NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials brought a new level of desperation and focus into the first game of their best of three first round playoff series against the visiting Bentley Falcons.
The energy transferred to a solid victory against a historically tough opponent, as the Colonials made their way to a 3-1 victory to take the early series lead.
The Colonials managed to out-hustle and out-execute their opponent for the majority of the game and held off a strong third period push from the Falcons.
Paced by two goals from Alex Tonge and 37 saves from Francis Marotte, the Colonials found themselves brimming with some confidence that had been somewhat lacking in their recent six game winless streak.
“I thought we played with a lot of intensity and we played for sixty minutes,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought our attitude for the most part was good, we didn’t get frustrated, we kept working and doing the little things that you need to do to be successful. That’s playoff hockey. every shift matters. They’re a tough team to play against. For some reason we don’t match up well, they don’t give us a lot of time and space and they do a lot of things as far as blowing zones and trying to catch our defensemen in certain areas. They gave a good effort tonight and their push back in the third was very good so they’ll take that as a positive and we’ve got to be ready to go tomorrow.”
A PERFECT PLAY
At the midway point of the contest, the solid effort had not yet been rewarded for the Colonials, as none of their 25 shots on goal managed to get past Falcons netminder Aiden Pelino, who made one tough save after another and looked unbeatable in the early going. A perfect play seemed like what it would take to beat the sophomore goaltender, and that play came off the stick of Tonge, who took a brilliant feed from senior Timmy Moore, who was bearing in on Pelino from the right side on a three on two rush. Moore was able to thread the pass to Tonge who then feathered it past the raised arm of Pelino to give the Colonials the crucial first goal.
“Fergy made a nice play over to Timmy and he put it across and I was just able to skate into it,” Tonge said.”
MAROTTE, PK TOO MUCH TO OVERCOME
Trailing by a goal entering the third period, the Falcons pushed back hard down and outshot the Colonials by a 15-3 margin, aided by three-third period power plays. However, they were thwarted by Marotte’s glove hand and efficient movement in a performance. When there was a rebound, the Colonials defense was able to sweep pucks out of the dangerous areas all night long while the penalty kill did the job in a cool and calm manner, stopping five of the six Falcon chances on the night with the loan goal coming in an extra attacker situation off the stick of leading scorer Kyle Schmidt.
“It’s a new season, whatever happened in the past is done,” Marotte said. “Guys are playing hard with a good mentality. We kept it tight at the end, just stayed calm and we knew we would come out with the win. We battled hard against them all year and we had some tough games but we knew we could beat them if we played hard.”
Meanwhile, Colonial forward Brandon Watt doubled the lead when he took a feed from Moore that he ripped past Pelino from the slot for his second goal of the season.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Watt said. “I jumped over the boards on a change and they tried to rim it. Doro might have stopped it and then I was just breaking in and Timmy fed me.”
Since returning from injury earlier in the season, Watt has been playing solid two way minutes and while much of that work does not always show up on the score sheet, Watt’s goal in Friday’s game was as timely as they come and gave the Colonials much needed breathing room.
“Throughout the night I was playing with Coleman and Dorowicz and I think a big part of our game is playing defense first, playing responsible but we can also contribute offensively. There’s a lot of chemistry there, they’re both great players. Our coach always says the hardest thing to do is end a team’s season. Those guys are going to come out do or die tomorrow night and come out firing on all cylinders. It’s going to be extremely important that we play defensively responsible and continue to play our game offensively and if we do that I think we’re going to be successful.”
Here they come… pic.twitter.com/jcdXWv198J
— gary heeman (@GHeemanUSCHO) March 2, 2018
Let’s see that again, in slow motion this time: pic.twitter.com/RqkpIGU1TO
— RMU Hockey (@RMUMHockey) March 3, 2018
— RMU Hockey (@RMUMHockey) March 3, 2018
Game 2 between the Colonials and Falcons will take place on Saturday at RMU Island Sports Center with a 7 p.m. faceoff.