NEVILLE TWP, PA. — The regular season finale at the RMU Island Sports Center featured a little bit of everything from drastic momentum swings, late third period heroics and a situation in overtime where an empty net stood for over a minute in bizarre fashion. And at the end of 65 minutes of hockey, the Robert Morris Colonials and Air Force Falcons found themselves tied at two.
Robert Morris forward Brady Ferguson’s goal at 17:05 of the third period sent the game to overtime and capped off a two-point night for the senior that included his record-breaking 157th career point. Meanwhile, starting goaltender Francis Marotte was impressive in holding the Falcons attack in check, turning in a 27-save performance with some key point-blank saves to keep the Colonials within reach.
“Today was a step in the right direction and we’ve been playing some good hockey,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “I would have felt bad if our guys again if we didn’t get anything out of this because we had such a good third period, because we played so hard.”
A TALE OF TWO PERIODS
Alex Tonge got the Colonials off and running with a sharp angle shot that beat Falcons goaltender Billy Christopoulos just 4:07 into the game. From that point on, the teams seemed to split the territory and momentum for the rest of the first frame. However, Air Force brought an intense and passionate game for the second period and it culminated with two goals and a 13-4 shot advantage as they took control of the game and showed no signs of losing it. All-conference defenseman Phil Boje tied the game with a shot from the point that beat Marotte high at 9:08, while Marshall Bowery gave his team the lead on a goal from a face off win at 13:06.
The Colonials were able to turn the table in the final twenty minutes however and put the rubber to Christopoulos 11 times but were not able to capitalize as they appeared to be watching their hopes for points on the weekend slip away. But they kept the pressure on until Ferguson’s goal and found themselves with a chance to improve their playoff positioning as the teams headed to overtime.
“Last night we had a bunch of breakaways that didn’t go in,” Colonial senior forward Timmy Moore said. “We got a couple of bounces tonight and as long as we’re working hard good things are going to happen. We just have to keep that mentality going and continue to believe in this group and I think we can make a run at this thing.”
A BIZARRE FINISH
It’s not every day that a team pulls it’s goaltender in overtime, but circumstances prevailed that found the Falcons in need of an extra point to secure a home series in the second round of the playoffs. The Colonials missed several close opportunities with Christopoulos in the net, and upon his exit, Ferguson found himself with an open net and a clear chance to ice the game in the neutral zone but missed just moments before the clock struck triple digits.
The point the Colonials salvaged on the weekend, coupled with the remainder of the results on the Atlantic Hockey schedule earns them a seventh place finish in the final regular season standings. They will host the Bentley Falcons in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in a best of three series starting on Friday night at RMU Island Sports Center.
“We have to be ready to go,” Schooley said. “We’re up against a team that we haven’t had a lot of success against this year. It’s going to be a short week and we’ve got to get our focus. It’s playoff hockey and last time I checked when we played in the first round, we went to the NCAA tournament. I would hate to want to play us, but I don’t think anybody is scared of anybody in this league.”