Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Colonials battle Bentley to start stretch run

Eric Israel battles a Bentley forward in 2017. -- ALAN SAUNDERS

The Robert Morris Colonials return to Atlantic Hockey action this Friday and Saturday as they take on the Bentley Falcons, kicking off a 14 game stretch run to the end of the regular season. They will hope to learn from the first portion of the season. Chief among those lessons is the importance of playing 60 minutes of hockey at a high level every time they step on ice, something they’ve been able to do at various times thus far.  The goals during the stretch are fairly clear; find more offense and improve a power play that has shown it can be better, compete for a full 60 minutes and wind up with home ice and a first round bye in the Atlantic Hockey playoffs in March.

“Our penalty killing has been very good,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said.  “We would like our power play to take another step up and continue with the history we have had with our power play. We’re at 15% right now and we’d like to be around 20%. We’ve got to be able to manufacture more offense. We’ve been very good in Atlantic Hockey play in our defensive game but we’ve got to get more offense. If we can do that and get 60 minutes of good compete level, and get a little more out of our special teams it’ll be a big benefit for us going down the stretch of these conference games.”

Encouraging Signs Found In Losses

The Colonials are coming off a weekend that saw them drop both games in the seventh Annual Three Rivers Classic. On Friday night, they dropped a  7-4 decision against eventual tournament champion Brown University and fell to the top ranked St Cloud State Huskies 5-2 on Saturday in a game that saw the Colonials match their opponent stride for stride for most of the game.

“I thought we played four out of six periods on the weekend,”  Schooley added. “I thought we had a great first period against Brown and I thought we had a very solid 60 minutes against St Cloud. I think we found out the disappointment we had with not winning against Brown, but we were able to bounce back in a short time span. We didn’t leave the Lemieux center until 11 pm and had to turn around quickly and play the number one team in the nation. You never want to take moral victories out of losses.  But we were able to know that we were tied for 41 minutes and 30 seconds of that game. We know we were able to go up and down the rink with the top ranked team in the nation and unfortunately we didn’t find a way to get the job done, but we can take a lot of positives out of that loss.”

Even though the results weren’t what the Colonials would have liked, there were high points to the weekend. They played a strong game against the number one team in the country with little rest and also got to witness players rise to the occasion on a big stage.

Hebert Gives Glimpse Of Things To Come

Freshman forward Grant Hebert stepped forward in a big way over the weekend as the amassed five points and forged his first career hat trick as a Colonial against Brown. Hebert was a force in the offensive zone in both games, scoring and creating chances while showcasing his willingness to go to the high traffic areas to get rewarded.

“He’s got the ability and size to make plays down low,” Schooley said. “He’s talented offensively, He’s got a pass first mentality, but can take the puck hard to the net. He’s got the ability to be a top forward on our team moving forward. ”

Scouting The Falcons

The Falcons and Colonials are battle hardened conference and playoff foes and have a longstanding history of playing in very physical, close contests. Bentley owns the overall series lead between the two schools with a 13-11-4 mark. However, the Colonials have managed to have the better of the results in the playoffs. The Colonials have won both series in three games.

Bentley comes in with a record of 5-11-2 overall and 4-7-1 in the conference. However, records often mean little in NCAA hockey lately it seems. The Falcons are more than capable of earning four points this weekend. Head coach Ryan Soderquist has had the right game plan ready to face Robert Morris much of the time in the series thus far, and the players that can execute those plans.  Up front, the Falcons are lead by sophomore Luke Santerno and senior Drew Callin whom have managed 17 and 14 points respectively. On the blue line, Bentley has a pair of defenders that are ready to join the rush and make plays whenever they step on the ice in seniors Tanner Jago and Alexey Soloyvev. Both are point producers and can be critical stay at home types when the game requires.  In the net, junior Aidan Pelino comes into the weekend with a 3.12 GAA and a .887 save percentage and has been manning the crease for the Falcons, appearing in every game the team has played thus far.

 

The teams square off at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, and 4:05 p.m. on Saturday, both at Colonials Arena.

 

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