Robert Morris (16-9-3, 12-8-2 Atlantic Hockey) vs Bentley (9-14-5, 8-10-4 Atlantic Hockey)
Friday, 7:05 p.m., Saturday, 5:05 p.m, 84 Lumber Arena, Neville Twp, Pa.
The Robert Morris Colonials will play host to the Bentley Falcons this weekend at 84 Lumber Arena and will be looking for the points that could potentially help them nail down one a first-round bye in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. But like any series this time of year, nothing is a given and the Falcons will be skating stride for stride with them all weekend long.
The two schools have played tight games with each other since their history began. They’ve played countless games that are often decided by one or two bounces, or one or two moments when their opponents blink while the other one capitalizes, and despite Bentley’s eighth place in the standings coming into the weekend, they’re not an opponent to be taken lightly.
“I expect it to be a hard fought series like every one of them have been in the second half so far,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “We had a good series out there in December and I expect another couple of tight games and we have to play to our capabilities to have success.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RMU: Not to sound like a broken record, but the Colonials’ top line keeps plugging away despite their opponents best attempts to stop them as Brady Ferguson (44 points), Daniel Leavens (35 points) and Alex Tonge (34 points) haven’t been held multiple games without a point since early in the season. At the back, Eric Isreal continues his remarkable season that has seen him put up close to a point per game so far.
But the big story recently has been the other players that have stepped up. Timmy Moore kept the big goals coming as he scored his 13th marker to start the comeback against RIT last Saturday night and then the game-winning shot came off the stick of sophomore Kyle Horsman. Horsman had missed most of the first half of the season to injuries, but he’s healthier now, and was part of a fourth line that did some good things against RIT this past weekend.
“Kyle’s been battling injuries and he’s still a little bit hurt at times,” Schooley said. “He’s a big kid that we expect to play physical and play good down low, get to the front of the net and take away the goalie’s eyes. We need him to play a big, heavy hockey game and when he does that, he’s effective. I’m really pleased that he was rewarded and he’s been playing really well lately.”
Bentley: As Max French and Kyle Schmidt tend to go, so do the Falcons. The Colonials tend to do a fairly good job paying attention to the leading scorers, although French did come by two goals and an assist earlier this year. On the back line, the Falcons sport some significant point producers in freshman Brett Orr and sophomores Alexey Solovyev and Tanner Jago, who have 35 points between them.
RMU: The Colonials themselves are coming off a weekend series with RIT that saw them turn in a rare flat performance on Friday night in a 4-1 loss. But the resilient nature of the team was on display on Saturday in more ways than one. Despite outplaying and out shooting RIT for over 40 minutes, the Colonials watched RIT score the first goal in the third period. It had to be a true punch in the stomach for the Colonials at the time, but not one head hung low on the bench as Robert Morris quickly went right back to work, playing the same game they’d been playing to that point, and three goals later, the Colonials found themselves winners on Saturday night.
“We want to stick with the process, we know it’s a long game and that you can’t live and die in the first period,” Schooley said. “There are two signs of very good hockey teams. One is the ability to come from behind, and two, your ability to win on the road. Our team has been able to do both so we need to make sure for comfort’s sake you’d rather be leading and have them chase the game down. But no matter what the score or how early it is or how late it is that we play our game.
“It would have been really easy for us to get frustrated and get down on the process when RIT scored first last Saturday, especially in the third period after playing so well but we didn’t, we stuck with it and we made sure that we kept going and eventually it paid off.”
Bentley: The Colonials have to exercise the same patience and persistence in their style of play to have success this weekend against a Bentley team that will be hungry for points and a good showing following a weekend that saw them drop two home games to Air Force, losing 5-1 on Friday and 6-1 on Saturday.
RMU: We should see Francis Marotte (13-5-2, 1.95 goals-against average, .938 save percentage) this weekend. Marotte has had to shake off some starts he’d like to have back in recent weeks, but has rebounded with strong games the next time out as evidenced by his performance in the 3-1 win on Saturday night last weekend. He looked sharp, cool, and confident as he has for most of this season. Dalton Izyk will be asked to help carry the load with Marotte the rest of the way in the regular season as Andrew Pikul has been sidelined with a lower body injury.
Bentley: Jayson Argue (7-12-4, 3.12 goals-against average, .907 save percentage) should be between the pipes for the Falcons and although his numbers are a bit off this year, he tends to do some of his best work against the Colonials where’s he’s put up some shutout minutes in seasons past. Freshman Aiden Pelino stands behind him with nine games of action this season.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
At Stake: For the Colonials, it’s a chance to gain just a little more separation in the top five. At this point, it looks like Canisius and Air Force have basically clinched the top two places atop the standings barring a miracle. Three or four points this weekend for RMU won’t clinch a bye and a second round home series, but it would make it awfully difficult for them to be surpassed with only four games left after the weekend. For the Falcons, three or four points could solidify their potential home ice standing for the first round. If they were to go back home empty handed however, they could be looking at having to win out to avoid the road in the first round.
All Time: The series between the two is currently tied at 9-9-2.
Bold Prediction: Bentley will want to come into this weekend with guns blazing following their results last week. They normally play very tight games with RMU both home and away and look for this weekend to be no exception. The Colonials will be ready for them and will need to do exactly as they did against RIT on Saturday. Be patient, be persistent and not lose touch of the way they want and need to play. Look for them to do that this weekend in two close games earning a tie on Friday and a win on Saturday.