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CHA Men's hockey Tournament: Robert Morris beats Niagara 2-1, advances to title game

Robert Morris forward Chris Kushneriuk (17) fires a shot past Niagara defenseman Jim Burichin (5) during the second period of Friday afternoon's College Hockey America semifinal game at John Glas Fieldhouse

The Robert Morris Colonials hadn't defeated Niagara University in over a year, a streak stretching nine games.

All that was forgotten Friday afternoon at the John Glas Fieldhouse as Robert Morris (10-17-7, 5-7-5 CHA) topped second seed Niagara (16-14-5, 9-5-4 CHA) 2-1 in a close and exciting game.

The last time the two teams played, just two weeks ago, they skated to 3-3 and 0-0 ties, so everyone was expecting a close and hotly contested game this time around.

That's exactly the way it turned out.

The Colonials scored single goals in the first and second period to take a 2-0 lead. They then made the lead hold up in advancing to the CHA Tournament final for the second time in three years.

Denny Urban staked Robert Morris to a 1-0 lead with just over eight minutes left in the first period. Chris Margott, the CHA leading scorer this year, got the assist. That was the way the first period ended.

"We played extremely well in the first period," said RMU head coach Derek Schooley. "It was good to get out to a lead. (RMU freshman goalie Brooks Ostergard) made a huge save on what looked to be a wide open net for Ryan Olidis later in the period. Ostergard was able to get his blocker out there and make a big save."

The second period also belonged to the Colonials as they took a big two goal lead. Trevor Lewis took a perfect pass from Brook Meadows in the slot and scored past a sprawling Niagara goaltender Juliano Pagliero.

That's when the Robert Morris penalty kill kicked into gear big time. The Colonials were whistled for a minor penalty with 2:32 remaining in the period and were able to skate it off. That allowed them to take a big two goal lead into the final period.

"When we got it to 2-0 we knew Niagara would come out with guns blazing," Schooley reported. "We buckled down and blocked shots; I can't say enough about how the guys played defensively."

The Colonial special teams stepped up big again in the third as the Colonials were called for a penalty just 33 seconds into the period. Robert Morris denied Niagara in a key kill again.

Niagara's Derek Foam made it a one goal game at 5:49 of the third as he scored off a fine pass from Sam Goodwin in the slot. But that would all the offense on the night the Purple Eagles.

Not that there weren't any more nervous moments for Robert Morris. The Colonials killed two more penalties down the stretch, at 7:08 and 15:47, to maintain the lead. On the night Niagara ended 0 for 6 on the power play, Robert Morris was 1 for 4.

"We've been excellent on the penalty kill lately," Schooley reported. "We have so many guys who are playing well. The line of Brandon Blandina, Kyle Burton and Ron Cramer were excellent, along with our defensemen. They've been blocking shots and doing the extra things it takes to be successful."

Ostergard won the key goalie battle, defeating CHA Player of the Year Pagliero with 27 saves. "He's making the most of the opportunity we've given him the last nine games," Schooley. "We have so much confidence in him."

Niagara coach Dave Burkholder was understandably dejected after the game. "We had some chances, but really couldn't get anything sustained going offensively," he said. "When the chance was there to get to a loose puck, they didn't get to it. We played terrible."

Robert Morris ended with a 29-28 shot advantage for the game.

RMU 1 1 0 - 2

NU 0 0 1 - 1

First Period - 1, RMU, Denny Urban 4 (Chris Margott), 11:53 (pp). Penalties - Travis Anderson, NU (interference), 11:04, David Ross, NU (holding), 12:12, Margott, RMU (interference), 13:12

Second Period - 2, RMU, Trevor Lewis 7 (Brock Meadows, Jake Obermeter), 14:09.. Penalties - Urban, RMU (interference), 4:05, Chris Moran, NU (slashing), 15:34, Matt Krug, RMU (holding), 17:38, Sam Goodwin, NU (checking from behind), 19:26

Third Period - 3, NU, Derek Foam 1 (Goodwin, Moran), 5:49. Penalties - Margott, RMU (tripping), :33, Dan Baco, NU (tripping), 3:33, Obermeyer, RMU (interference), 7:08, Dave Cowan, RMU (tripping), 15:47

Shots - RMU 11-13-5 29, NU 7-10-11 28

Saves - RMU-Brooks Ostergard (28 shots-27 saves), NU-Juliano Pagliero (29 shots-27 saves)

Power Play - RMU 1 for 4, NU 0 for 6

Referees - Klosowski, Albers, assistant referees - Carton, Eslinger (WCHA)

A - 1173