Tim Benz: Robert Morris goalie Justin Kapelmaster off to strong start
When starting goaltender Francis Marotte transferred to Clarkson during the offseason, it created what appeared to be a massive void on the depth chart for the Robert Morris Colonials.
Usually, problems like that aren’t patched over by the time the first weekend of conference play is concluded.
Fortunately for head coach Derek Schooley, he was able to land a goaltending transfer of his own — Justin Kapelmaster from Ferris State. All Kapelmaster has done is stop 109-of-112 shots in his first three games as a Colonial.
Not a bad start.
Kapelmaster backstopped a pair of RMU (2-2-0) victories over the weekend against Bentley as the Colonials began conference play with two wins (3-0 and 4-1) against a team picked to finish third in Atlantic Hockey play.
“The guy’s a stud,” Colonials center Aidan Spellacy said via rmucolonials.com. “He made some saves I was scratching my head at. He battles his butt off.”
In part with the departures of Marotte, leading scorer Alex Tonge, and top-scoring defenseman Eric Israel, the Colonials were only projected to finish seventh in the conference. But with the kind of goaltending RMU is getting from their new netminder, a seventh straight trip to the Atlantic’s championship weekend may still be in play.
“I’m very comfortable here,” Kapelmaster said, after his 3-0 shutout over the Falcons Saturday. “I spent three years in Michigan at Ferris. Played a lot of hockey for them. Had a good time. I needed a change of scenery. Love the coaching staff here. Love the team here. Everyone is really close and has let me fill in the blanks. I’m really happy here.”
A lot of those blanks had to be filled in on the penalty kill last weekend. Kapelmaster and the Colonials P.K. specialists went 13-for-13 against the Falcons power play.
“He was outstanding,” Schooley said on ESPN Pittsburgh after his goaltender’s shutout Saturday. “He battled. He competed.”
Kapelmaster was even good in defeat two weeks ago. He stopped 29-of-31 shots in pre-conference play against Michigan Tech on Oct. 5 during a 2-1 loss.
“I worked really hard in the offseason to get where I am today,” Kapelmaster said. “The first game last weekend was good to get under the belt. The team played really well in front of me as well.”
This wasn’t Kapelmaster’s first high-volume performance in Pittsburgh. He stopped 58 shots at PPG Paints Arena as a freshman with Ferris State when the Bulldogs tied Boston College 1-1 at the Three Rivers Classic back in 2016.
Filling Marotte’s skates is no small task. He posted 50 wins during his time at RMU, a program record. And he is off to a good start as well at Clarkson. Marotte stopped 70-of-72 shots en route to a win and a tie against Michigan in his first weekend of action as the Golden Knights goaltender.
Kapelmaster entered the season in a three-goalie derby to emerge as the starter with Reid Cooper and Dylan Lubbesmeyer. Those two combined to allow seven goals in a 7-0 loss to Michigan Tech in the second game of that series back on Oct. 6.
Schooley assured the public that this year we wouldn’t see one goalie start every game as was the case with Marotte last season. And that promise as already been fulfilled.
But if Kapelmaster keeps playing this well, he may come close.