Fifth-seeded Robert Morris wasted little time Friday night in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs, peppering No. 12 seed Sacred Heart with three first-period goals.
Eventually, the Colonials beat the Pioneers, 4-1, at 84 Lumber Arena on Neville Island to reach a school-record 19 wins.
The Colonials (19-12-4, 14-11-4 AHA) can advance to the quarterfinals with a series-clinching win tonight. A third game, if necessary, would be played at 7:05 p.m. Sunday.
"I thought our first period was outstanding. That was a good start to the playoffs," said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. "We came out with a lot of energy and played in their end for a majority of the period. When you pin teams in their end and take advantage of your chances, it gives you a good start and good mojo."
The Colonials cruised to a 3-0 lead, dominating the Pioneers (2-29-4) most of the period and outshooting them, 18-7.
Jeff Jones started the scoring just 1:12 into the game.
Mac Roy made it 2-0 by poking in a rebound at 6:17 with a headfirst dive and one-handed jab at the puck. The goal proved to be winner, but Greg Gibson made it 3-0 at 14:14.
"We wanted to set the tone early. Set the tone for the entire series," said Roy. "We had a cycle going, the puck was bouncing everywhere. I saw an opening, dove headfirst and, luckily, it went in."
The Colonials were not as dominant in the second and third periods and had just two power-play opportunities, including one that lasted only 43 seconds. They were 0 for 2 with the man advantage.
Sacred Heart center Eric DeLong spoiled the shutout bid for Colonials goalie Eric Levine, going top shelf with a perfectly placed shot at 14:36 of the third period to complete an odd-man rush.
The Pioneers launched 10 third-period shots and threatened the Colonials. But Adam Brace sealed the game with 43 seconds to play, skating over the blue line and wristing the puck into an empty net to make it 4-1.
After the game, Brace said the team already was preparing for the rematch.
"This game's over. A win is a win and a playoff win is that much more important," said Brace. "They have some dangerous guys. You give them time and space, and they're going to score. We've got to play the whole game like we played the first period."
Schooley added that "it's tough to end a series. Tough to finish a team off.
"That's a lesson you have to learn. Nobody wants to go down quietly."
NOTES -- A win tonight will send Robert Morris to No. 4 seed Connecticut next weekend. ... Levine's four shutouts this season ties him for third in the country with seven other goalies. ... Brace needs four more goals this postseason to reach 50 career goals for Robert Morris.mobilehome - rmusports - frozenfour
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.