A crane malfunction nearly caused Mellon Arena officials to have to cancel the 4th annual Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase. With his team scheduled to play No. 1 ranked Miami of Ohio in the marquee matchup, Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley wanted to hear none of this.
|Robert Morris players jump off the bench after pulling off a 3-1 upset of top-ranked Miami of Ohio at Mellon Arena. Highlights |
“I told them to keep it sideways because it will keep them from getting into the zone,” Schooley said.
The crane was eventually removed shortly after 3 p.m. As it turns out, Schooley’s team didn’t need the help of an impenetrable object to register the biggest upset in school history.
Netminder Brooks Ostergard, was a brick wall between the pipes with 39 saves and third-period goals off the sticks of J.C. Velasquez and Stefan Salituro paved the way to Robert Morris’ 3-1 upset of the RedHawks.
Robert Morris’ shocking victory bookends a week which has shown the country Pittsburgh has developed into a full-fledged hockey hotbed.
On Monday, Pittsburgh natives J.T. Miller, Barrett Kaib and John Gibson led the United States Under-17 squad to a victory in the Under-17 World Games. Friday night it was Robert Morris validating themselves as a bona-fide Division 1 program thanks in part to the contributions from seven western Pennsylvanians who help comprise their roster.
“I have been talking to everyone about how exciting college hockey is and what we have at Robert Morris. … To beat the No. 1 team in the nation in front of a good crowd, hopefully that will carry over when we play (Alabama-Huntsville next) Friday and Saturday at the RMU Island Sport Center.”
In the days leading up to this game, Schooley talked about wanting to be able to keep the top local talent like some of those kids suiting up for the national team playing their college hockey right here in Pittsburgh. After the big win Schooley was pleased that he now has a signature victory to present to these players.
“I think anytime you beat a ranked opponent it’s a feather in your cap,” he said. “It is something you can sell to recruits and build on.
“If we aren’t doing our job locally then we have to do some catch up. We think we are doing a pretty good job locally with the amount of Pittsburgh kids we have on our hockey team.
Robert Morris, which improved to 4-12-3 with the victory, started the contest with four Pittsburgh kids – defensemen Andrew Blazek (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Denny Urban (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and wingers Ron Cramer (New Wilmington, Pa.) and Furman South (Sewickley, Pa.) – in the starting lineup.
Things started off slowly for Robert Morris, which saw Miami register seven of the first eight shots on goal. But Ostergard slammed the door on all 11 shots in the opening frame.
With just 20.5 seconds remaining the period and the Colonials shorthanded, Chris Kushneriuk won the race to a loose puck at center ice and broke in all alone against Miami goaltender Cody Reichard. He used a backhand-to-forehand move to deke Reichard to the ice and slid the puck into the empty cage to open the scoring.
Miami would fire another 15 pucks Ostergard’s way in the second, but they were only able to get the biscuit past the RMU netminder once. That tally came when Carter Camper deflected a Chris Wideman shot into the twine with the RedHawks on a five-on-three power play.
Robert Morris had been in this situation before – in position to pull a major upset heading into the final stanza, but until this night they could never end up on the winning end.
“We have been there a lot against ranked teams but for one reason or another … we have fallen short,” Schooley said. “It feels good to finally get it done.”
The job got done thanks to two goals 1:11 apart by Velasquez and Salituro 6:13 into the third period.
On what would end up as the winning goal, Cody Crichton skated the puck down the left seam and floated a gorgeous backhand saucer pass right to the blade of Velasquez, who one-timed the puck across his body into the top shelf.
|The Colonials celebrate their victory with netminder Brooks Ostergard. Highlights |
Robert Morris fans were still feeding off that tally when Salituro got behind the defense little more than a minute later. His shot was stopped by Reichard, and so was the rebound opportunity from a trailing Urban, who attended the Penguins’ prospects camp earlier this summer, but Salituro circled behind the net and was there to pick up the garbage when nobody else, including Reichard, knew where it was.
The crowd was quickly in a frenzy as they could taste the upset.
“It was a good hockey game with a great crowd,” Schooley said. “They were very enthusiastic. It is something we can build on for the rest of the year.”
They can build off this win because all 18 skaters combined with Ostergard to slam the door down the stretch. Miami actually outshot the Colonials by a wide margin, 14-5, in the final period. The difference was two of those five RMU shots found the back of the net while the RedHawks came up empty.
“I think it was a total team effort,” Schooley said. “We had to kill some penalties. We blocked some shots. We had good goaltending.”
The victory was the Colonials first in four tries co-hosting the Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase. They had previously lost to Notre Dame three years ago and Ohio State in each of the past two seasons. On this night they made sure the final college hockey game at Mellon Arena ended in style.
While Miami head coach Enrico Blasi was disappointed to watch his squad see their overall record drop to 13-3-5 with the loss, he was extremely grateful to Robert Morris, the Penguins and Mellon Arena for allowing his troops to have the opportunity to participate in the Showcase.
“Robert Morris and everybody here at Mellon Arena were great with us all day,” he said. “It’s great to be on the ice where the Stanley Cup champions play. It’s good experience for our guys.”
Robert Morris and Miami will conclude their two-game series on Sunday at 4:05 p.m at Steve Cady Arena in Oxford, Ohio.
The Showcase led off with a battle between the Robert Morris women and the University of Connecticut. Despite a valiant effort with two goals in the third period off the sticks of Jamie Joslin and Brianna Delaney, the Lady Huskies were able to hold on and record a 4-2 victory over the Lady Colonials.
Both of Robert Morris’ goals game via the power play and the Colonials outshot the Huskies, 29-21. The two teams meet again on Saturday for a 4 p.m. tilt at the RMU Island Sports Center.
As a result of the crane issue, the middle game pitting the Robert Morris and Penn State club teams became a compressed 30-minute exhibition game in an effort to keeping the Division 1 game starting on time. Watch highlights from the event on PensTV