NEVILLE TWP., Pa.– The Robert Morris Colonials capped a weekend sweep of the visiting AIC Yellow Jackets with a 4-0 shutout victory that saw them control all phases of the game Saturday evening. Sophomore goaltender Francis Marotte stopped all 19 shots he faced while Brady Ferguson and Michael Louria each managed an goal and assist to pace the offense. But the constant factors throughout the victory were found in a defense that kept the Yellow Jackets to the perimeter for sixty minutes and a power play that went two for three as the Colonials won the special teams battle for the second night in a row.
“I thought we did a very good job of keeping pucks to the outside and we limited second chances,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought it got kind of ping-pongish in the middle of the second period where we were just kind of giving each other the puck. Offensively, I really liked our back check. We did a really good job down low making sure that we kept people away from the net and Marotte was there to make some saves.”
The Colonials continued efforts were rewarded in the two game series, a welcome change from previous games that saw the puck bounce every direction but their own. The goals scored Friday and Saturday came from a mixture of skill and hard work, and the team kept their focus at pivotal times to keep the momentum in their favor.
While injuries started to take their toll on the offense in recent weeks, notably with the loss of forwards Matthew Graham, Brandon Watt and Kyle Horsman, while one door closes, another one opens. Freshman Nick Prkusic has taken full advantage of his opportunity with strong play of late and jump-started the Colonials with a hard blast from the slot on their first power play. While Prkusic and linemates Daniel Mantenuto and Jacob Coleman seemingly ate minutes off the clock with physical play and hard work, they weren’t alone. The fourth line of Michael Coyne, Alex Dagnal and Kevin Lavoie also created chances and kept the Yellow Jackets from developing any offensive rhythm.
The top six was also visibly physical this evening.
“I thought one of our more impactful forwards in the game was Timmy Moore,” Schooley said. “He didn’t show up on the score sheet at all but I thought he was an impactful player on the game. He did a very good job penalty killing, he played with energy, and had a couple of opportunities to score. Everybody wants to look at the box score and the points and everything like that but as a coach you’re looking at guys who are impacting the game even when they’re not scoring. If we had to give an unsung hero of the game award I would have to give that to Timmy. Kevin Lavoie created some quality minutes from our fourth line by pinning them in their zone. It was good to see the fourth line contribute and provide energy and a spark.”
FRANK THE TANK
Marotte’s play was significant as well. While the defensive core was missing standout Elias Ghantous, the netminder noted that they didn’t skip a beat en route to his second shutout of the year and fourth of his young career.
“We actually have so much depth, it helps us so much,” Marotte said. “All of our ‘d’ can play and they’ve proven that, especially tonight. We’re just coming out as a team and everyone is supporting each other so that’s really big. It feels good. Obviously a shutout gives you a lot of confidence, not only to me, but to the team also. It’s going to carry over to next weekend and hopefully we can come up with two wins.”
Top scorer Brady Ferguson had gone without a point in three of his last four games heading into the contest Saturday night. He looked to be back to his old self while scoring the second power play goal, picking his spot in the upper right corner to give his team a crucial three goal lead in the third period. His goal came after linemate Michael Louria beat starting AIC goaltender Stefano Durante late in the second. Louria took advantage of a misplayed faceoff, skated across the hashmarks and placed a back-handed shot through Durantes five-hole to double the Robert Morris advantage. Ferguson contributed the first assist, giving him a two point night.
Ferguson’s presence as a pure scorer will be a necessary factor as the season moves along. His performance on Saturday was encouraging for both his coach and the team.
“It’s important that we get our top guys going,” Schooley said. “Obviously Brady’s been frustrated and not been producing like he would like or what we need but he took a step in the right direction. He back checked hard, he created turnovers and he minimized his own turnovers and created opportunities. That’s the Brady Ferguson we’ve become accustomed to seeing.”
The Colonials travel to Waltham, Massachusetts for a two game set with Bentley University on November 24 & 25, a team that they’ve historically had a tough time getting points from on the road. With the recent string of strong efforts, as well as the team being able to capitalize on those in two of the last three series, perhaps the time to come away with a three or four point weekend is at hand.
“The most important thing is to be peaking at the right time,” Schooley said. “We just have to consistently work on our game and making sure we’re better. Obviously giving up one goal on the weekend is a good step towards doing that and now we’ll go out to Bentley and hopefully carry forward with a lot of confidence. We’ve been playing very well, we just didn’t get the results that we wanted in Rochester and we played very well against Holy Cross.”
Marotte, who lowered his goals against average to just a shade above 2.50 with the one goal allowed weekend behind him, is ready to meet the challenge at hand that Bentley presents.
“We have a big weekend next week, obviously we want to go there and get a sweep. We haven’t had a lot of success there. We want to go in there and play hard and play a full sixty minutes, I think that’s all we have to do.”