Walsh’s overtime heroics lift Colonials past Niagara in game one

Darcy+Walsh+buries+the+overtime+winner+against+Niagara.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

Darcy Walsh buries the overtime winner against Niagara. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Nathan Breisinger, Sports Multimedia Editor

NEVILLE TWP– Energy ran through Clearview Arena as the Robert Morris men’s hockey team returned to the ice for the first time in 19 days, taking on Niagara for game one of the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals.

While both teams battled through 60 minutes of play, it would take extra time for this one to be decided. It came down to a common theme that was seen all year from the Colonials as a role player stepped up to finish off the Purple Eagles.

After spending two months sidelined with a concussion, Darcy Walsh returned to the lineup and capitalized on his opportunity to put Niagara away with an overtime winner to lift the Colonials to a 3-2 win.

Walsh spoke on what it meant to score the overtime-winning goal, especially coming into the lineup as a role player.

“We have a lot of depth on this hockey team,” Walsh said. “There are guys sitting in the stands that can play just as well as some of the guys on the ice. We know we are a deep hockey club and we are not selfish. I know a lot of the boys were happy for me as a depth guy.”

With fans in attendance and heightened importance, the Colonials and Purple Eagles both displayed their high-energy throughout the first period with each squad trading chances, highlighted by an Aidan Spellacy two-on-one opportunity that would be shut down by netminder Chad Veltri.

“We were a little rusty to start the first period with not playing for 19 days,” head coach Derek Schooley said.

Midway through the opening frame, it was the Purple Eagles that broke the ice as Ryan Naumovski maneuvered through the offensive zone, throwing it towards the net where Eric Cooley directed it in.

As the Colonials searched for a response, they were denied over and over, with the biggest shot coming off of the stick of Jordan Timmons as he rang one off the crossbar on a delayed penalty call.

Robert Morris came up empty-handed after 20 minutes to play, however, a clean sheet of ice to start the second period proved to be the answer. After finishing the regular season with a 25 percent conversion rating on the power play, it proved to be deadly once again as Brian Kramer release a point shot that was redirected by Aidan Spellacy in front to even the score at one apiece.

“Aidan works his rear-end off,” Schooley said. “He comes to work every day and works so hard. He drives the energy bus, and we feed off of him.”

With the Colonials seeking to maintain their offensive prowess, the aforementioned Jordan Timmons would not be denied on his second prime opportunity of the game. After missing 11 games with a lower-body injury, Timmons found a loose puck in front to sweep it home. Timmons now has nine goals in 11 games for RMU.

“It was good to have Jordan back. He was a little rusty, but he also hit a crossbar too,” Schooley said. “He made a nice play on his goal. He scores goals and that’s the exciting thing.”

Trying to keep the pedal on the gas, the Colonials faltered with under five minutes to go in the second period. With an ensuing power-play opportunity after too many men on the ice, Niagara capitalized. Justin Kendall received the puck on his stick following a pretty passing sequence as he subsequently roofed it past Noah West to even the game, 2-2.

“I thought we had a really good 15 minutes to start the second and we were dominating, but then they got the power-play goal to tie it,” Schooley said.

From the game start, until the onset of the third period, the pace of the contest changed. At opening puck drop, both teams brought the heat, trading chances, but with the game knotted at 2-2, the respective squads were precautious and turned towards their defensive capabilities.

As the final seconds wound down in the third period, it called for another overtime matchup between these two foes. Robert Morris prevailed in both overtime contests during the regular season, and that would not change this time around.

Nearly five minutes into the overtime period, Cameron Hebert and Walsh raced up ice and in a last-ditch effort. Hebert chopped at the puck to get it over to the middle of the ice as Walsh would bury the overtime winner past Veltri.

“Cam made an unbelievable play to get to the puck, and I think the chip over and landing flat on the ice had some luck involved,” Walsh said.

With the overtime win, the Colonials are one game away from moving onto the semifinals and winning their eleventh straight best-of-three series. As they turn their attention towards tomorrow, Walsh looks for the Colonials to buckle down and clinch game two.

“We’ve got to come out with a better start, we’ve got to be more physical, and be engaged for 60 minutes,” Walsh said. “We need to remember that it’s a good squad on the other side. [The] hardest game is to put someone’s season away, so they are gonna come out firing and we have to weather it.”

Robert Morris will aim to close out the quarterfinals series Saturday night with puck drop once again at 7:05 at Clearview Arena.