Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Colonials looking for 60 minutes of effort

RMU defenseman Alex Bontje battes Canisius' Jeff Murray in front of goaltender Francis Marotte. -- BRIAN MITCHELL

For the second week in a row, the Robert Morris Colonials will take to the road to face a team with a new head coach that is opening up its regular season schedule.

This week’s opponent, the Canisius Golden Griffins, will have the energy of the building in their favor on Friday night as they open the two-game series, but they’ll also have a strong revenge motive riding with them as well. First-year coach Trevor Large, who had been an assistant under the now-departed Dave Smith for the last three years, will make his head coaching debut against Robert Morris — the team that ended the Golden Griffins’ season back in March in the Atlantic Hockey semifinals.

Robert Morris comes into the contest with a loss, as they dropped a 4-3 overtime decision at the hands of Niagara last Friday night. The game saw the Colonials come out flat and fall behind early.

“I thought we got to our game later in the first and again in the second,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “When you get outworked for portions of the game, luck goes their way. They got one off of a skate in the first period, then they got one that deflected off a player’s pants in overtime. They earned their win, take nothing away from them, but I didn’t think we played as well out of the gates as we needed to. We had a lot of tough luck scenarios that they earned with their work ethic.”

The Colonials resiliency came through in the end. Leading scorer Brady Ferguson tallied two goals and an assist and was aided by Alex Tonge’s extra-attacker goal in the waning minutes to send the game to overtime. The result was a lesson of what can happen against any team in Division I when 100 percent effort isn’t present 100 percent of the time.

“We’re not going to roll on through anybody,” Schooley said. “The league is very good, and I think we might have looked past a team that was picked below us in the standings. We’ve got to be ready to play from the get go. We have to play 60 minutes each night. It’s a learning experience and I’d rather have it happen in Game 1 than Game 34. It was a good lesson if you learn from it and if you don’t learn from it, then it becomes more of a problem. I think that our guys are mature enough to know they need to be better and hopefully we move forward from it.”

SCOUTING THE GRIFFINS

Canisius returns virtually all of the team that won the Atlantic Hockey regular season title last year, with the notable exception of starting goaltender Charles Williams. Sophomore netminders Daniel Urbani and Blake Weyrick have had little time in the net so far in their careers, but will look to replace Williams. Up front, the team is lead by captain Ryan Schmelzer who amassed 12 goals and 18 assists last season.

The Griffins will present a difficult challenge for the Colonials, beyond the atmosphere and revenge factor, the team has characteristically played an intense game, while taking care of details at a high level as well as giving their opponents very little time to make a decision with the puck.

“You know they’re going to come out hard,” Schooley said. “It’s a new coach and whether Trevor had been there for a while or not, he’s the boss now and it’s their home opener and they’ll be fired up for it and we’ve got to be ready to go off the bat. We can’t work into our game. We have to be hard to play against. We just need to refine our game and continue to get better and not take time to get into our game. We pride ourselves in our work ethic and that’s something that we can lose focus on no matter how skilled we are.”

BOLD PREDICTION

For as much intensity and passion as Canisius will bring to this series, the Colonials will most likely be able to match it and then some. From then on, it becomes a question of who gets the bounces and who can stay out of the penalty box more consistently. The two sides skate to a 3-3 tie on Friday night, followed by a 3-2 Colonials win on Saturday.

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