Things went from surprise to surrender in a hurry Friday night at 84 Lumber Arena. Army coach Brian Riley all but waved the white flag after Robert Morris erased the Black Knights' one-goal lead with six unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period.
The Colonials (14-16-5, 14-9-5 Atlantic Hockey) rode the second-period blitzkrieg to a commanding, 8-4 victory against Army (5-27, 5-23) in the opening game of the teams' best-of-three-game Atlantic Hockey conference tournament first-round series.
When Black Knights forward Andrew O'Leary poked a power-play goal past Robert Morris goaltender Terry Shafer late in the first period, whispers of a brewing upset floated through arena.
The Colonials went to the locker room at the intermission trailing by a goal despite having put twice as many shots on net (eight) as Army (four).
The deficit was a wakeup call,, but Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley rallied his team with a simple message: stay the course and shoot the puck.
"Now, getting six in the second period wasn't exactly what I was thinking about when I said to stay the course," Schooley said afterward, laughing.
Back on the ice, Robert Morris quickly quieted any upset talk.
"We just put it behind us and came out full force," forward Cody Wydo said.
It was senior captain Colin South who set off the onslaught when he punched home a rebound to tie the score than two minutes into the second period.
Brandon Denham scored 19 seconds later, followed shortly thereafter by Matt Cope and Scott Jacklin and Wydo and Daniel Leavans. Before the period was 10 minutes old, six Colonials had scored and Army goaltender Parker Gahagen was on the bench after allowing the first five goals.
"You like the six goals, and you like the lead, but you've still got to realize there are still 30 minutes left in the hockey game," Schooley said. "You can't quit, and we didn't."
Robert Morris shelled Gahagen and backup Tanner Creel for a total of 55 shots -- 27 in the second period.
The Colonials added goals by forward Zac Lynch and Wydo, a power-play goal, in the third.
Wydo's goals, his 24th and 25th this season, add to the single-season program goal-scoring record he set last weekend against Mercyhurst.
The Black Knights closed the scoring with a trio of late goals, including their second power-play tally of the night. But, as the math might suggest, scoring three unanswered after your opponent scores eight in a row just won't be enough.
"I'm not going to beat our guys up about giving up goals in the last 10 minutes," Schooley said. "We had an 8-1 lead. We did a lot of good things to get that lead."
Robert Morris is 3-0 against Army this season with a combined 18 goals. The Colonials will try to wrap up this series tonight and punch their ticket into the second round of the tournament.
"Don't worry," Wydo said, smiling, "we have plenty in the tank left for tomorrow."
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt. First Published March 7, 2014 10:23 PM