Battle with Air Force ends in draw

Josh Yost, Assistant Sports Editor

In a move that called to mind the world of professional wrestling, Brandon Denham finished off the first period with a headlock on Matt Koch. He held him to the ground like a champion defending his belt at SummerSlam. It resulted in a holding penalty, and was potentially the biggest moment of the first period.

The Robert Morris Colonials tied Air Force 3-3 on Saturday evening in a game that was less physical than their first, but featured a lot more aggression post-whistle. Among the differences from the previous night were the goaltenders. The Colonials put out senior Terry Shafer for his first start, while the Falcons sent out Shane Starrett, who filled in during the third period of Friday’s contest.

“Terry’s a veteran player, he knows what he’s doing out there,” said senior defenseman Chase Golightly. “We all have confidence that he knows what he’s doing and that he’ll shut it down when we need him to.”

It wasn’t until early in the second period that a goal was scored against either team. Three minutes in, to be specific. As the Colonials were forced back in their own zone, an attempt to clear the puck from behind their net was intercepted at the face-off dot to the right of Shafer. With full trust in his defense, he was slow to follow the puck and reacted too late to a shot fired through his five-hole to break the tie.

“You know, that was a tough one,” said Shafer. “We had the puck behind the net there, and it just ended up on their stick somehow, and just kind of slipped through my wickets there. Obviously it takes some air out of the balloon when you start, first period 0-0 and taking it to them and all of sudden their up 1-0. Then you know, they pump in another one and it’s definitely not. You know, sometimes you don’t have your best game, you just have to find a way to battle through. I definitely don’t think I had my A game today.”

A few minutes later, the play picked up with four-on-four action. Another turnover in their own zone, and the Falcons were quickly up 2-0 after failing to score as many goals the previous evening.

Their bubble busted, RMU started getting back into their aggressive play and about five minutes after the last goal were in control. In the offensive zone, they managed a long cycle which wasn’t exactly the prettiest. With many near turnovers, the puck eventually found its way to Zac Lynch on the left side. He swung it up to Tyson Wilson at the point, who gave a Kobe Bryant-like head fake before sending it to his right to Chase Golightly. Golightly took a step to his right, was challenged slightly and fired a wrister by the glove of Starrett to cut the lead in half.

“I think any time you wear a team down, they start to struggle,” said Golightly. “I think them being inexperienced, they’re not really ready to kind of handle the necessities and play conservative. I think definitely wearing them down helped.”

It was at this point a fan in attendance was heard trying to justify the tired state of Air Force during the goal and shouted out, “They were all stoned because they were in Denver.” This was in reference to Air Force’s weekend series against the University of Denver the week earlier, and could be said to have been the quote of the week.

In what was an extremely exciting second period, the action continued beyond the magnificent reaction of fans in attendance. As the Falcons began to push the Colonials back to their zone, they went for a clean zone entry and were faced with heavy opposition. Daniel Leavens and Kyle Horsman both went for a hit at the blue line, but the puck trickled through. Golightly went one-on-one with Matt Serratore, who rifled a pass to the center of the zone. It was caught up in Wilson’s skates and settled behind him for Ben Carey of Air Force. Carey simply scooped it up and as Shafer sprawled for the save, he flipped it top shelf for the Falcons’ third goal.

The inexperienced squad would make another fatal error, however. Air Force was caught shortly after with too many men on the ice, and it gave a massive opportunity to RMU. With a cycle that lasted a full 1:36 of game time, the Colonials swung the puck from end to end and kept it within the offensive zone. They wore out the Falcons and eventually the puck made its way to Greg Gibson.

Gibson fired a shot which was blocked, but the rebound of the block located itself softly onto Denham’s stick. He swung the puck around and it went to Lynch on the left side with the goaltender so far out of position it may as well have been a given. Lynch roofed it to keep the game within one.

“It was good work by all five guys out there, we won a lot of battles, kept the possession on our side, didn’t have to dump it down and get back after it,” said Lynch. “It was nice to be rewarded after all that work. We had a few changes, which was nice, got some fresh guys. But like I said, it was real nice to be rewarded for all our hard work.”

The third period featured some line shuffling for the Colonials, as head coach Derek Schooley tried to get a spark going. He moved Matt Cope up with Lynch and Gibson. It also featured an unfortunate injury where Kyle Eastman blocked a shot and crawled off to the bench. He was helped off by two teammates, unable to put weight on his left leg. Schooley said after the game early expectations are that it’s a bone bruise, but he’ll go for X-rays in the morning.

Shortly after the injury, the spark finally came as if inspired by their teammate.

Denham intercepted a pass at the blue line and tapped it off to Brady Ferguson. Ferguson carried in one-on-one with a defender, deking through his legs before rifling a shot through the five-hole of Starrett to tie the game, 3-3.

That would be the final score, but not the final fireworks. Into overtime they went, and scoreless as well. Near the end, though, it picked up with Air Force in control deep in the Colonials zone. With a scrum in front of the net, the fans cheered and jeered. Shafer held strong on a few wild shot attempts, and the net went off its moorings.

Unlike Izyk the night prior, Shafer faced only seven shots in the home-plate area and gave up three goals on the only three in the second period. The Colonials were able to drive possession to the middle, however, and had 21 of their 43 shots in the home-plate area. They only scored two of their three goals in that area, though, as Starrett held strong.

Robert Morris will be back in action next weekend at Niagara University, and will return home in three weeks to take on American International.