RMU Hockey: Defensive Success Not Enough For Colonials To Sweep Bentley


Junior goalie Terry Shafer (center) stops a Bentley shot on Saturday at 84 Lumber Arena. The Colonials settled for a weekend split after a 1-0 loss. (Credit: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – The bounce of the puck was not friendly to Robert Morris on Saturday night, as Atlantic Hockey rival Bentley skated away with a 1-0 decision at 84 Lumber Arena.

Max French scored the game-winner with 4:26 remaining, marking the second consecutive night that a scoreless tie was broken late in the third period. Brandon Denham netted the decider Friday with 5:33 to go, triggering a late offensive eruption and a 3-0 RMU victory.

The result went the other way Saturday night, keeping the Colonials from stringing together back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 22 – Dec. 14, when they won four in a row.

“It was a carbon copy of last night’s game,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “Both teams played hard, both teams competed, and unfortunately they got the goal this time.”

There would be no goals for 20th-ranked Robert Morris on Saturday, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. The Colonials were held to 29 shots on net – just the fourth time this season they haven’t reached 30 – but they had their opportunities to beat Bentley goalie Jayson Argue.

“We had chances galore, but just couldn’t finish,” Schooley said. “We tried to get pucks to the net and get a bounce. It was a frustrating game, because we got the effort but not the results.”

RMU (13-5-4, 10-3-3 Atlantic Hockey) came within inches of forcing overtime in the final seconds, when Cody Wydo’s desperation pass bounced free to Chase Golightly in the left circle. The junior defenseman ripped a hard drive, but the freshman Argue capped an impressive weekend with a reaching blocker save just before the horn.

“We all thought it went in from the bench,” said defenseman Alex Bontje. “We were ready to celebrate.”

Colonials netminder Terry Shafer (34 saves) was just as good as Argue. In fact, it took a perfect shot to beat the junior, who also suffered the tough-luck loss in RMU’s previous shutout defeat Dec. 14 at Mercyhurst.

“Anytime you give up one goal and take a loss, it’s tough,” said Shafer, who has allowed two or fewer goals in four straight starts. “That’s hockey. I thought I was tracking the puck well and the defense did a good job letting me see the shots.”

French’s goal was the result of a broken play in the neutral zone. Bentley’s Brett Switzer collected a loose puck just outside the Falcons blue line and delivered it to French, who had turned up ice in anticipation. Although the Colonials defense appeared to recover, French snapped a shot from the right circle that clanged off the left post and in for his team-leading 14th goal of the season.

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RMU’s comeback effort was limited by an interference call against John Rey at center ice with just 2:53 remaining, one that the home bench protested vehemently. The Colonials nonetheless responded by killing it off, giving them a perfect 9-for-9 effort against Bentley’s second-ranked power play in the series.

“It was nice to keep (Bentley) to zero throughout most of the weekend,” Bontje said. “We knew they were an offensive team, so we took care of our own end first.”

RMU will remain in first place in Atlantic Hockey despite the defeat, while Bentley (10-9-2, 8-5-2 AHC) climbed back within five points of the top spot. The Colonials host league foe American International next Friday and Saturday, wrapping up a five-game homestand at 84 Lumber Arena.

The entire weekend went against expectations, as these were the top two offenses in the conference coming into Friday’s game. Instead, strength seemed to neutralize strength, and RMU had to settle for a split even though Bentley scored only one goal.

“It was pretty hard-nosed hockey this weekend,” Shafer said. “It was a fun weekend to play. The defense played really well all around. They really sold out for some blocked shots, too.

“Giving up one goal on a weekend is usually going to get you two wins. It’s promising to see a defensive effort like this at this point of the season. We’re not worried about our offense…it’s going to score.”

Just like Friday’s game, Saturday’s matchup started with a scoreless first period, but there was no shortage of scoring chances. Each team had two power plays, leading to plenty of action around the nets.

RMU caught a nice break during 4-on-4 play midway through the period, when Bentley’s Alex Kubiak bumped the puck off the near post from inside the right circle. Moments later, a heavy slapshot from Matt Blomquist trickled through Shafer’s pads, but the Colonials goalie reached back to keep the puck from entering the net.

Robert Morris’ best chance to score came during a Bentley power play late in the frame. Zac Lynch scooped up a turnover at the Colonials blue line and soared in for a breakaway. The co-owner of the program record for career shorthanded goals (five) made a quick move to the backhand, but Argue got his stick out to make the save just before the buzzer.

The second period had a similar theme, with end-to-end skating but no goals. Much of that could be attributed to special teams once again, with Bentley enjoying four power plays and RMU getting two. The Falcons even had a 22-second two-man advantage, but the Colonials held firm.

As was the case in the first, RMU’s better opportunities were generated with the team shorthanded. Both Matt Cope and Greg Gibson had good solo looks that Argue stopped, keeping Bentley from surrendering a potential game-changing goal.

Wydo nearly put RMU ahead during a power play in the closing seconds of the period. RMU’s leading scorer corralled a deflected pass from Scott Jacklin and whipped a wrister on target from between the circles, only to see Argue kick it away.

In the third, Shafer made a sparkling kick save on French’s one-timer midway through the period, then RMU’s Gibson pushed the rebound of Bontje’s miss just wide of an open net.

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