Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Colonials look to establish identity against RIT

Kyle Horsman and RIT's Max Mikowski greet one another in front of the RIT goal. -- BRIAN MITCHELL

The Robert Morris Colonials will make their way to Rochester this weekend to take on Atlantic Hockey rival RIT, following an encouraging series against Holy Cross that produced some much-needed goals from different players and a shutout performance in goal.

The Colonials extracted three points on the weekend from the Crusaders, settling for a 5-5 tie on Friday night, while securing a 3-0 victory on Saturday. It was a weekend that saw the Colonials out-shoot their opponent both nights while fine tuning their game in the process. They’ll need to keep replicating the effort, awareness and execution this coming Friday and Saturday in order to keep pace in the conference standings.

“I think we took what we did in practice all week and carried over into our game,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “Giving up five goals on Friday was disappointing, but it was a bunch a bad bounces and things that went against us. We got down 3-1 and 4-2, we were resilient and came back. I really like how our team responded from a tough weekend against Ohio State and I was proud with how our guys performed both nights.”

It was perhaps, not a turning of the corner for the Colonials, but rather a demonstration of what they’d like their game to look like night in and night out, especially in Saturday’s effort. It’s an identity thing for Robert Morris as they proceed with their season’s journey, and identity isn’t always reflected in wins and losses, but rather in terms of doing things the right way, and being consistent with wanting to do what’s necessary to become a very good hockey team.

“You can say all of our woes are fixed,” Schooley said. “That would be inaccurate. It was one weekend. We need to consistently put it together for us to say that everything’s fixed and we’re where we want to be.  We had a very good weekend, we did everything we needed to do and played the way we needed to play. But, we can’t say just because we threw a shutout on Saturday that we’ve turned a corner.  We need to make sure we do it consistently and on a daily basis. Our practices this week have been full of energy and enthusiasm and we want to carry that over again.  It’s not wins and losses. It’s playing the right way and if you come up short, you come up short and you tip your hat to them.”

HEADED IN RIGHT DIRECTION

The Colonials’ shutout versus Holy Cross last weekend was a performance that they’d like to repeat as often as possible. While putting up goose eggs on most nights would be a difficult proposition at best, the Colonials found some confidence in the net from goaltender Francis Marotte and appreciated a defensive effort that limited mistakes they had been trying hard to eliminate in recent weeks.

“It was very good for him to get a shutout and some confidence because he’s been the victim of some bad bounces, some late goals, and some tough chances,” Schooley said. “We really haven’t seen any soft goals from either of our goaltenders that have played. I keep going back to the word frustrating because they are tough chances to give up, they’re easy chances and they shouldn’t be that easy. We did a very good job of not allowing them on Saturday and when they did have a grade A chance, Frankie was there.”

NEW FACES HAVING IMPACT

RMU’s three-man group one of the smallest freshman classes in recent history, but it’s produced two forwards that have already had a positive impact and have helped generate energy for the Colonials this season.  Ryley Risling and Nick Prkusic both played a hand in the outcomes to different degrees last weekend as Risling scored his first career goal on Saturday and Prkusic managed four shots on Friday night and helped created some chances.

“You can’t talk about Ryley Risling without talking about Nick Prkusic,” Schooley said. “They’re both from the same hometown, they’re roommates here, they’re part of a small freshman class and they both provide a jolt of energy that we’ve needed in the lineup, a little youthful enthusiasm. And with that has been some youthful mistakes but they play with a lot of energy and passion. Nick created some prime chances on Friday and Ryley was rewarded with a goal on Saturday, that was the first point from our fourth line all year.”

SCOUTING THE TIGERS

RIT comes into the weekend having won three of their last four games including an impressive road sweep of Army West Point two weeks ago. The series has been a hard-fought one over the years and is associated with huge momentum swings, increased scoring and punishing physical play. The Tigers are led by junior forward Abbott Girduckis, senior Myles Powell and Gabe Valenzuela who have been averaging near a point a game or better. While at the back, captain Matt Abt and freshman Dan Willett lead the way.  In the net for the Tigers, freshman Logan Drackett has been the go-to guy, sporting a 3.52 GAA through his first six starts.

“They play with a lot of pace and energy and they’ve got a very good defensive corps and a young goaltender,” Schooley said.  They’re a team that we’ve had great battles with.”

BOLD PREDICTION

Coming out of Rochester with four points is a difficult proposition for any team in Atlantic Hockey. It’s entirely possible that the Colonials keep improving their game and perhaps fall short on the scoreboard as a loud crowd and menacing atmosphere makes the Polisseni Center a hard place to play.  RIT strikes first on Friday with a wild 5-4 win while the Colonials storm back with a 4-2 win on Saturday.

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