Arena packed for historic evening

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Arena packed for historic evening

A packed 84 Lumber Arena crowd looks on as players line up for the National Anthem before RMU vs. Mercyhurst.

A packed 84 Lumber Arena crowd looks on as players line up for the National Anthem before RMU vs. Mercyhurst.

Matt Merlino

A packed 84 Lumber Arena crowd looks on as players line up for the National Anthem before RMU vs. Mercyhurst.

Matt Merlino

Matt Merlino

A packed 84 Lumber Arena crowd looks on as players line up for the National Anthem before RMU vs. Mercyhurst.

Josh Yost, Sports Reporter

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The crowd in 84 Lumber Arena was so thick on Saturday, it looked like a typical Where’s Waldo picture, with people dressed in red RMU touques and black or dark blue winter clothing. They managed to see a historic game, coming in for the free replica jerseys and staying for the game which ended favorably for their team, Robert Morris defeating Mercyhurst 6-1.

History was made in the second period. Greg Gibson held the puck at the top of the left faceoff dot with the time ticking to under thirty seconds remaining. He rifled a shot which was clipped by the glove of Adam Carlson, but managed to fight through and wobble in the air to the net.

That goal marked Gibson’s 100th career point with Robert Morris. He would finish the game with two assists to add to this total, making it sit at 102.

“It’s obviously a great feeling,” said Gibson. “All the guys are giving me congratulations, so there’s obviously a lot of support from them. But obviously I couldn’t do it without the guys I’m playing with throughout these four years. It’s a good feeling.”

While the remarkable moment was the likely highlight of the evening for the packed crowd, the Colonials had another form of history made. Brandon Watt managed to score his first goal in a Colonials uniform in the first period, just inside of two minutes. He carried in and held the puck beyond the faceoff circles before firing on goal and landing his shot five-hole on Carlson.

“You want to get secondary scoring, it’s a good thing for the present, it’s a good thing for the future,” said head coach Derek Schooley. “The more experience you can get guys, because we’re graduating a lot, there will be more opportunities for people to step in and play next year, but we need contributions this year too. Our freshman, Dagnal scored a couple times, Horsman scored, now Watty scored. It’s good to get those guys on the scoresheet, break the goose egg and then they don’t have to worry about it. They just go out and play and don’t press.”

After a difficult game the prior evening, Robert Morris came out hesitant, like they ended the previous game. Into the second period, they started to gain confidence and battle better, gaining the lead in shots with 16 in the second period alone.

“I thought we were really resilient in the second period,” said coach Schooley. “I thought the second period could’ve frustrated us, because we had so many chances and couldn’t score. And we did such a good job of just sticking with the process and that helped us.”

The biggest frame of the game, however, was the third. With the packed house having already gained their jerseys, the seats may have begun to empty, but to the naked eye there continued to be few if any empty seats in the house. Instead, the crowd grew more raucous while the Colonials potted three more goals and put the game firmly out of reach.

“We kind of talked before the game, we wanted to possess the puck a little more in the offensive zone and I think we did that,” said Gibson. “We kind of realized we have to muck-and-grind down low and get pucks deep, and bring it to the net whenever we get a chance. Yeah, it was good to get some points tonight for our line, but other guys are chipping in too.”

Possibly the most endearing part of the game was early on, as young fans throughout the arena began to chant “RMU!” despite being drowned out by the normal noise level of a packed house.

This game also marked history for the writer telling you the story, as well as many others. This game ended up three-on-three for over a minute due to stacking penalties on Zac Lynch, among others. Coach Schooley decided to roll a line of Greg Gibson and two defenders — Chase Golightly and Tyson Wilson — for the stretch.

“I don’t even have it on my line-up card. I went off feel,” said coach Schooley. “We’re not going to have 3-on-3 very much in college hockey unless a parade to the penalty box. And you know what? When you got talented players, I would’ve probably went two forwards and one defenseman, but Zac was in the penalty box. You know, an opportunity just to try something new and have fun with it.”

“It’s kind of cool, there’s so much ice available,” said Gibson. “What you’re looking for, you have so much ice, so much space, so it’s going to be man-on-man. So once you get rid of that one guy, it’s going to be easy to get pucks to the net, drive the net. It was a lot of fun though.”

That decision paid dividends shortly after when the trio managed to spread out along the blue line before attacking the man-on-man defense. Gibson received the puck at the point and attacked with a deke to put the puck around the defenseman. He retrieved it, spun to face the net, and spotted Golightly cutting in out of the corner of his eye. The pass was crisp, the tip was steady, and the puck sailed in to the twine.

Among the other goals of note were Brandon Denham continuing to be a force against the front of the net, Daniel Leavens tossing the puck into the defender’s jersey, and when it fell out quickly scooping it up into a shot to score, and Spencer Dorowicz receiving a rocketing pass from Greg Gibson to score as well.

The Colonials get a week off next weekend, before going back on the road to take on Sacred Heart. They return to 84 Lumber Arena on Valentine’s Weekend, February 12th and 13th, to take on Army West Point.

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