It took some time for Robert Morris to settle back in at home. Playing at 84 Lumber Arena for the first time in eight weeks, the Colonials fought from behind all night against American International.
But Robert Morris (5-13-3, 5-6-3 Atlantic Hockey) overcame three one-goal deficits before ultimately accepting a 4-4 draw Friday night against the upstart and buzzing Yellow Jackets night to salvage a point in the standings.
"I don't like playing from behind," Colonials forward Colin South said with a tired laugh. "It's pretty draining both mentally and physically, especially because everyone thought we had a good start to the game; we had good jump in our step and good energy."
The Colonials had the bulk of the chances, with 43 shots on goal to American International's 27, but both offenses eventually lost some giddy-up.
The much-maligned Robert Morris penalty kill, which entered the game with the second-worst kill percentage (.709) in Division I, struggled again. American International (6-14-1, 5-8-1) scored twice on five power-play opportunities.
But the penalty-kill unit stood tall in overtime when Colonials forward Zac Lynch drew a slashing call. The Yellow Jackets didn't manage a shot, and the only true scoring opportunity was a near-short-handed goal for Robert Morris.
"It's simple enough: if we don't kill that penalty, we lose the game and don't get a point," South said. "That was a huge penalty kill, and guys really sold out for it."
The visitors jumped to an early two-goal lead despite being outshot, 17-11, in the first period. And the chase began.
Colonials forward Jeff Jones punched a loose puck past goalie Hunter Leisner just 25 seconds after the Yellow Jackets' second goal, and Robert Morris knotted the score three minutes into the second period when forward Scott Jacklin capitalized on the power play for his sixth goal this season.
The teams traded goals back and forth and back again for the remainder of the second period, a whistle-filled affair that saw four power plays and four goals.
"When you're constantly chasing, you're going to expend a lot of energy trying to get that tying goal," Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. "We played with a lot of desperation and urgency."
With a grin, he added: "I commended our guys with their sticktoitiveness, whether that's a word or not. Our sticktoitiveness was very good."
Colonials forward Brandon Denham scored Robert Morris' second quick-response goal when he answered American International's third goal 24 seconds later to tie things up.
Midway through the middle period, Yellow Jackets forward Blake Peake finished a power play by roofing a wrist shot over sprawling Colonials netminder Terry Shafer to take yet another lead. The game reached a final deadlock 86 seconds into the third period, when South took a feed from Jones and buried it behind Leisner, tying the score for the fourth time.
"I had a wide-open net, and that's not something you get every night," South said.
It'll be a quick turnaround for the Colonials and Yellow Jackets as they will wrap up their two-game series today with a 4:05 p.m. faceoff.
Both teams left the building Friday night frustrated, but also fortunate.
"[American International] has got to be disappointed with blowing all those leads that they had, and they were lucky to get a tie," Schooley said. "And we spent a lot of energy chasing from behind, and we were lucky to get a tie."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
First Published January 17, 2014 11:23 PM