RMU Hockey: Colonials Stick With It, Explode Late In Key Shutout Win Over Bentley


RMU sophomore goalie Dalton Izyk makes one of 34 saves on Friday night against Bentley at 84 Lumber Arena. (Photo: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – Robert Morris kept knocking on the door Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena. Eventually, the Colonials got the answer they were looking for.

After No. 20 Robert Morris came up empty on its first 40 shots of the night, Brandon Denham, David Friedmann and Zac Lynch scored in a span of 4 ½ minutes late in the third period, giving the persistent Colonials a 3-0 win over Atlantic Hockey rival Bentley.

The victory broke a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) for the Colonials and started a 14-game stretch against conference opponents on a positive note. With another matchup set for Saturday night, first-place RMU (13-4-4, 10-2-3 AHC) opened up a seven-point lead over the third-place Falcons.

“Our guys stuck with it and didn’t get frustrated,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. “We kept saying that if we keep getting chances, we’re going to get one. We lost a third period to Bowling Green in our building (last Sunday), and I challenged the team to win the third this time.”

Sophomore goalie Dalton Izyk did his part and then some, earning his third shutout of the season with 34 saves. His critical third-period stop on Bentley sniper Andrew Gladiuk, who entered the night tied for the most goals and points in Division I hockey, set the stage for RMU to seize the game.

“I just did my job and made a few saves,” said Izyk. “The team did the rest. I had faith in the guys to get the job done. I don’t care about shutouts, I just care about wins. That’s two more points for us.”

The Colonials’ late offensive deluge started when Greg Gibson took a pass from Matt Cope on the right wing and centered to the charging Denham, who redirected his sixth goal of the season over sliding Bentley goalie Jayson Argue with 5:27 left in regulation.

“I knew all game that we were skating well, forechecking well and keeping the puck in their zone,” Denham said. “I had a feeling that we’d eventually come through.”

Three minutes after Denham’s goal, a Bentley hooking penalty gave RMU a golden chance to put the game away. Friedmann came through with the clincher at 17:42, shoving a Daniel Leavens feed between Argue’s legs from close range. The goal, Friedmann’s ninth, ended a three-game power-play drought for the Colonials.

“We had our chances and got some in the third, thankfully,” Leavens said. “We try to work so hard that our skill will take over as the game goes on. We just stuck to it and the pucks went in for us.”

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Lynch’s second empty-net goal in five games closed the door on Bentley (9-9-2, 7-5-2 AHC) with 57 seconds to play. RMU’s fourth shutout of the season was more impressive than most, as the Falcons came into the weekend averaging 3.26 goals per game – good for 11th in the nation.

A large part of the Colonials’ defensive success can be attributed to team discipline. Bentley carried the nation’s top power-play conversion rate (30.3 percent) into the game, but RMU allowed the visitors to enjoy just two advantages.

“We knew we had to focus on staying out of the box,” Denham said. “That’s the best way to fight (the power play).”

Not only did RMU’s triumph create more breathing room at the top of the league standings, it also demonstrated team depth, as center Brady Ferguson (illness) and defenseman Tyson Wilson (personal) were both unavailable. Leavens, usually a winger, stepped into Ferguson’s spot, while freshman blueliner Robert Powers dressed for the second straight game to account for Wilson’s absence.

“I don’t think we had any bad players tonight,” Schooley said. “No one was outstanding, but everyone was solid. Our team was good and deep.”

The two teams struggled to get the pace going early, as there were 18 faceoffs in the opening six minutes of play. Once the skating picked up, Robert Morris went on the attack, outshooting Bentley 13-5 at one point and 16-10 for the first period. For the game, the Colonials had the edge in shots on goal (43-34) and total shot attempts (76-62).

“We were focusing on moving our feet early on and I think we did a good job with that,” Leavens said. “I thought we outplayed them for the most part. We made it tough on their ‘D.'”

The Colonials’ first-period surge included an impressive power play that saw the home team pin Bentley in its own zone for nearly the entire two minutes. At the other end of the ice, Izyk made a sprawling save on Bentley’s Brett Switzer, who had an open net after collecting a rebound in the left circle. Otherwise, the Colonials’ netminder wasn’t tested much in the first 20 minutes by a Falcons team that hadn’t played in nearly a month.

That changed a bit in the second period, with Bentley firing 12 shots Izyk’s way, including a great chance for Gladiuk in the final moments of the frame. Izyk slid over to deny the Falcons’ top gun, keeping the game scoreless entering the third period.

Prior to that chance, the Colonials tested the freshman Argue from every angle, with Gibson, Denham and defenseman Alex Bontje getting the best opportunities. Denham came the closest to scoring, as his jam shot from the top of the crease deflected off a stick and settled on the roof of the net.

But the game’s first goal wouldn’t come until the third period, and even then it didn’t happen quickly. Bentley had the first chance to break the ice when an RMU penalty carried over, but the Colonials killed that – and almost scored themselves when Bontje rifled a lead pass to Cody Wydo for a shorthanded breakaway.

Argue barely got the tip of his glove on Wydo’s backhand shot, deflecting it over the crossbar. Moments later, Izyk answered with a terrific save of his own, sliding over to rob Gladiuk from between the circles on a smooth setup from Switzer.

RMU will go for its fifth weekend sweep of the season at 7:05 p.m. Saturday.

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