RMU Hockey: Colonials Seize Control Late To Claim Season-Opening Victory


RMU goalie Terry Shafer (middle) holds his ground as Greg Gibson (No. 16) and Alex Bontje (No. 2) clear the rebound. (Photo: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – After a back-and-forth 40 minutes Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena, the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team seized control in the third to seal a 3-1 victory over Lake Superior State in their regular-season opener.

Scott Jacklin, Greg Gibson and Ben Robillard scored goals and five other RMU players recorded assists as they began their second decade of Division I hockey on a promising note. The Colonials (1-0-0) improved to 6-4-1 all time in home openers, although this was the first time since 2011 they started a season with a win.

“I thought we did a great job competing,” RMU head coach Derek Schooley said. “We were a little sloppy at times, but we made up for it by playing hard. (Lake Superior State) challenged us, they pushed us, but we played well defensively in the third period.”

The mood at the Island Sports Center was positive from the start, with the Colonials jumping to a 2-0 lead 16:19 into the game on goals by Jacklin and Gibson. However, Lake Superior State (0-3-0) climbed within one before the end of the first period and could’ve tied it in the second if not for the stellar goaltending of Terry Shafer.

Shafer made 13 of his 29 saves in the middle frame, which saw play open up and both teams create offense off the rush. The junior got the start in his first meaningful action since March, when he was forced out of RMU’s first-round Atlantic Hockey Association playoff series with a hip injury.

“I can’t say enough about how well Shafer played,” Schooley said. “He was outstanding tonight in his first game back, especially in the second period.”

The Colonials appeared to gain strength as the period came to a close, and that trend continued in the third, when they enjoyed a 12-6 advantage in shots on goal. Robillard netted the clinching tally with 4:51 remaining, ensuring that RMU would improve to 2-7 all-time against the Lakers.

Schooley said his team’s experience proved to be an advantage in the late going. The Colonials have 19 players back from last year’s AHA championship team that made the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“We’ve been saying it all along that this is a new season and a new team,” Schooley said. “That’s the good thing about having veterans. They’ve been there, done that. They were ready to go tonight.”

All of the RMU returners surely remembered last season’s opening series, when they dropped a pair of games at Lake Superior State. The Colonials started exacting revenge at 11:12 of the first when Cody Wydo forced a turnover in the right corner and Zac Lynch scooped up the loose puck. The Pittsburgh native found Jacklin all alone in front for a high wrister past LSSU freshman goalie Gordon Defiel.

The lead unexpectedly doubled five minutes later, when Gibson wheeled a shot from behind the center line that somehow skipped past Defiel. But despite skating into 84 Lumber Arena with 20 underclassmen on the roster, the Lakers responded to that shocker when Andrew Dommett buried a rebound for a power-play goal with 1:54 left before intermission.

A wild second period ensued, featuring 33 shots on goal and a handful of strong saves from Shafer and Defiel, who suddenly found themselves in a goaltender’s duel. Perhaps feeling fortunate to still have the lead, the Colonials put forth a disciplined effort in the third – capped by Daniel Leavens’ slick assist from behind the net to a wide-open Robillard on the doorstep.

“There are definitely some areas we have to clean up, but all in all you can’t fault our team’s effort,” Shafer said. “We battled hard and got the win on opening night, which is huge for us. We have a team that can play back-and-forth hockey, but the biggest thing is taking care of our own end. That made all the difference in the third.”

The Colonials ended up with a 39-30 advantage in shots on goal, aided by the fact that they blocked 24 Lakers attempts. RMU will seek a two-game home-ice sweep Saturday night at 7:05

“It’s a good one to build on, but it’s a work in progress,” Schooley said. “We can’t be satisfied, because they’re going to be hungry to get a win before they leave Pittsburgh.”


This story was originally posted on RMUColonials.com.