MOON TOWNSHIP– Hosting their first annual Hockey Fights Cancer weekend against Army West Point (12-5, 10-5 AHC), the Robert Morris men’s hockey team (7-8-2, 7-5-2 AHC) was unable to come up with the victory, losing 4-0 to the Black Knights.
Before the game started, Robert Morris honored former captain Chris Kushneriuk (‘11), a two-time cancer survivor, with a ceremonial puck drop. In three seasons with the Colonials, Kushneriuk played 98 games, scoring 27 goals and adding 41 assists, good for 68 career points.
“He (Kushneriuk) had a great talk to our team before the game,” said head coach Derek Schooley, mentioning that Kushneriuk hammered home the themes of beating adversity.
Starting in goal for the Colonials, his first career start was Dyllan Lubbesmeyer, a native of Burnsville, Minnesota. Early in the game, Lubbesmeyer was tested in net, as less than two minutes in, Black Knights defenseman Anthony Firriolo scored his third of the year to put Army up 1-0.
The first half of the opening period of play was a fast-paced affair, with both teams putting double-digit shot totals to the net; Army with 15 and the Colonials with 10.
After a holding penalty to Robert Morris’ Santeri Hartikainen, Army capitalized on the powerplay, as a shot from the point by Anthony Firriolo was tipped in front by freshman Brett Abdelnour and put Army up 2-0 with just under five minutes remaining in the first.
At the end of the first, Army led the Colonials 2-0, with the Black Knights outshooting the Colonials 30-19. The Black Knights’ goals were scored by Firriolo and Abdelnour. Up to this point, Army was controlling most of the possession in the game.
Partway through the second period, Army struck again on the powerplay as a John Keranen shot rebounded off the pad of Lubbesmeyer, and was put home by Alex Wilkinson to put the Black Knights up 3-0.
In the second half of the second period, the Colonials ramped up the physical play on the Black Knights, but unfortunately for Robert Morris, it didn’t show up on the scoreboard, and at the end of two, it was 3-0 Army West Point.
The lone goal for either team in the middle frame was scored by Alex Wilkinson, marking the third point of the night by an Army defenseman (Firriolo had the other two). Army completely dominated the Colonials in terms of offensive possession in the period, outshooting the Colonials 21-5.
Seven minutes into the third period, the Colonials had a great chance to close the deficit as an Army defenseman earned himself a five-minute major and a game misconduct for contact to the head on Colonials’ captain Nick Prkusic.
However, Army’s fourth-ranked penalty kill (operating at a 92.1%) was able to kill off the entire five minute major. “We’ve had trouble scoring goals,” said Coach Schooley, “we had a five-minute major and only had one shot”.
In the waning minutes of the period, and Lubbesmeyer on the bench for the Colonials, Dominic Franco, alternate captain for Army, slid home the empty-net goal to put Army up 4-0 and seal the game.
At the end of 60 minutes of play, the Colonials fell to the Black Knights by a score of 4-0. The Army goals were scored by Anthony Firriolo, Brett Abdelnour, Alex Wilkinson and Dominic Franco.
After the game, Coach Schooley was blunt when asked about the game, saying “They got a lead, and they did a very good job of extending the lead and protecting the lead”.
The Colonials are back in action against the Black Knights at the Island Sports Center. Puck drop is at 1:00 p.m.