RMU Hockey: Colonials Soggy But Satisfied After Outdoor Rally Against Bowling Green


Robert Morris senior Jeff Jones breaks into the Bowling Green zone during Saturday’s outdoor game at Toledo’s Fifth Third Field. (Photo: Todd Pavlack/BGSUHockey.com)

TOLEDO, Ohio – If this were baseball, it would’ve been a rainout.

Fortunately for Robert Morris, the precipitation falling Saturday at Fifth Third Field wasn’t enough to cancel the program’s first-ever outdoor game.

Playing through a steady rain for the entire afternoon, the 19th-ranked Colonials overcame a two-goal deficit to earn a 2-2 tie with No. 13 Bowling Green as part of the Walleye Winterfest extravaganza.

Greg Gibson and Brady Ferguson scored two minutes apart midway through the third, as Robert Morris (12-3-4) started 2015 with a spirited comeback in the open air of northwest Ohio, even if it was soggier than players and coaches might prefer.

“I thought the experience was great,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. “We knew there was going to be weather to deal with, but we wanted to get the game in. This is something that student-athletes are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

The Colonials haven’t trailed much this season – Saturday was just the third time in 19 games they’ve been behind after 20 minutes – but they handled the situation well, outshooting Bowling Green 30-19 after the first period and 36-26 for the game.

“I thought we played really well,” Schooley said. “We just couldn’t score early, but we finally broke through. Our third period was especially good for coming in down 2-0.”

After taking some time to adjust to the slow ice conditions, RMU applied constant pressure with all four forward lines, eventually starting their rally against the Falcons (11-3-3) and freshman goalie Chris Nell nine minutes into the third.

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Following an unsuccessful power play, Matt Cope jumped on a loose puck at the right wall and quickly fed Jeff Jones in the left circle. The senior bumped a short pass into the low slot for a wide-open Gibson, who buried a one-timer for his third goal of the season – and the first outdoor tally in Colonials history.

“Jones made a really nice play,” said Gibson, who led the team with six shots and played with energy throughout. “I just whacked it at the net.”

The rally continued at 10:53, when Daniel Leavens reached into the left circle for a lead pass from David Friedmann. Leavens, the reigning Atlantic Hockey co-Offensive Player of the Week, pushed the puck quickly to Ferguson at the right post for the equalizer.

“I think every line was good today,” Gibson said. “It was a character comeback and a great effort for us to get the tie. All the guys were going and it was a great experience.”

RMU kept up the pace as the third period ticked down, but couldn’t light the lamp again. Colonials goalie Terry Shafer ensured the game would reach overtime when he robbed Brandon Hawkins with five minutes to go, lunging with his right leg to smother the open backhand chance.

Gibson had the best look of the back-and-forth five-minute OT, when Brandon Denham set him up from below the left dot. However, Gibson’s bid for the game-winner crashed off Nell’s pads, so the second matchup ever between RMU and Bowling Green ended in a memorable draw.

“We have a lot of talented players so it was great to see our team come out, battle the elements and having a good showing,” Shafer said. “Once you get out there and start playing the game, you get comfortable.”

With the playing surface bumpy and the environment foreign, it was a struggle for both teams to generate offense at the start. The first shot of the game was a great opportunity, though, as Cody Wydo grabbed a pass from Zac Lynch and whistled a low shot from the slot that Nell plucked out of the raindrops.

“The players had to feel their way through (the ice conditions),” Schooley said. “We had to realize that we couldn’t be cute, we had to do things more deliberately. For the most part, I thought we handled the ice well. There was no complaining on the bench.”

Shafer answered Nell’s early stop with a great save on his own, denying Kevin Dufour on a clean breakaway following a Colonials turnover. The junior finished with 24 first-class stops, keeping RMU in the game while his teammates had a tough time finishing at the other end of the ice.

“It was really wet, so I wanted to be careful about every shot,” said Shafer, who has presided over six wins and three ties in 10 starts this season. “I tried to focus on rebound control because this was the kind of game where anything could go in.”

The rest of the first period belonged to the special teams, as RMU earned three power-play opportunities – including a 42-second 5 on 3 – while Bowling Green had two. None of those produced a goal for the team on the advantage; instead, the Falcons broke the ice while shorthanded.

After some scattered neutral-zone action during RMU’s third power play, Pierre-Luc Mercier led a 2-on-1 rush for Bowling Green. He fed a pass to Matt Pohlkamp, who got behind the defense and gunned a wrister into the net from point-blank range at 17:44.

Working with a one-goal deficit, the Colonials generated the majority of the offensive chances in the second period, outshooting Bowling Green 12-9. However, Falcons senior Adam Berkle picked up the lone goal of the frame when Mark Friedman’s bouncing shot caromed to the front for an open-net finish.

Perhaps the one overall negative for RMU was its power play, which didn’t convert on seven chances. On the other hand, the Colonials executed well in adverse conditions, creating 10 total shots with the extra man. Scott Jacklin had a handful of close calls on the power play while battling in front of the net.

However, Saturday was more about the atmosphere than the details. The Colonials reveled in the scene at the home of minor-league baseball’s Toledo Mudhens, then tipped their helmets to the hard-working crew that kept the ice playable despite getting no reprieve from Mother Nature.

“Unbelievable once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Shafer said. “You never know how many times you’ll get to do something like this. We’re very honored to be a part of this and thankful that Bowling Green invited us out.”

There’s little time for the Colonials to reflect before they take the ice again. RMU hosts Bowling Green on Sunday night in the back end of this modified home-and-home series. The puck drops at 7 p.m. from 84 Lumber Arena, as a five-game homestand begins.

Sunday will mark the fourth consecutive game RMU has played against a ranked opponent. The Colonials beat No. 20 Penn State on Monday at the Three Rivers Classic before falling to 14th-ranked Colgate on Tuesday.

“We’re playing a lot of good hockey teams and we’re 1-1-1 against them,” Schooley said. “We’ll see what the deciding factor is (Sunday). They’ve all posed different challenges…they’ve shown us what we need to do better and how we need to play.”

Next: RMU Hockey: Colonials Finish Measuring Stick Week With Loss To Aggressive Bowling Green