Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Niagara Eagles bring young, talented team into weekend series

Robert Morris celebrates a goal against Army. -- Brian Mitchell

 

“They’re on an upward trend and if we take them lightly like we did last year in game one, they’re going to beat us,” Robert Morris Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said referring to his team’s upcoming opponent this weekend. And the message will need to resonate in the locker room if his team is to make the most of the two game series.

The home stand continues for the Robert Morris Colonials this weekend as they prepare to take on a determined Niagara squad at the Island Sports Center on Friday and Saturday night. The Colonials are looking to continue playing what Schooley refers to as ‘Colonial hockey’. The Colonials battled on every shift during a 3-0 victory last Friday night as they kept the high-powered RIT Tiger attack under wraps and goaltender Francis Marotte earned his first shutout of the season. On Saturday, they gave every bit of the effort they did on Friday, but came up one goal short in a 2-1 overtime loss in a game that truly could have gone either way.

The effort will need to be continued all season, but it indicates that the young team is quickly learning what it takes to compete at the NCAA division one level.

“I think our guys should be able to see from the results how important out compete level is,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. ‘We were able to sustain it for 120 plus minutes but we just came up a little bit short. You can deal with losing hockey games when you play that hard. You’re disappointed, but you can deal with it which was not was like it was happening in the previous game twos. I was pleased with the weekend, not with the final result, but with our compete level.”

 

OFFENSE GETTING IT TOGETHER

To this point, scoring at even strength had been a slow go for Robert Morris. However, this past weekend saw some signs of life as they put up 28 and 34 shots on Friday and Saturday respectively. The next mission on the Colonial offensive agenda is simply getting the shots in all the right places and committing to battle around the net.

“I think part of the problem is we’ve passed up a few shots,” Schooley added. “We’ve passed up opportunities to shoot the puck. But the other problem is when we shoot it, where we put it. We’ve been trying to beat goalies on one shot, trying to beat them glove side and goalies at this level will be able to catch pucks. We’ve got to be able to get rebounds, and get traffic and be able to compete around the net and win some battles. We can’t have a lot of one shot saves.”

FRESHMAN PLAYING BIG EARLY ON

Freshman contributions at timely moments highlighted the weekend that was against the Tigers. On Friday night, defenseman Geoff Lawson got the Colonials on the board scoring in the second period. Fellow freshmen Kip Hoffman and Nick Lalonde got assists on the goal. Hoffman and Lalonde also sparked the offense on Saturday as they generated multiple chances with Lalonde coming through on the game tying goal in the third period.

“You get excited for them,” Schooley said. “Especially when it’s their first career goal and the guys get excited for each other. But more importantly, we’re getting some secondary scoring. We have a lot of freshman playing in the games and anytime we can get more contributions from them it’s a benefit. And we will get goals from Kip Hoffman and Grant Hebert and the rest of our freshman who have scored at other levels.”

 

SCOUTING THE EAGLES

The Purple Eagles come in to the weekend with a confidence following a trip to Air Force that saw them take a 5-0 win and battle hard in a 2-1 loss. Like the Colonials, the Eagles have a highly skilled, youthful team that’s starting to get it together as head coach Jason Lammers looks to restore the program’s status as one of the top teams in Atlantic Hockey.

Freshman Dylan Mills leads the attack for the Eagles, collecting six points in six games thus far while Brian Wilson mans the crease with a slim 1.76 goals against average.

“Niagara is a very good hockey team,” Schooley remarked.  “They gave Air Force all they could handle out there and they split with AIC, two teams that were picked very high in our league. They’re learning as they go, they’ve got a relatively new head coach that has two classes brought in and they’re out to prove something. They’ve got a good goaltender in Brian Wilson. They are scoring by committee with the Mills brothers and a whole bunch of other guys that are producing for them. We need to be ready to play. This is not the Niagara that finished in last place a couple of years ago and it’s not the Niagara that was on a downward trend.”

Robert Morris will face Niagara this Friday and Saturday night at the Island Sports Center, both games will start at 7:05 p.m.

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