Photo courtesy of Justin Berl/RMU Athletics
NEVILLE TWP Pa.,- The 13th ranked Arizona State Sun Devils got their fair share of power play opportunities on Saturday night at Clearview Arena and senior forward Matthew Kopperud took advantage of them on two occasions, including a two-man advantage, to help propel his side to a 4-1 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials in game one of their two game weekend series.
“I thought we played pretty well,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We looked like a good hockey team that did some really good things. We just have to be a little more disciplined and stay out of the penalty box. At the end of the day we gave up two power play goals, an empty netter and then at even strength we were 1-1.”
The Colonials looked to have the Sun Devils evenly matched from the drop of the puck as they neutralized the scoring threats against while conjuring counter attacks of their own during even strength play as starting goaltender Chad Veltri turned aside all 13 first period shots and 39 of 43 on the night, while keeping the sheet clean through 20 minutes of action. However, the outcome of the game came down to a special teams battle as a slew of borderline calls went against the Colonials in the second period as five power play opportunities went the other way. Kopperud opened the scoring at 11:08 of the middle stanza during 5×3 time as he threw a sharp angled one-timer past Veltri for his 50th career goal and supplied the game winner with just :21 seconds left in the second period when he took a crisp, cross ice pass from Lukas Sillinger and buried the puck from the right circle to double the Sun Devil advantage. The power play shot disparity played a factor as Arizona State finished with a 15-2 shot disparity on man advantages over 60 minutes.
“We were at 2-1 and we had a power play and couldn’t get it done,” Schooley added. “When you give up 15 shots on the power play it’s a big deal and other than that, it was a pretty even hockey game.”
Arizona State took a 2-0 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes but it was short lived as Cameron Garvey got the Colonials on the board just 20 seconds into the third period, accompanied by teddy bears on the ice courtesy of the annual Colonial Teddy Bear Toss event. Garvey skated into the Sun Devil end working on a two on one break with forward George Krotiris and fired a straight and true rocket from the right circle to cut his team’s deficit in half. However, the Colonials could not find the tying goal before Jackson Neidermayer got the last touch on the puck, deflecting it past Veltri to make it a 3-1 contest at 9:22 of the final frame. Ty Murchison finished off the score sheet with an empty net tally.
Though it wasn’t quite the result Schooley was looking for, it was still another game played well in a recent stretch that has seen the Colonials compete and battle at their highest level of the season to date.
“Since the Sacred Heart series we’ve played really well,” Schooley remarked. “We played hard against RIT, we had a great weekend against Niagara and we looked good tonight. It’s been a challenging stretch for us and I think we’re growing and I think we’re improving.”
Robert Morris and Arizona State finish their weekend series on Sunday, December 17 at Clearview Arena with puck drop scheduled for 5 PM.