It’s back to Atlantic Hockey action for the Robert Morris Colonials this weekend. They’ll be taking on a red-hot Mercyhurst Laker team in a home and home series that kicks off an important stretch of eight consecutive conference games. Having had a weekend off following a series that saw them drop two games to the sixth ranked Penn State Nittany Lions, the Colonials are anxious to return to to the task of finding consistency and achieving results.
“Everybody thinks it was a good time to have off,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We wanted to get out there and play right away. We’ve had a lot of time to think about our previous weekend and we want to get back out there and play.”
Silver Lining In Losses
While the Colonials found themselves on the wrong end of a 7-2 and 11-6 contests against Penn State, the games were closer than the scores indicated.
“Well, I can tell you we were disappointed,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said. “We thought we gave ourselves opportunities to win and we thought we did some good things. We just had some mistakes that ended up in the back of our net and you can’t do that against a such a skilled team. I thought we played well in spurts, It was 4-4 with 10 minutes left in the second period and things just got away from us. We’re in good spirit. We’ve moved on and moved past it.”
Despite the losses, the Colonials saw their offense break out with a season high six goal effort in the second game as a pair of high scoring upperclassmen took their game to another level. Forwards Alex Tonge and Luke Lynch had been counted on to supply the Colonial offensive attack with goals and they both came through with their best performances of the young season.
“The guys that we needed to step up and play big played big all weekend. Alex Tonge had four goals and I thought Luke Lynch had his best weekend of the year. Nick Prkusic was a presence down low and was taking pucks strong to the net. Our freshman have to keep getting better and keep working.”
New Faces In New Places
The Colonials find themselves with a 3-6-1 record through their first 10 games and have been folding in 11 freshman into the lineup. It’s a work in progress as they learn what kind of battle level it takes to succeed while learning their roles and responsibilities. Managing lineup change and overcoming obstacles will be next on the agenda. Due to a slew of injuries, some new faces will find themselves in some different roles. Still though, attitudes have been upbeat at practice and belief in what the team can accomplish this season is present in the locker room.
“By no means is it panic time or time to take the pucks away and have no puck practice,” Schooley said. “It was time to let some guys get some time off. We are not healthy right now and that’s going to be an issue that we’ll have to deal with. People are going to have to be playing some different roles. The only thing that will get us healthy is time.
Scouting the Lakers
Mercyhurst brings a 4-0-1 record in their last five contests into the weekend and completed a road sweep of the Ferris State Bulldogs earlier in the year. They’re led up front by skilled forward Joe Duszak who comes in with three goals and 11 assists while All-Conference defenseman Derek Barach leads the charge for the defensive corps with 11 points thus far. In the crease, the Lakers have used all three goaltenders so far, however sophomore Stefano Cantali (2.25 GAA; 91,57 SV) appears to have the inside track on the starting spot thus far based on minutes played.
It’ll be a hard task ahead for the Colonials whom have had played their fair share of down to the wire affairs with the Lakers in both regular season and post season action.
“Much like us they’re a young team but they still have some premier players in Derek Barach and Joe Duszak. For having a lot of freshman, they have a lot of seniors and played a lot of hockey games. It’s a prideful group. They know how to play the game and they get up and down the ice very well. Rick Gotkin always has them prepared and well coached. We’ve got to go out and play our game, we’ve got to have confidence and we have to get off to a quick start. It’s been a while since we’ve played.
The teams will face-off at the Robert Morris Colonials Arena at 7:05 p.m. on Friday and at 7:05 p.m. at the Mercyhurst Ice Center on Saturday.