NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Senior Daniel Mantenuto’s power play goal with 51 seconds remaining in regulation propelled the Robert Morris Colonials to an important 4-3 victory over the Canisius Golden Griffins on Saturday night at the Island Sports Center.
The win kept the Colonials’ hopes for a home playoff series- or even perhaps a first round bye in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs- afloat. It also saw them display glimpses of the team that they hoped they’d be at the start of the season during a three goal second period where they completely controlled the game and their opponent.
After a first period that saw the Griffins arrive first on the scoreboard with a goal off the stick of Kevin Obssuth, Robert Morris threw the puck on the net with precision and purpose in the middle stanza. Freshman Roman Kraemer got the Colonials rolling with his third goal of the season at 4:36, followed by goals from seniors Michael Coyne and Luke Lynch. Coyne made it 2-1 when he put a puck from close range past starting Golden Griffins net minder Jacob Barczewski at 10:44, while Lynch added his tally less than a minute later.
“We put it all together,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “We tilted the ice, we got pucks to the net and we worked hard. We just have to do a better job protecting a two goal lead in the third period. I think we’re doing a better job of getting to our offensive principles and we weren’t at the beginning of the year with getting pucks to the net and having net front presence and having our feet in the circle on the short side. Things that Ryan Cruthers was preaching at the beginning of the year I think are finally starting to come in the direction that we want it.”
GRIFFINS FIGHT BACK
For as good as their play was in the second period, the Colonials were an undisciplined and somewhat careless bunch for a large portion of the third period. Robert Morris put themselves shorthanded by two skaters on two separate occasions as they spent almost the first half of the period a man down. Heads up plays and timely saves from starting goaltender Justin Kapelmaster initially indicated a strong Robert Morris penalty kill. But a pair of power play goals from Griffin forwards Grant Meyer and Ryan Miotto tied the score at 3-3 as time wound down.
“Our discipline was not good to start the period,” Schooley said. “We had to kill for a long time. We got almost all the way through it and they got one at the end. Our puck management wasn’t where it needs to be. It was exciting for the fans and we got the job done at the end. Our power play stepped and won us a hockey game.”
KAPELMASTER STRONG IN RETURN
The Colonials came into the game riding a two game winning streak stemming from two solid performances from sophomore goaltender Reid Cooper, allowing just three goals in over 120 minutes of hockey during those games. But on this night the net belonged to Kapelmaster, who looked at the top of his game while making one key save after another when it mattered most and stopped 30-of-33 shots in the victory.
“He was very good,” Schooley said. “He was mad that we kept taking penalties and then he got ran into at the end of the game so he was a little fired up. He’s been a good goalie all year and Reid Cooper played really well the last couple of games but Justin’s been our guy. We wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for him and it’s good for Reid that he’s done well down the stretch but it’s senior night so Justin earned that.”
SPECIAL GROUP OF SENIORS
Seven skaters stood on the blue line in pre-game ceremonies on Saturday night that have all contributed to what the program and it’s competitiveness have become over the years, and they didn’t disappoint on their night. Manenuto led the way with a goal and assist while Lynch and Coyne added critical goals while Kapelmaster made saves on difficult shots. Defensemen Alex Robert and Sean Giles blocked four shots a piece and forward Jacob Coleman added an assist and put three shots on the net.
“Six of them have been to three straight Atlantic Hockey final fours and they’ve won a lot of playoff hockey and played a lot of minutes, ” Schooley said regarding his senior class. “Jacob Coleman has had his best year as a senior, Luke Lynch is a 100 point guy, Daniel Mantenuto has played in all roles and all scenarios and Michael Coyne’s having his best year. He could have graduated but he came back and has been outstanding for us. Giles and Robert have played a lot of hockey. Alex was our defensive player of the year and Sean has blocked a lot of shots over his career”
The Colonials will close out their regular season with a pair of games at Niagara University next Friday and Saturday night.