Pioneers Drop Series Opener at Robert Morris 6-3

PITTSBURGH – A late second period goal by the Robert Morris Colonials proved to be the difference Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena, as the Colonials defeated the Sacred Heart men's hockey team 6-3. Senior captain Eric Delong (Oakville, MB) had a goal and two assists for the Pioneers.

Sacred Heart (0-23-2, 0-16-2 Atlantic Hockey) had a pair of solid scoring chances early in the first period. Chad Filteau (Regina, SK) and Matthew Solomon (Toronto, ON) each had shots stopped by Robert Morris (13-9-2, 8-8-1) goaltender Eric Levine. The Colonials struck first on the scoreboard 5:32 into the game, when Brendan Jamison notched a power-play goal with an assist from Jeff Jones. Twenty-five seconds later, Robert Morris scored again as Greg Gibson tallied a goal to make the score 2-0.

The Pioneers looked to get back in the game with 12:52 to play in the opening period. Brian Sheehan (St. Louis, Mo.) got past the Colonials defense and had a breakaway opportunity against Levine. Sheehan wound up getting hooked, drawing a penalty. Sacred Heart scored 43 seconds into the ensuing power play, as Sheehan put a shot just over the right shoulder of Levine to make the score 2-1. Will Rayner (Needham, Mass.) and Eric Delong (Oakville, MB) assisted on the goal.  Robert Morris got its lead back up to two with 9:22 to play in the period as Zac Lynch's first goal of the season made the score 3-1.

Sacred Heart would get that goal back with 2:15 to play in the first. Once again, the Pioneers would score on the power play. Delong fed Kyle Verbeek (Birmingham, Mich.), whose shot was initially stopped by Levine. Rayner crashed the net and knocked in the rebound to make the score 3-2 before intermission.

Robert Morris dominated play in the second period, spending a majority of the time in the Sacred Heart zone. The Colonials' work in the offensive zone paid off with 6:40 to play in the period when Zach Hervato scored to give Robert Morris a 4-2 lead.  The Pioneers got back to within a goal with 4:55 to play in the second. Just like their first two goals, Sacred Heart scored on the power play. Jacob Brightbill (Anneville, Pa.) and Ben Ketchum (Greenwich, Conn.) assisted Delong for the tally, his first goal in seven games.  The Colonials took a two-goal lead in the final minute of the second period when Adam Brace forced a turnover in the Pioneers' zone and found Andrew Blazek who made the score 5-3.

Sacred Heart was able to keep the score 5-3 early in the third period, killing off a penalty 2:07 into the frame. The Pioneers had a chance to get back within one with a power play at the 6:17 mark, but mustered just two shots as the Colonials kept their two-goal advantage. Goaltender Steven Legatto (Kelowna, BC) did his part to keep Sacred Heart in the game, making three saves on three point-blank chances halfway through the period to keep the score 5-3.  The Pioneers had a power play late in the game to try and get back within a goal and pulled Legatto for the extra skater. However, Robert Morris was able to score on the empty net in the last ten seconds to make the final score 6-3.

The Colonials outshot the Pioneers 50-41 for the game, despite Sacred Heart's season-high in shots. For the final two periods Robert Morris had 36 shots to Sacred Heart's 25. The Pioneers were 3-for-8 on the power play while Robert Morris was 1-for-5.

The two teams will wrap up their series Saturday night at 7 p.m. at 84 Lumber Arena.