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Robert Morris hockey pulls yet another upset of Miami (Ohio)

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 6:58 p.m.
Robert Morris' Brandon Denham celebrates his third-period goal against Miami goaltender Ryan McKay during the Three Rivers Classic final at Consol Energy Center on Dec. 28. (Chaz Palla | Tribune Review)
Robert Morris goaltender Eric Levine make a first period save on Miami's Alex Wideman during the Three Rivers Classic final at Consol Energy Center Dec. 28, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune Review

Robert Morris goalie Eric Levine knew entering the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center that he likely would start both games.

He just probably didn't realize that stopping all 99 shots he faced would be necessary for a tournament victory.

The Colonials clawed their way to yet another significant victory over a national power Saturday, this time a 1-0 victory against No. 5 Miami (Ohio).

Levine stopped all 51 Miami shots to earn his second straight shutout.

“You give up 99 shots in a weekend,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said, “you don't expect to throw a goose egg. That's one of the single best goaltending performances in the history of our program.”

Levine's work through the first two periods was enough to keep the game scoreless, and although Robert Morris was outshot, 18-6, in the first period, there was never a sense the Colonials were in trouble. The powerful Miami offense generally was held to shots from the perimeter, and on the occasions it generated a serious opportunity, Levine was sharp.

The second period saw both teams with plenty of opportunities. Robert Morris had a two-man advantage for 1:46 but never generated a high-quality scoring chance.

Miami enjoyed three power plays during the second period, but Robert Morris' conservative game plan and Levine kept things scoreless.

“You take your hat off to their goaltender,” Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. “He was huge all night.”

Finally, almost midway through the third, a goaltender cracked.

Miami's Ryan McKay, relatively untested most of the game, was beaten from the slot by forward Brandon Denham. It was the first goal against Miami in the tournament and the first goal of Denham's career.

“I just whacked at it,” Denham said. “And it went in.”

Less than two minutes later, it appeared Miami would tie the game.

Forward Curtis McKenzie found himself open in front of the net, with Levine seemingly stuck to the right post.

However, Levine exploded back into the play and made a glove save that brought the crowd to its feet.

Replays showed Levine's glove was directly over the goal line when he made the save, but there was no evidence to indicate his glove crossed the line.

“I was glad that it found my glove,” Levine said. “He caught me looking the wrong way.”

Miami later received yet another power play, but Levine was there again to slam the door.

Robert Morris received a significant edge before Miami even arrived in Pittsburgh. Arguably Miami's two finest players — heralded freshmen Riley Barber and Sean Kuraly — were not available because they are representing the United States at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia.

Barber, a native of Washington, Pa., is the team's leading scorer.

Robert Morris is no stranger to knocking off powerful teams. The Colonials swept a two-game series against then-No. 1 Miami in the 2009-10 season. The Colonials now own a 4-5 record all-time against Top-5 teams.

“You couldn't have written a better script,” Schooley said. “We had over 20,000 people here over two days. To beat Penn State (on Friday) and to beat the No. 5 team in the nation is a very good script to write.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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