After chasing down American International from behind all Friday night in a 4-4 draw, Robert Morris took on the role of aggressor Saturday at 84 Lumber Arena.
The Colonials (6-13-3, 6-6-3 Atlantic Hockey) shelled Yellow Jackets backup goaltender Ryan Kerpan with 45 shots and came away with a 5-2 victory.
With the win, Robert Morris improved to 4-1-1 in the past three weeks — they had just two wins through the first three months of the season.
"Our mindset and our attitude have been so much better,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. “We got 2013 behind us. We started forgetting about the past and looking to the future."
The best way to stop playing catch-up hockey, Colonials winger Colin South said Friday, is to score the first goal. The key to getting that ever-elusive goal? Getting pucks toward the net.
"Before the game we talked about how we had to rip everything on net and keep the pressure down low," Robert Morris center Greg Gibson said. "And that's what we did."
It paid off in bizarre but fitting fashion.
The Colonials took the lead late in the first period when Gibson’s centering pass from the corner deflected in off a defenseman’s skate.
"They're not all pretty," Gibson said, grinning, “but it went in. Like they say, they don't ask how, right?"
Colonials forward Cody Wydo cut into the offensive zone just 66 seconds into the second period and rifled a wrist shot that flew between the legs of a defender, off the crossbar and down behind Kerpan.
Wydo’s team-leading 15th goal of the season ignited a three-goal period for Robert Morris. American International (6-14-1, 5-8-1) managed a goal two minutes later, but that was as close as it would get.
"We had a lot of energy,” Schooley said, “and it was good to see us get rewarded and finally put some pucks in the net."
Forward Jeff Jones extended the lead to 3-1 at the 6:48 mark of the middle frame by lifting a backhand top shelf for his fourth goal of the season and second of the series.
The Robert Morris penalty kill, which allowed two goals on four Yellow Jackets power plays Friday night, was a perfect three-for-three Saturday. And with time winding down in the second period, Colonials forward Zac Lynch got loose on a breakaway, drifted backhand to forehand and shoveled a shorthanded goal past Kerpan to put Robert Morris up, 4-1.
Schooley praised the team’s defensive effort and back-checking in the third period, when the Yellow Jackets were skating full tilt toward Colonials goaltender Terry Shafer every time they scooped up a loose puck.
Shafer made 31 saves to earn his sixth win of the season.
American International’s Nick Campanale scored on an odd-man rush with two minutes left in the game, and Gibson added an empty-net tally to close the scoring.
Gibson was reunited three weeks ago with wingers Matt Cope and Brandon Denham, the line he skated with for the duration of the 2012-13 season. That line combined for 3 goals and 4 assists in the series against American International.
"I thought that line was outstanding this weekend,” Schooley said. "It’s no coincidence that we've been playing so well since they've been back together."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.