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The Eagles honored program founder Tom Wendlandt prior to Saturday's game!
Men's Hockey Gold-CH - Mon, Jan. 9, 2017

BENSENVILLE, Ill. - The eighth ranked Robert Morris Illinois Men's Gold Hockey team had big visions of starting the second half of the season off in big fashion, but turned in two lackluster performances, defeating the University of Illinois by the score of 5-3 on Friday, January 6th and then losing in a shootout 4-3 on Saturday, January 7th at The Edge.  The games were polar opposites on the scoreboard, with RMU never trailing on Friday and never leading on Saturday, but the weekend still raised the Eagles' record to an impressive 19-4-2, as shootout losses count as a tie in the rankings and season records.

In the opener, RMU got off to a 2-0 first period lead, with junior Gavin Burbach (JR/Newberry, Mich.) converting a perfect feed from junior linemate Nathan Chasteen (JR/Peoria, Ill.) (JR/Peoria, Ill.) to make it 1-0. Late in the period, freshman defenseman Dylan Holt (FR/Andover, Minn.), playing in just his third game for the Eagles, sent a pass up the right boards at center ice. Freshman Sam Mancini (FR/Bloomingdale, Ill.) chipped the puck into the Illinois zone, where senior captain Bobby Chapman (SR/Lansing, Mich.) picked it up, walked around the Illini defense, deked goalie Joe Olen to the ice and slipped the puck home to make it 2-0.

However, the second period saw the home team take a step back, and Illinois' James McGing halved the RMU lead on the power play. But the Eagles answered, as Burbach spotted Chasteen behind the Illini defense and hit him in stride. Chasteen broke in on Olen, deked the goalie down and scored to make it 3-1. Later, just as a power play was ending, junior Dan Doyle (JR/New Lenox, Ill.) ripped a shot past Olen, who was screened perfectly by sophomore Cody Maulsby (SO/Clear Lake, Iowa) to make it 4-1. But the home team couldn't put the game away, as the Fighting Illini scored with less than a minute left in the period. In the third period, McGing scored again to make it 4-3, but sophomore Ryan Martin (SO/Rochester, Minn.) put the game out of reach, scoring on a rebound from a shot by Doyle to make the final 5-3 in favor of the Eagles. Sophomore goalie Cole Semchak (SO/Bakersfield, Calif.) recorded the win, making 21 saves.

Saturday night's game was RMU's annual "Rock the Rink" night, and the Eagles honored the memory of the program's founder, Tom Wendlandt, with a moving tribute before the game, highlighted by the presence of his wife Lynne, his son Geoff, and his grandsons, who took part in a ceremonial puck drop. A bevy of RMU alumni were present to honor Tom, a testament to the effect he had on all of the student-athletes who were Eagles over the years.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY OF THE MEMORIAL CEREMONY!

The Eagles responded sluggishly during the game, outshooting the Illini significantly, but settling for play on the perimeter and failing to test Illinois goalie David Heflin as they had Olen the night before. The Eagles were victimized by another goal late in the period, on the penalty kill again, as a shot from the point hit two bodies before bouncing past Semchak giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. RMU tied it in the second, as Doyle ripped a shot into the short side of the goal, but the Illini regained the lead on yet another defensive breakdown that allowed for a breakaway. Trailing 2-1 going into the third, RMU killed two penalties, including a five-on-three advantage, to regain some momentum, and that was capped off when freshman Scott Coash (FR/Plainfield, Ill.) snapped home a wrist shot from 20 feet to tie the game. But on yet another power play, Illinois retook the lead with just five minutes to play. On the very next shift, RMU tied it once again, with Burbach scoring from a tough angle after a shot from senior defenseman Jake Floro (SR/Bloomingdale, Ill.) hit a body and bounced to the junior winger.

In the closing minutes, Illinois benefitted from two non-calls on flagrant penalties, and the game went into overtime.  Neither team was able to score in the added time with Semchak making a key breakaway save for RMU. In the shootout, five Eagles failed to score before Illinois scored to break the tie.

"A very disappointing weekend," said RMU Head Coach Chico Adrahtas. "On Friday, our defensive corps struggled and on Saturday, our forwards relegated themselves to the perimeter of the rink. We have to fix the issue of surrendering odd man breaks, which was a strength for us early in the year. Three goals should always be enough to win a game."

RMU heads out on the road now for three tough weeks, starting at league rival and defending ACHA National Champions Lindenwood University for games on Friday, January 13th and Saturday, January 14th. The Eagles don't return home until February 3rd and 4th when they host Indiana Tech at The Edge.

 
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