There are six games left in the regular season for the Robert Morris Colonials, and they represent six opportunities that could be used to propel them into a home ice situation in the upcoming Atlantic Hockey Playoffs. The team needs to take it one game at a time, and even one shift at a time to have the greatest amount of success. The road won’t be easy in any of their last three weekends of play, starting Friday night at Holy Cross. However, the Colonials have some good reasons to be optimistic- even after following a stretch of play that has seen them win just once in their last 10 games following the holiday break.
“We’ve reset our season,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said “We’re not judging everything on what’s happened in the past, we just need to worry about what happens in the future. We just need to make sure we’re focused and ready to play hockey when we come out of the break.”
After having the last weekend off, the Colonials (9-18-1; 8-13-1) find themselves a single point out of a potential home ice position and tied with their upcoming opponent in the standings. Should either team manage a sweep this weekend, it could prove to be a devastating blow to the loser in terms of postseason positioning. Inversely, a sweep could propel the winner to the final home ice spot with four games remaining.
With the break, The Colonials have used the extra practice time to prepare and refocus. To this point in the season, the Colonials have played well in spurts, with impressive wins over Bowling Green to start the season and a sweep of Mercyhurst, and have shown flashes of being a dangerous team as the postseason draws closer. However, if they are to flip the switch this season, limiting mistakes and playing for 60 minutes will have the areas where they must improve to have a chance of turning the remaining season into a special one.
“We’ve had an excellent off week and we’ve really set ourselves up for success,” Schooley remarked. “I really like our last two weeks since we played. Our preparation has been good, our energy’s been good and we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on where we’re at and where we need to go and I really like how things have gone so far. We’ve worked in cohesiveness this week.”
SENIORS COULD SPARK TURNAROUND
Perhaps the greatest asset in the Robert Morris arsenal lies within the group of seniors and upper classmen that have played big games on big stages while procuring wins in the postseason. It will be a group that will need to lend it’s experience to the young team and play it’s best hockey of the season, as forwards Alex Tonge, Michael Louria and Brandon Watt plus defenseman Eric Israel embark on the last leg of their Colonial careers.
“We’ve got a proud group that has won a lot of hockey games here,” Schooley said. “They know how to win, and how to win in key situations. If we can play our best hockey, you like where you’re gonna go, you like what you’re going to do and you like how the future stacks up. The seniors have been a big part of Robert Morris hockey and will continue to be a part of it for the rest of their lives. I believe this is a group that can turn this around and be positive and enthusiastic and ready to go when it gets down to crunch time.”
SCOUTING THE CRUSADERS
Meanwhile, the Crusaders (7-17-4; 7-12-3) will be looking to continue their recent uptick in play since the teams split a weekend series at Colonials Arena in December.
“It’s not about where they are in the standings, it’s how they are when you play them and since we’ve played them they’ve been a better hockey team. Their goaltending has solidified and they’ve got two excellent defensemen in Spencer Trapp and Johnny Coughlin and they’ve got Michael Laffin up front and they’ve got some young guys that have really stepped up. They’re a young hockey team much like ourselves but they’re getting better as the season goes on and it’s a different hockey team and we’ve got to be prepared for a different team than the one we saw in December.”