AIC men’s ice hockey sweeps Robert Morris in double header on the road

Nicolas Luka goes down the line to celebrate with his teammates

RJB Sports

Nicolas Luka goes down the line to celebrate with his teammates

Haley McLaughlin, Staff Writer

After a 10-hour drive to Neville Island, Pennsylvania, the AIC men’s ice hockey team earned a critical 4-3 Atlantic Hockey Conference win at Robert Morris University on Friday, January 24.

A high pace of play at the beginning did not lead to much scoring for American International College until later in the first period.

Senior Patrik Demel sent forwards, Martin Mellberg and Elijiah Barriga, on a two-on-one; Barriga sent the puck back to Mellberg, who tipped the puck into the back of the net for his sixth goal of the year.

During the following two minutes, the Colonials tied things up before the first period ended.

Barriga commented on the play, saying, “It was a great heads-up play by Demel. Mellberg gave me a nice leading pass, and I returned the puck back to him as he was crashing the net. It was a great IQ tip from Mellberg.”

Halfway through the second period, RMU’s Nolan Schaeffer was penalized for a hit to the head, and the Yellow Jackets took advantage on the major power play.

Barriga and redshirt sophomore Luka Maver found senior Nicolas Luka on the left and scored his first goal of the year at 12 minutes.

Less than a minute later, the lead was 3-1 for the Yellow Jackets as Brennan Kapcheck found Blake Christensen, who fed the puck to senior and captain Hugo Reinhardt in front of the net.

Reinhardt scored his eighth goal of the season on a one-timer.

After the power play ended, another penalty put AIC back up a man, giving junior Tobias Fladeby the opportunity to pass the puck forward to Christensen, who overcame RMU’s defender Justin Kapelmaster at 15 minutes, and knocked in his sixth goal of the year.

But the Colonials refused to give in.

Michael Coyne put one behind the Yellow Jackets’ goalkeeper Stefano Durante, making the score to 4-2. With fewer than five minutes of the period left to play, RMU’s Santeri Hartikainen scored another goal at 15:03.

Robert Morris University pulled their goalkeeper with just under two minutes left, but the Yellow Jackets defended well, hanging on for the final 4-3 win.

AIC’s power play went for three-for-five; the Yellow Jackets have scored five power-play goals in their last two games after scoring just six man-up goals in the previous eleven games.

Junior, Chris Dodero, thought that the power plays were a motivating factor in their success. “Our five-on-five was working well. The power plays gave us the opportunity to take on that momentum to build more in terms of attacking.”

At 5:05pm on the following day, Saturday, January 25, the Yellow Jackets and Colonials closed the double header for the weekend.

The Yellow Jackets took on the Colonials early, scoring in the second minute of the game.

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Jeff Baum and Elijiah Barriga celebrate with Janis Jaks and Martin Mellberg on their win

Mellberg fed a puck to sophomore Luka Maver, who sent the puck back to junior defender Jeff Baum. Baum ripped the puck into the upper right corner of the net to score his second goal of the season at 1:40.

The home team evened the score halfway through the game. A shot by RMU defender Alex Robert was redirected into the net at 8:37 of the middle period.

In the third period, the Colonials took a penalty and the Yellow Jackets again transitioned.

Fladeby pushed the puck up the right wall for Kapcheck, who passed it again. Mellberg sent it into the net at 4:26 for his seventh goal of the season.

Another penalty on the Colonials (this time for having too many men on the ice) meant another power play for AIC. The Yellow Jackets again provided a counter-attack off a rebound shot by Barriga.

Maver sent the puck across the goalmouth, allowing junior Austin Albrecht to score with a tap-in, his fourth goal of the year at 12:35.

Barriga reflected on the excitement of the play. “This was a huge goal for us,” he said. “We were only up one goal with a couple minutes left in the game.”

Barriga found that the special teams were a key factor in both games against RMU. “When our special teams are working like that, it makes it that much easier for us. Coming out with six points that weekend is really hard to do. This was huge weekend for our team.”

RMU’s Colonials had the opportunity to come back when AIC was called for a five-minute penalty with 6:45 remaining.

After the end of the penalty, Maver sent Fladeby in on a breakaway to the empty net for his tenth goal of the year at 18:45, sealing AIC the win.

Albrecht talked about their big double header sweep on the road. “It’s not very easy winning a double header on our opponent’s ice in college hockey,” Albrecht said.

“It is a lot of pressure facing a team back to back, and then that is it.” When asked about their first win over Robert Morris in years, Albrecht noted how important it was, saying, “The results decide whether or not the losing team is knocked out in terms of moving forward.”

The American International College hockey team completed a 4-0-0 road trip with a 4-0-0 win over Robert Morris University. The Yellow Jackets swept Robert Morris University for the first time in program history.