Robert Morris hockey drops physical game vs. Niagara
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It was tough, physical and low-scoring.
Just what you would expect for two teams that have met 39 times over the past eight seasons.
Niagara took down Robert Morris, 2-1, Friday night on a goal from Chris Lochner with 2:53 left to play.
The loss pushed the Purple Eagles into a tie with Robert Morris in the Atlantic Hockey standings. Both teams are three points behind league-leading RIT.
The teams entered the final period tied, 1-1, and both played tight defensively in the final 20 minutes. Niagara (10-8-7, 9-4-5) had a slight edge offensively, but Robert Morris goalie Eric Levine, who finished with 39 saves, kept coming up big between the pipes. It was Levine's fifth consecutive game with 30 or more saves.
With about three minutes to play, Niagara's Kevin Albers fired a shot from the top of the right circle. Levine made the initial save, but got caught out of position. The rebound bounced to Lochner in the slot, and he slid it through traffic for the winning goal.
"That one's got to be on me," Levine said. "Bad rebound and it's tough to lose that way."
The Colonials (12-10-3, 10-5-3) got on the board first, taking a 1-0 lead at 7:08 of the first period.
Cody Cartier corralled the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the left wing on a 2-on-2 with Nick Chiavetta. Cartier slid a cross-ice pass to Chiavetta, who corralled it at the right face-off dot and fired a wrist shot past Noonan.
The game took a distinct physical tone early, which wasn't surprising considering both team have gotten used to hitting each other over the past eight years.
"It's always just a battle," Colonials senior Trevor Lewis said. "It's never really high-scoring. Really physical-type checking."
After a 12-10 edge in the first period, Robert Morris was outshot in the final two periods, 31-16.
"We didn't generate much offense after the first period, didn't get a lot of good looks at the net," Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. "Everything was perimeter, give them a lot of credit."
The Purple Eagles controlled play for most of the second period but had difficulty finding the back of the net. Sam Alfieri had a breakaway four minutes into the period, but was stuffed by Levine. With 4:32 left in the period, Alfieri fired a puck from the point that trickled past Levine, but crept through the crease and went wide.
Niagara finally evened the score right at the brink of the second intermission. After a scrum in front of the net, the puck kicked out to Matt Williams, who fired a shot from the left point. Isaac Kohls, positioned at the right goalmouth, deflected the puck past Levine to level the score going into the second intermission.
The Purple Eagles are the only team Robert Morris has played in a conference with every season since the program's inception. The Colonials played with Niagara in College Hockey America, and both programs moved to Atlantic Hockey two years ago.
The teams complete the home-and-home series tonight at Niagara.
First Published January 28, 2012 12:00 am