Bensenville, Ill. – It was another week, another step up the National Rankings, and another series sweep for the RMU Men’s Gold Hockey team, this time over SUNY-Canton, an NCAA Division III team. The Eagles moved up from the 5th spot a week ago on the strength of a sweep on the road, and may have positioned themselves to move up yet again as they topped Canton decisively at home by scores of 5-0 and 8-2. The wins lifted their record to an amazing 13-1-1.
Canton is playing their first year of NCAA hockey after having amassed a 29-2-3 record in the ACHA a year ago. They had a 2-3 record in NCAA play before coming to town to play the Eagles, who quickly served notice that the ACHA can compete on any level.
Gold set the pace early in the first game of the series, using speed to create several good scoring chances early on. The first period was an up and down affair, with the teams trading good scoring chances until junior leading scorer Gehrett Sargis drew first blood. Junior linemate Chris Cimoch had a great chance from close in that clinked off the post, and Sargis swatted home the rebound to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead that they would take into the first intermission.
The tide of the game changed in the second period, as Sargis struck again, this time from the slot converting a nice set up from freshman linemate Oleg Popov and Cimoch. The line found the back of the net again moments later, as Popov sent a shot into the upper corner of the goal past Canton goalie Morgan Barr to make it 3-0. Gold goalie Andy DiCristofaro made a dazzling glove save late in the period to preserve the lead, and the Eagles built on that lead in the third period.
Sargis netted his third goal of the night on a blistering wrist shot on the power play, after benefitting from strong work by sophomore Kyle Hamilton low in the zone. RMU would strike again on the power play, as sophomore Rock Einersen snapped home a shot from near the goal line, after receiving a perfect pass from junior defenseman Zack Kuta. DiCristofaro shut down Canton totally, making 27 saves en route to his second consecutive shutout of the season, and the team’s third, while the team recorded its first win ever over an NCAA team.
If the 5-0 final in Friday’s contest was impressive, the Eagles began Saturday’s game with a mind to prove that it had not been a fluke. Less than a minute into the game, Hamilton took a nice clearing effort from senior linemate Mason Riley, sped down the left wing and snapped a shot into the high far corner of the goal to open the scoring. Canton would tie the game five minutes later, but that tie lasted only 40 seconds. Cimoch, who has scored some of the season’s most sensational goals, added another to his belt when he drove around a Canton defender, deked goalie Luis Puig to the ice and then instantly reversed course to deposit a shot into the empty side of the goal to give RMU a lead they would never relinquish. The Eagles extended their lead to 3-1 on the power play, with Popov converting from the slot, assists going to Sargis and junior defenseman Andrew Montague. Montague would stick a dagger into Canton’s hopes as late in the first period as you can get. With less than 1 second on the clock, he ripped a shot that went under Puig’s pad, and RMU went to the locker room with a 4-1 lead.
They grew that lead in the second period, as sophomore Markus Ellis threw what looked like a stoppable shot on the Canton net from the top of the circle, but the puck trickled past the goalie to make it 5-1. Then the Eagles nearly repeated history, scoring with just 7 seconds remaining in the second as freshman Chris Pontello initiated a rush out of the RMU zone, and moved the puck to sophomore Geno Melone. Melone sped to the net and got a good shot on goal that bounced around the crease. Sophomore Derek Winkler tipped the puck out of the air into the net to give the Eagles a five goal lead going into the weekend’s final period.
The lead grew to six when Josh Kaebel slapped home a perfect pass from Einersen to make it 7-1. Canton would score their second goal later in the period, but a big glove save by goalie Tony Petrak while RMU was on the penalty kill staved off any hope for Canton of mounting a comeback. The Eagles scored yet again, when junior Adam Keasey tipped home a shot from junior co-captain Mitch Tews on the power play, to make the final 8-2. It was goalie Petrak’s second win in two starts this year for RMU.
“It was an amazingly consistent effort,” said Eagles Head Coach Chico Adrahtas. “The pace of Friday’s game was as good as any I’ve ever been around. To have two scores like that was more than we could have hoped for.”
The Gold team heads right back out on the road to face league rival Indiana University on Friday, November 16th and Saturday, November 17th. Puck drop is at 8:30 P.M. and 1:30 P.M. respectively. It will mark the team’s sixth road trip of the year, against having only had two weekends at home.
“Indiana is coming off an upset over #2 ranked Ohio University,” pointed out assistant coach Chad Berman. “So we know we’re going to be tested. But we have a lot of confidence in our group and are looking forward to the challenge.”