The Robert Morris Colonials get a rare second look at an eastern Atlantic Hockey foe this weekend as the Sacred Heart Pioneers make their way to the Island Sports Center. The two face off in a pair of crucial games that will shape the standings in the conference one way or the other.
“Every series is critical right now,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “We’re still in that mix where we can trend towards the top or trend towards the bottom.”
As much as they need a sweep to get a firmer grip on a home ice position, they cannot overlook a Pioneer team that has already defeated them once this season and may have improved since then. The two teams split a series at Webster Bank Arena earlier this season with each game coming down to the wire. While the Colonials lost the weekend opener 2-1, they earned the split in game two by virtue of a Michael Louria goal in overtime.
Colonials Fall Short In Rockies
The Colonials come off a two-loss weekend against the Air Force Falcon. A mix of bad luck, missed opportunities and other factors prevented them from taking any points out of the weekend as they were swept by identical 3-1 results. Leading scorer Alex Tonge and forward Jacob Coleman managed the two goals for the Colonial while goaltender Francis Marotte allowed just four tallies in nearly 120 minutes of hockey against the second-place team in Atlantic Hockey.
“I thought we had the opportunity to win both games,” Schooley stated. “They were 2-1 games with empty-net goals and we had the ability to win both. On Friday we didn’t give the best effort that we thought we could and we got a bad break on a missed call that ended up in the back of our net. Then on Saturday we played much better. We dictated the play and took it to them at times. Obviously we couldn’t find the extra goal and both goaltenders lived up to the hype of being the best two goaltenders in the league and unfortunately they scored two more goals than we did.”
Though the losses hurt in the standings, the effort given and the lessons learned in the losses point to a team that is still on the verge of making good things happen down the stretch as the playoffs draw closer.
‘We still have tremendous belief in this team,” said Schooley. “We think with the good group of guys we have that we can come through this rough patch and be positive and move in the right direction. We have to have good team chemistry and we have to do things the right way and play for 60 minutes. And if we can do all that, I really believe that we have another run in us whether it’s to end the regular season and playoffs or all the way down the stretch.”
Beck Makes Home Debut
Friday night marks the home debut for forward Aiden Beck as the Pittsburgh native will be asked to add some spark to the lineup. The six-foot-two, 185 pound left-handed shot brings experience from the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite system, Montour Hockey and two stints in the NAHL. Beck had originally committed to Canisius but had a change of heart over the summer in order to have the ability to play hockey in his hometown.
“He’s been a guy that comes to work every day, he’s been patient and he’s waited for his opportunity,” Schooley remarked. “He’s been very good in practice this week. Hopefully he can provide a spark. He’s hungry and excited for the opportunity and we can see where he fits in our lineup so I think it will be a good challenge for him. It’ll be his first home game and his second game of the year.
Scouting The Pioneers
Sacred Heart seems to have found their groove at the right time of the season. They have collected seven points in the last five games and took three of four against conference juggernaut Air Force. Freshman Austin Magera and sophomore Marc Johnstone lead the way up front for the Pioneers with 16 and 14 points on the year respectively. The Pioneers have assembled a deep and skilled set of forwards and there’s a new layer of confidence with the recent upturn in play. Meanwhile, a change in between the pipes has helped point Sacred Heart in the right direction as freshman John Benson brings a 2.48 goals against average and a .908 save percentage into the weekend.
“They’re hot right now and they’re very confident,” Schooley added. “They’re 3-1-1 in their last five games and they beat Connecticut on Tuesday night. They’re very talented up front. Marc Johnstone is one of the better forwards in the league and with Vito Bavaro, Jordan Kaplan and Matt Tugnutt you’ve got a very good offensive group. Benson has played really well for them in goal as well. We have to make sure that we can get more pucks to the net and we need to make sure we limit their odd man opportunities because their forwards are dangerous and we need to make sure that we play heavy below the goal line. And if we can do those things, we’re going to have success.”
The teams square off at 7:05 p.m. on Friday, and 4:05 p.m. on Saturday, both at Colonials Arena.