So far, so good, for the Robert Morris Colonials as they opened up their regular season with a conference road split in Rochester, N.Y. this past weekend.
The Colonials took an opening night loss versus the home standing RIT Tigers that saw them get out shot 53 to 27 and down on the scoreboard by a 6-3 score. But on Saturday it was a different story as RIT put up five goals in succession, then gave up five unanswered goals themselves down the stretch as the Colonials worked some power play magic into the mix in a 6-5 victory, preserving two hard earned road points for the weekend. It was the largest deficit overcome by the Colonials en route to an RMU victory in program history on Saturday night, and quite possibly the fastest four goals scored in program history.
Individually, Brady Ferguson made an immediate case for Atlantic Hockey player of the week accolades with a seven point weekend that included a hat trick and six point night in the win on Saturday. Defenseman Eric Israel should be on the ballet as well. The sophomore, who had a tremendous freshman season, found himself on the score sheet five times on the weekend including four helpers on Saturday night as well. Also of note was junior forward Timmy Moore and his two goals on Friday night. For the Colonials to have another great year, scoring depth will be key, and while it looks early on like the top line should garner plenty of chances, Moore could really give the scoring depth a shot in the arm if he should progress as he has in his first two seasons.
In the net, Dalton Izyk had some challenges giving up six goals, but with the shot totals on hand against, it could have been worse and in the mix were some prime chances too as well as one or two he may have liked to have back. Andrew Pikul started for the Colonials on Saturday night and was given the hook in favor of freshman Francis Marotte who earned the victory by giving up only one goal on 27 shots.
So, what did we learn about the Colonials opening weekend? Here’s the takeaway…
CHARACTERISTIC COLONIALS RESILIENCY
Throughout program history, resiliency had been a central theme that has been key to their success. It had to be speculated if some of that resiliency had left with the gradating class last year and had to be re-acquired this year. If Saturday night is any kind of example, a lot of that factor was still in the dressing room and has now been witnessed by the incoming freshman. To lose on opening night in a hostile conference environment can be a bit of a downer. To give up a 5-1 lead to the same opponent the following night, can either be completely deflating, or a moment that a team can point to as turning point, or a moment where they learned something about themselves. It is all in how a team reacts, then learns to become proactive as the season progresses. This bunch appears to be much the same as previous teams, though the sample size is small. Give coach Schooley credit here for instilling it as a core value of the program, this team is never truly out of it and it looks as if the trend will continue into this season.
MAROTTE PROVIDES PUSH
There are three quality goaltenders on the roster. Two were somewhat known quantities, one wasn’t. And that one, Mayotte, just proved one key fact that is huge. He’s good enough out of the gate to provide competition. Mayotte was impressive Saturday night, in a pressure packed situation. Every comeback starts with the next goal you don’t allow. Want to start a comeback, stop making your hole deeper. And he did just that after coming in for starter Andrew Pikul. That speaks volumes. To win a championship, you’ve got to have really great goal tending, to have really great goal tending as a team means making sure that the goaltenders can push each other, and right off the bat, it looks clear that this bunch will have that going forward. A great weekend discovery to be sure.
STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS
Though it was great to see the Colonials come out of Rochester with two points, there are clearly some things to work on and that is a good thing. Every thing you can find to improve on even if you win, means your helping keep complacency at bay; never be satisfied. And coach Schooley will immediately want to take a look at the 95 overall shots surrendered and start there most likely. It’s hard to say whether the high shot totals were a result of players out of position, not following an assignment, or simply not fully understanding of their coverage roles, or just simply needing to lay the body down. Those are pretty easy fixes though as long as you’ve got players that want to improve and it’s a good bet that those sorts of players are currently in the locker room. Another issue he’ll want to address is the penalty kill that allowed RIT to put three power play goals up themselves on Saturday night, and once again tape will be reviewed and the fixes should be easy. Now, it’s up to the players to work on it.