Men’s hockey falls to RMU

Marco Cicchino, Staff writer

A recent stretch of nine out of a possible 10 points landed Rick Gotkin within 16 votes of returning to the Top 25 for the first time this season last Monday, a spot currently occupied by another member of Atlantic Hockey.

But Robert Morris University had no intent of continuing that advance.

“I think RMU simply outplayed us throughout the weekend,” said senior Laker forward Josh Lammon. “We didn’t lose due to the X’s and O’s of the game. We just outworked in both ends of the ice.”

A sharp three-point weekend for RMU defenseman Eric Israel led a ferocious attack on Laker goalie Stefano Cantali and turned a two-game series into a post-Thanksgiving feast for the Colonials. Now 6-2 in their last eight against the Lakers and 4-1-1 in their last six series-openers, the Colonials broke a 1-all deadlock 11:18 into the second period, just five seconds after the Lakers’ Joseph Duszak was booked for a hooking call to force a four-on-four situation stemming from a hooking call on Colonial Michael Coyne 1:13 earlier.

Immediately off the draw, Colonial Nick Jenny found teammate Jacob Coleman from the right point before Coleman slid the puck under Cantali’s glove to break the deadlock.  The Lakers went back to the power play 46 seconds later after Israel was booked for hooking, then again at 18:20 via a tripping call on RMU’s Michael Louria.

But the Lakers failed to convert the first advantage with just a single shot on goal, and Matthew Whittaker was sent off for interference with just 14 seconds left in the period to negate the advantage. A shot from the Colonials’ Sean Giles went wide of Cantali, sending Israel to the side of the nest swinging for his second of the season into the opening on the right side just before the second-period horn. The Colonials would run into further discipline in the third period, encountering three minors in a nine-minute stretch from the 4:47 mark of the third, as both Brendon Michaelian (4:47) and Aidan Girduckis (13:59) were booked for slashing while Girduckis was caught for tripping at 9:26; but all four opposing shots came from the tripping call.

But in overcoming that and a game misconduct on Aidan Spellacy at 16:02, the Colonials’ Francis Marotte was spectacular in a 32-save, 7-for-8 penalty kill performance — 14 of them coming in the third period, including stops on Whittaker and Derek Barach across the crease. The Colonials needed just 11 minutes to open the scoring on Friday night, starting with Coyne finding Spellacy for his second tally of the season. But 7:30 later, the Colonials’ Daniel Mantenuto was booked for interference, allowing Lammon to score at 19:02, just 14 seconds after the booking.

The following night at the Ice Center, the Colonials picked up right where they left off on Friday, picking up the first road win, weekend sweep and Saturday victory this season in convincing fashion in their largest victory since January 2017. Again, a power play did it for the Colonials (5-6-1, 4-3-1), as Justin Addamo sent a rebound past Cantali’s (3-5-1, 2.95) left shoulder from Louria and Alex Tonge at 9:20 for his third of the season, just 10 seconds after a holding call on Duszak. Less than seven minutes later, a tripping call on RMU’s Nick Lalonde sent the Lakers (5-7-2, 3-4-1) back to the power play, but RMU’s Mantenuto caught a pass from teammate Alex Robert off the end board and went the distance on a seven-second breakaway, withstanding a charge from Barach and Wes Baker for a score at 17:07.

After a series of penalties, the Colonials’ Lalonde sent a transition pass to teammate Nick Prkusic and decked Cantali into allowing a backhand for his fourth of the campaign. In came Colin DeAugustine for the hosts, seeing his first action since Oct. 19 in Big Rapids, Michigan, that coming a week after he persevered through the 6-all overtime draw against then-No. 2 Notre Dame in the IceBreaker before falling in a shootout.

Duszak, Lammon and Taylor Best didn’t need much time to give him support, as Best intercepted a puck in the neutral zone and sent it to Duszak before Lammon received it in the slot for his fourth of the campaign and end a shutout bid for Marotte (5-5-1, 3.21).

But a wild third period was just starting, as Steven Ipri was booked for hooking at 5:58 before Kip Hoffman scored his first career goal on the ensuing power-play a minute later. After a series of penalties on both sides, Israel found teammate Kyle Horsman for his second of the season and the second shorthanded tally of the game. RMU’s Coyne finished off the scoring with 27 seconds left in regulation for the visitors to cap the sweep as the Lakers moved to 1-5-2 at home this season.

Sports editor Bernard Garwig contributed to this report