Bensenville, Ill. – The Robert Morris Men’s Gold Hockey team ran its record to 22-2-1 by sweeping the Indiana University Hoosiers 11-1 on Friday, January 11th and 9-2 on Saturday, January 12th. The series was a far cry from the tightly defended previous weekend series against Iowa State, but the Eagles added to their point total in the CSCHL, lifting their league record to 7-1. The Eagles remained undefeated against Indiana since the latter moved into the ACHA Division I ranks, owning a 13-0 record against the Hoosiers over the last three years.
With the sweep the previous weekend, RMU maintained its #2 ranking in the ACHA Coach’s poll, but fell short of the top spot by a mere seven points, gathering 14 first place votes. The sweep over Indiana, coupled with top ranked Arizona State’s two overtime contests against Stony Brook (N.Y.), could move the Eagles into the top spot in the next ranking due out on January 18th.
Despite the lopsided score in the first game, the first period of the weekend was played evenly as both teams recorded only seven shots on goal with the Hoosiers mounting several good chances against RMU goalie Andy Dicristofaro, who was sharp in between the pipes. Junior captain Chris Cimoch opened the scoring for the home team, intercepting an Indiana break-out pass and breaking in alone on goalie Michael Reed before depositing a shot into the bottom far corner of the net. Sophomore Rock Einersen made it 2-0 on a power play when the center moved into the zone on the right wing and zipped the puck into the short side of the goal. With just minutes remaining in the first period, sophomore Derek Winkler made the most of a great forecheck, took the puck and fed junior Adam Keasey in the slot. Keasey’s shot was stopped, but he got his own rebound to score, giving RMU a 3-0 lead they would take into the first intermission.
The Eagles put the game away in the second period, outscoring the visitors 5-1. Einersen started the barrage, snapping a low shot through the five-hole on a partial breakaway. DiCristofaro follwed that goal with the save of the game, a beautiful split glove save that signaled the end for any Hoosier hope of a comeback. Cimoch scored his second of the game on a power play, and senior Josh Kaebel completed a picture-perfect scoring play, slapping home a shot from a great cross-ice pass from Einersen to make it 6-0. Indiana changed netminders, but Winkler greeted their new goalie with a breakaway goal, converting on a nicely executed deke. Indiana’s Tommy Washburn broke DiCristofaro’s shutout, tipping home a pass from point blank range, but sophomore Tony Domico answered that with a strike of his own, slapping home a great drop pass from sophomore linemate Mason Riley, and the second period ended with RMU leading 8-1.
RMU would strike three more times in the third period, with Riley scoring on a nice backhand, leading scorer junior Gehrett Sargis potting a high shot, and sophomore Kyle Hamilton a snap shot to make the final 11-1 in favor of the Eagles.
The second game of the series would follow in similar fashion as the Eagles beat goalie Reed four times in the opening frame. On an early power play, junior defenseman Andrew Montague’s thunderous shot was stopped, but the rebound fell to Keasey who pushed it home for the game’s first goal. Sophomore Paul Isleib made it 2-0 with a rebound goal after strong work from linemates Kaebel and Einersen, and then freshman Oleg Popov got on the board with a strike from close-in, assists to Cimoch and Sargis. Junior defenseman Ryan O’Connell got into the scoring column with a perfect shot from the slot, and the rout was on.
Unlike the night before, the second period saw the teams exchange goals. Sophomore Geno Melone scored on a delayed Indiana penalty, benefitting from a great set-up by Winkler. Washbrun would get his second of the weekend for Indiana on a Hoosier power play, his excellent shot from close in beating RMU goalie Rob Kennedy. Kennedy, making his second start of the season, was sharp throughout the contest in recording his second win of the season.
The Eagles would win the third period 4-1 with Domico opening the scoring on a shot off the pass on a nice assist from Winkler, and Riley would get his sixth goal of the year shortly thereafter, converting a rebound from just off the edge of the crease. IU’s Jack Mannion scored on a nice screen shot from the point to make it 7-2, but three minutes later, Isleib notched his second of the game on a rebound with the team on the power play, and junior defenseman Mitch Tews would round out the scoring with another power play goal, leaving the final at 9-2.
“Indiana’s players kept working and played clean despite the score,” said assistant coach Chad Berman. “We respect the challenges their program has, and we got a couple of decisive league wins. For a program with the goals we have, we need to play with the same intensity against Indiana that we would against any other team in the ACHA.”
Gold’s schedule turns tougher for the remainder of the season, beginning with the challenge of hitting the road against perennial CSCHL powerhouse Ohio University. The Bobcats are coming off their most impressive win in weeks, an 8-5 thumping of Iowa State in Iowa. Athens, Ohio has always been a tough place to win, but the Bobcats have not been as dominant at home as they have been in past years. In any event, the games should be thrillers with the two evenly matched teams.
“Ohio has dipped a little in the rankings,” noted head coach Chico Adrahtas. “However, there is very little difference between our teams in talent and I believe they’re a top-3 team. I’ve always felt their coach (Dan Morris) does as good a job as anyone in the country at instilling intensity and system in his team, and I expect the games to be razor thin affairs.”
The Eagles return to action at The Edge in Bensenville for home games on January 25th and 26th against the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Both games will have 7:30 P.M. puck-drops.