RMU Hockey: Colonials Rebound With League Victory Over American International


Junior forward Greg Gibson looks for the puck in a recent game at Consol Energy Center. Gibson scored 36 seconds into RMU’s victory over American International on Friday. (Credit: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – Entering Friday night, Robert Morris had not dropped two games in a row all season.

That impressive streak remains alive, as the Colonials once again avoided consecutive losses with a 5-3 victory over American International College at 84 Lumber Arena. First-place Robert Morris, which increased its cushion atop the Atlantic Hockey standings to four points, is now 3-0-2 following a defeat.

“I’m happy that we got two points, because they’re so difficult to come by,” said head coach Derek Schooley. “It was kind of a sloppy game, but we did what we needed to do.”

Brady Ferguson, Scott Jacklin, Daniel Leavens and Zac Lynch each had a goal and an assist, as the Colonials netted their most goals since a 7-4 win at Mercyhurst on Dec. 13. RMU, which entered 2015 averaging more than four goals per game, had scored a total of 11 in its past seven games – culminating in a 1-0 home loss to Bentley last Saturday.

“It builds confidence,” said junior wing Greg Gibson, who scored 36 seconds into the game to provide an early edge. “I thought the whole team was going offensively. We were making plays down low and grinding.”

The end of the game wasn’t how the Colonials envisioned it, as the visiting Yellow Jackets netted a pair of power-play goals in late in the third to trim a four-goal margin to two. Alexander MacMillan scored on a rebound at 15:24 of the third and appeared to guide a loose puck into the net with his skate 23 seconds later, adding suspense to a game that seemed to be over.

“We would’ve liked it to be a little less hairy at the end, but give their power play credit,” Schooley said. “We’ll break the video down and see what we can do better tomorrow.”

RMU entered the third period ahead 3-0, with Lynch expanding the lead to four with a power-play tally at 2:38 of the third. The junior buried his ninth goal of the season following two quick passes from linemates Cody Wydo and Jacklin. That trio ended up with five points (2g, 3a) on the night, one more than they had generated in the previous seven games combined.

“It’s good for their confidence to contribute offensively,” Schooley said. “They have been making themselves a little too easy to defend lately.”

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RMU goalie Dalton Izyk improved to 8-3-0 with a 27-save performance, following up his shutout of Bentley one week ago. He didn’t face many prime opportunities until the third, but he kept AIC (3-15-5, 3-9-5 AHC) off the scoresheet long enough for the Colonials to create some separation.

The sophomore netminder looked to be in line to set the career program record for shutouts – he’s tied with junior Terry Shafer and alumnus Eric Levine at four – but an unfortunate bounce spoiled that chance. Izyk hadn’t allowed a goal in more than 100 minutes when an RMU clearing pass struck a referee and deflected right to AIC’s Jason Popek for an easy finish at 8:22.

Jacklin restored the four-goal advantage about two minutes later. Just after an RMU power-play expired, the senior stole the puck inside the AIC blue line, starting a combination play that ended with Lynch hitting Jacklin in the slot for a wrister that went off the post and in. Jacklin’s ninth tied him with Ferguson, Lynch and David Friedmann for the second-most on the team.

Despite the late penalty trouble, RMU had the majority of shots (43-30) and scoring chances during the free-skating affair. The amount of space in the neutral zone presented a change from recent games the Colonials had played.

“It’s a little weird when there’s that much room on the ice, compared to other teams that are all over you,” Gibson said. “You still have to stay in it mentally. We have to just worry about our game. Support the puck and stay structured.”

Robert Morris did enough of that to come out on top, setting up a chance to sweep a weekend series for the fifth time. The Colonials haven’t won back-to-back games since Nov. 22 – Dec. 6, when they claimed four in a row. They’ll go for two straight at 7:05 p.m. Saturday on Military Appreciation Night at the Island Sports Center.

Friday’s wide-open first period yielded only one goal, and it arrived less than a minute into the game. After taking a sharp cross-rink dish from Denham, Gibson snapped a hard wrister from the top of the right circle over freshman goalie Alex Murray’s glove.

The Colonials could’ve added a few more, but they couldn’t find the net with a handful of gold-plated opportunities. Gibson narrowly missed his second goal of the night when he popped an open look over the crossbar from close range.

Later in the frame, Jeff Jones redirected a centering pass from Tyson Wilson off the left post, and Brandon Denham’s one-timer from the slot hopped over Murray’s shoulder before being cleared out of the crease by a Yellow Jacket.

It appeared that Murray would be able to keep AIC in the game the whole way when he denied Leavens on a pair of point-blank shots early in the second period. RMU was buzzing around the Yellow Jackets’ net constantly throughout the opening 35 minutes, but the margin remained 1-0.

Finally, the Colonials opened up a comfortable lead with two goals in the span of 26 seconds. The first was the product of a strong lead pass from John Rey that connected to Leavens, who soared in over the AIC blue line. He dropped to Friedmann for a shot that Murray stopped, but Leavens poked in the rebound from the lip of the crease for a 2-0 advantage at 15:00.

On the next rush up ice, Leavens cut to the middle and dished to the left wing for the freshman Ferguson, who ripped a shot inside the right post for a three-goal lead. Murray made an unbelievable stick save on a wide-open Wydo to open the third, but RMU’s lone power-play goal of the night made up for it moments later.

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