The Robert Morris Colonials opened their regular season with a solid effort in a 3-1 victory over the visiting Lake Superior State Lakers, which was what it took to hold off a determined Lakers team in search of its first win of the season.
The game was very much up for grabs until late in the third period when Colonials forward Ben Robillard put a pass from Daniel Leavens in the back of the net to put Robert Morris up by two goals with just 4:51 remaining.
“I thought our compete level was high tonight,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “I though we were a little sloppy, but we made it up with our compete level. I can’t say enough about how good (goaltender) Terry Shafer was for us in the second period. I thought Terry was outstanding tonight. That was a team win, and it’s good to build on.”
From the drop of the puck, the Lakers gave every indication that they were going to match the Colonials intensity shift for shift. The Lakers kept the puck in the Colonials end with some lengthy cycles while also keeping a lethal Colonials power play from setting up.
Robert Morris found its stride toward the middle of the opening frame and went to work. Forward Scott Jacklin took a Zac Lynch pass and found himself all alone in the slot, where he beat Lakers goaltender Gordon Defiel with a wrister top right corner.
What followed was one of the more bizarre goals in Colonials history, as Greg Gibson fired a puck from behind the red line that appeared to find its way to Defiel’s pads and stop, but kept going, trickling through to put the Colonials up by two.
The Lakers responded with a power-play tally at 18:06 when Ian Miller’s pass found a wide-open Andrew Dommett in the lower right circle. Dommett beat Shafer to cut the lead in half at the end of one period.
From that point on, the crowd on hand was treated to a spectacular goaltender’s duel. Over the final 40 minutes, Defiel managed to stop 31 of 32 Colonials shots, while Shafer came through with 19 saves, some of which were of the highlight-reel nature, including a glove save on Alex Globke’s backhanded attempt while alone in the slot.
The Colonials defense tightened with an array of blocked shots and clogged passing lanes until their hard work was rewarded with Robillard’s goal, which came after a lengthy cycle in the Lakers end. The Lakers pulled Defiel, but could get very little in the way of a prime scoring chance as the Colonials calmly sent pucks out of their own end.
“Our habits were poor tonight; we’re a young team, and it’s obviously a change and a transition, but our habits have to improve,” Lakers coach Damon Whitten said. “Our special teams did a good job tonight, our penalty kill was very sharp, and we had a nice power-play goal. Any time that you win the special teams battle, you have a chance to win, but it didn’t work out that way. We took some very positive steps tonight too. Our forecheck and puck possession was better than last week. We just have to improve in some other areas.”
The two teams meet again Saturday night at the 84 Lumber Arena to complete the opening weekend series, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m.