RMU Hockey: Fourth Line Comes Up Huge for Colonials in Game 1 Victory


RMU freshman Spencer Dorowicz (center) celebrates his go-ahead goal in a 4-2 Game 1 victory over Niagara on Friday night (Photo: Jason Cohn/RMU Athletics)

NEVILLE ISLAND, Pa. – In the quest for a Rochester return, it’s one down and one to go for the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team.

On Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena, the top-seeded Colonials battled back from an early 2-1 deficit to claim a 4-2 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-three Atlantic Hockey Conference quarterfinal series against Niagara.

In the latest RMU game ever played on Neville Island – March 9 had been the old record – the 20th-ranked Colonials (23-7-5) got two goals from their fourth line of Jeff Jones, Timmy Moore and Spencer Dorowicz, with Moore netting the tying goal early in the second and Dorowicz connecting for the winner early in the third.

Moore and Dorowicz, both freshmen, had combined for six goals this season entering the night, but they netted two of the largest tallies of the campaign for the AHC regular-season champions. The senior Jones assisted on both of those, giving him his first multi-point game of the season.

“I thought they were outstanding,” said RMU head coach Derek Schooley of the trio. “They were a catalyst for our team at times tonight. They played with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm and passion. They got us going.”

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Scott Jacklin and Brandon Denham also scored for RMU, while Matt Cope recorded a pair of assists. Sophomore goalie Dalton Izyk held strong in a fast-paced game with 38 saves, highlighted by a breakaway stop on Niagara captain Kevin Albers with the Colonials holding a 3-2 lead midway through the third.

Robert Morris, which was coming off a first-round playoff bye, can eliminate its longtime rival for the second consecutive year with a victory in Saturday’s Game 2. The Colonials downed the Purple Eagles in last year’s AHC semifinal at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., the same place they seek to visit once again next weekend.

“The hardest thing to do is to end a team’s season,” Schooley said. “We’ll have to make sure we’re ready to play. Niagara is a good, proud hockey team. We can’t take anything for granted or, next thing you know, we’re playing on Sunday.”

No one on either side was taking Friday’s result for granted, as the game was deadlocked 2-2 entering the third. Less than three minutes in, Jones worked a loose puck back to the left point, where defenseman Tyson Wilson wristed a quick shot that Dorowicz redirected between the legs of Niagara goalie Jackson Teichroeb.

The tiebreaking goal, which officially arrived at 2:48, was reminiscent of Dorowicz’s deflection score 13 days earlier in the regular-season finale against this same Niagara team. That tip-in was Dorowicz’s first goal since November, but the Alberta native now has the first scoring streak of his college career.

“I was pretty pumped to get that one,” said Dorowicz of his fifth goal this season. “It was good timing…just a great feeling. We know this goalie is solid and so we have to get deflections and rebounds.”

RMU nearly made it a two-goal lead moments later when it earned its second power play, but instead the penalized player Albers escaped the box and zoomed in on Izyk with a golden opportunity to re-tie the game. Izyk stood up to deny the senior defenseman and keep the Colonials in position for the win.

“Anytime you give up a breakaway after a power play you’re sleeping a little bit,” Schooley said, “but they made a good play and Dalton made a great save. That’s why you have a goaltender back there.”

There were a couple more close calls in the waning minutes – Niagara leading scorer Isaac Kohls hit the crossbar with a wrister and Izyk stoned Chris Lochner’s net-front deflection – but the Colonials didn’t shift into passive mode, either.

RMU put Game 1 on ice when Denham, who blocked a point shot just seconds earlier, completed an expedient rush started by linemates Cope and Greg Gibson with an empty-net goal at 18:44.

“(Niagara) got a couple bounces in the first, but I don’t think the emotion on our bench changed at all,” said Cope after his third multi-point game of the season. “We’ve been down before and have been able to come back. You just have to stick to your game and things will work themselves out.”

In the aftermath, the Colonials reflected on another intense playoff matchup between these two programs that have shared a conference for the past 11 years, whether it be College Hockey America from 2004-10 or their five seasons and counting in Atlantic Hockey.

Although Niagara (7-27-4) had a rare down season, it had nonetheless entered the night on a 4-2-1 run that was capped by a first-round upset over sixth-seeded Holy Cross last weekend.

“We’ve been saying in the locker room that (Niagara) is not a last-place team,” Cope said. “They’ve had some ups and downs but they’re a better team than what their record shows. We know it’s going to be a tough series so we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Each team launched 40 shots on goal for the night, a thrilling rate that had a boisterous Island Sports Center crowd engaged from the start. The Colonials were locked in right away, too, firing 16 shots in the first period and otherwise looking strong despite falling behind late in the frame.

“I thought our first period was very good,” Schooley said. “I really liked our game tonight. I don’t think we had a dip in our play. We were pretty consistent all night and played with excitement.

“It was a good, well-played game for both sides. That’s playoff hockey.”

RMU cashed in for the first goal of the series at 8:17 off the stick of Jacklin. After Cope had his initial shot blocked, he gathered the bouncing puck and flung it toward the net, where Jacklin tipped it over Teichroeb’s shoulder.

“I wasn’t even looking at the net, to be honest,” Cope said. “Once I saw an opening, I shot it. Jacklin did a good job to get a piece.”

Jacklin’s 12th goal of the season broke an eight-game drought, and it appeared RMU would increase the lead to 2-0 when David Friedmann’s turning shot from the bottom of the right circle caromed into the net off a Niagara defender. However, after video review, the officials ruled that the net had come off its moorings before the puck entered.

Armed with that bit of luck, Niagara jumped on top with a pair of goals 50 seconds apart late in the opening frame. Patrick Conte tied it up at 16:47 when Hugo Turcotte’s pass banked off an RMU skate and right to Conte in the low slot. Then, the Purple Eagles went ahead seven seconds into their first power play of the night, as Kevin Patterson’s point blast found twine through a screen.

The Colonials pressed hard for an equalizer at the end of the first, but couldn’t draw even before the buzzer. Nevertheless, it took just 3:05 into the second for them to knot it up on Timmy Moore’s first career playoff goal. Jones stole the puck at the left circle, skated behind the net and jammed a shot that Teichroeb stopped, but Moore knocked in the rebound at the left post.

“That was a huge boost for us,” Dorowicz said. “Our goal is to create energy, so if we get a goal or two, that’s a bonus. We’re not going to get that every game, but that was big tonight. We’re just glad to get the win.”

The action continued at a free-flowing pace for the majority of the second, until back-to-back penalties against RMU put Niagara on an extended power play. 54 seconds of that time was a two-man advantage, but the Colonials didn’t allow any glorious opportunities and escaped that jam.

Dating back to the Feb. 28 matchup between these squads, Niagara has enjoyed three separate two-man advantages, scoring on none of them. The Purple Eagles went 1 for 4 on the power play Friday.

“You hope that those will come our way a little bit more,” Schooley said of the power plays. “At least we’ve seen their (five-on-three power play) a few times so we know what to expect.”

The Colonials will do their best to recharge before Saturday’s 7:05 p.m. faceoff at 84 Lumber Arena.

“We can’t get too high,” Dorowicz said. “Most of the guys on this team have been through the playoffs, so they’re calm and collected. We definitely wanted to get Game 1, and now that we’ve dipped our toe in the water, we can come in tomorrow and build from this.”

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