RMU knocks off No. 1 Miami at Mellon Arena
Robert Morris saved its best for last.
J.C. Velasquez and Stefan Salturo scored goals within 1:11 of each other in the third period, and the Robert Morris men shocked No. 1 Miami (Ohio), 3-1, on Friday in the finale of Robert Morris’ College Hockey Showcase, the last at Mellon Arena.
The Colonials improved to 4-12-3. Miami dropped to 13-3-5.
Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said the victory could have wide-ranging, positive effects on his program.
“Anytime you beat a No. 1-ranked team in any sport is a big feather in your cap and you can sell it to recruits,” he said. “I’ve been talking to all you guys (reporters) about college hockey and what we have at Robert Morris, but sometimes it feels like it goes on deaf ears. When you beat the No. 1 team in the country in front of a great crowd, hopefully that’ll carry over.”
Chris Kushneriuk’s shorthanded goal with 20.5 seconds left in the first period gave the Colonials a 1-0 lead. Miami countered when Carter Camper scored a 5-on-3 goal with 14:06 left in the second.
In the third, Velasquez scored at 5:02 off assists from Cody Crichton and Nick Chiavetta, and Salituro followed just over a minute later off assists from Denny Urban and Zach Hervato.
“We’ve been close in these kind of hockey games, and for some reason or another we didn’t find a way to finish the job, and that’s what we did tonight,” Schooley said. “I think it was all guts at that time.”
Robert Morris goalie Brooks Ostergard made 39 saves to put an exclamation point on the fourth annual event, which drew 3,654 fans. Schooley said Ostergard responded to his rants.
“I’ve been barbecueing our goalies for the last two weeks in media interviews and in the locker room,” he said. “They’ve taken it and came back with a lot of confidence. You get on your forwards and you get on your defensemen, but you don’t get on your goalies. I got on our goalies, and they shut me up for a least a day.”
Ostergard said the team had been focused on beating Miami all week.
“It’s probably one of the greatest feelings of my life,” he said. “At the beginning of the week, everybody had a goal. Everybody had one mission. It took 22 guys on the ice to get the job done.
“This is the first time I can say I beat a No. 1 team in the country. After you beat the No. 1 team in the country you get the belief that you can beat any team in the country.”
Said Kushneriuk: “It’s going to be something I’ll probably carry on for the rest of my life.”
The tripleheader was delayed by more than two hours after a crane broke down on the rink. The women’s game was scheduled to start at 2 p.m., with the men’s club game following at 5 p.m. and the men’s varsity at 8. The women eventually took the ice at 4:20 p.m. when the crane, brought out before the game to help work on the scoreboard, was fixed and finally rolled off.
When action commenced, Connecticut topped the Robert Morris women, 4-2.
Because of the delay, the men’s club game between 17th-ranked Robert Morris and No. 5 Penn State was reduced to an exhibition, with two 15-minute periods. Penn State won, 3-2.
In the women’s game, the Huskies (10-6-4) took a 1-0 lead in the first period when Maude Blaine scored a shorthanded goal over the glove of Colonials goalie Daneca Butterfield.
“Dealing with the delays, obviously having a giant crane on the ice for a few hours slowed things down a bit,” Robert Morris women’s coach Nate Handrahan said. “I thought both teams worked their way through some jitters.”
Connecticut added two more goals in the second period and another in the third while keeping Robert Morris (5-14-1) scoreless until Jamie Joslin’s tally with 8:22 left in the third. Brianna Delaney scored a final goal for Robert Morris with 18.9 seconds left after the Colonials pulled their goalie.
“Obviously to have an opportunity on the sheet here at Mellon in its last season is a special thing,” Handrahan said. “We play so many big teams on our schedule, and that’s by design, so that the ‘wow’ factor isn’t necessarily there. But I know our kids really relished the opportunity to play here.”
At least one father shared that emotion. Former Penguins goalie Frank Pietrangelo, who was a part of the 1991 Stanley Cup champion team, was there watching his daughter, Paige, a defender for the Colonials.
“He was pretty pumped,” said Paige, a sophomore from Niagara Falls, Ontario. “He said, ‘You know, enjoy it,’ especially because this is the last season (at Mellon). He was excited to come back and enjoy the atmosphere again. … He (wanted) to go out to dinner at all the places he used to go after games.”
Schooley said Robert Morris is in the process of submitting a bid to host the NCAA’s Frozen Four in either 2013 or 2014 in the Consol Energy Center, and that the Showcase will certainly help that cause.
“It’d be nice to have a Frozen Four here,” Schooley said. “And this will help boost the visibility of RMU and our hockey program to have a major event like that come to Pittsburgh.”