effort and compete level. We found a way to get the job done. We’ve got some work to do in some areas, but it’s good to be able to go 2-0 right off the bat.”
In stark contrast to Saturday night, the Colonials wasted no time getting on the scoreboard, as captain Nick Prkusic beat starting Chargers goaltender Derek Krall from close range just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff. From that point, Robert Morris went straight to work with much the same game plan, which included a good deal of puck possession, sustained offensive zone pressure and relentless forechecking. The Colonials finished the contest with a 29-21 shot advantage, but Robert Morris was unable to solve Krall, who with some timely shot blocks and some opportunistic goals kept the Chargers hopes for a win alive.
CHARGERS MATCH COLONIALS EFFORT
The Chargers got the most of a limited offensive output, relying on keeping the Colonials away from the dangerous areas while sacrificing the body while blocking shot after shot. Bauer Neudecker got the Chargers on the board while tying the game with his second goal of the weekend at 11:24. He was followed by a goal from defenseman Dayne Finnison, who gave his side the lead at 6:22 of the second frame. The Chargers effort kept the Colonials from mounting any momentum, keeping their opponent to the perimeter areas for large portions of the period.
“They did such a good job of blocking shots,” Schooley said. “They really sold out in front of their goaltender.”
SPECIAL TEAMS SPECIAL
Sophomore Santeri Hartikainen added to his growing list of important goals in his Colonials career, scoring the game-tying goal on a power-play at 19:29 of the second frame. Hartikainen took a pass from Prkusic, coming right through the slot and buried it with a hard, rising shot from the left wing circle that beat Krall in the top corner.
Robert Morris faltered on two golden opportunities to start the third period, generating very little in the way of good scoring chances in the first ten minutes. The Chargers took advantage of the lack of power play hunger as Neudecker found himself alone on a breakaway with a potential go ahead goal, but Cooper managed to turn his effort aside though with a sprawling save.
Hernandez then cashed in, giving the Robert Morris power play their second goal of the night. Robert Morris subsequently killed a crucial penalty in the waning minutes to salt away the result.
“We knew special teams would be important,” Schooley remarked. “But we really only had two days to work on it with our full team so to get a big penalty kill at the end of the game and a couple of big power play goals was huge.“
HE SAID IT
Playing a huge factor in the man advantage output was defenseman Nick Jenny, who seemingly refused to let the puck out of the zone as he came up with one key keep in after another.
“Nick Jenny I thought last night was the best player on the ice,” Schooley added. “He had a really strong weekend and he’s always been very good on the power play. The game just really flows for him right now. He’s slowed it down, he sees things and he’s got poise, sometimes he’s got so much poise he out waits himself. He’s our prototypical power play guy.”
The Colonials are scheduled to return to Clearview Arena next Friday and Saturday night to host their first Atlantic Hockey games of the season against Canisius.