PITTSBURGH — There was a little bit of everything the Robert Morris Colonials had experienced in the 2017-18 season on display at PPG Paints Arena on Friday night in their 5-2 loss at the hands of Penn State to fall to 5-10-1 on the season.
There were moments where they looked as if they were the better team, convincingly so, as evidenced by a strong first period that saw them take the early lead and own most of the scoring chances. There were also moments of frustration, where seemingly everything that could go wrong, did go wrong with the momentum of the game up for grabs. The game also included bad bounces that found their way in the back of the net, and self-inflicted wounds that were frustrating to say the least, as well as a late goal from Brady Ferguson looked like it might start a comeback.
Through 60 minutes of hockey, one thing remained clear though. That the talent and depth of the roster is on par with some of the better teams playing NCAA Division I hockey at this time and that for that talent to shake off the rough start to the season, it will take every man on the roster all pulling in the same direction to make it another season to remember.
But, the good news is, they have the attitude it takes to do so, and that’s what season turnarounds tend to start with.
“I think it’s just bearing down and having confidence in ourselves,” forward Timmy Moore said after the game. “We worked very hard in our off week and we worked very hard this week. It’s not that we’re not working hard. It’s not that we don’t care. Those things we do. Guys are going to have off nights. Guys are going to make mistakes. It’s not because they want to make mistakes. It’s not because they want to make mistakes, it’s just the game. We’ve got to be there to support each other, to back each other up. It’s just putting a full 60 together. I know this group can do it. I know it’s just a matter of time at this point.”
To dig themselves out of the hole they’ve dug thus far will also take a committed effort from every player on the roster. The time for giving lip service to playing a full 60 minutes has come and gone, the results are necessary now. The challenge will be more than just giving a full game effort with a high battle level from a physical standpoint, but perhaps more importantly a mental one, with more focus on awareness and responsibilities.
“Frustrated,” head coach Derek Schooley remarked. “Because this team has got the capability to be a very good hockey team. But you can’t talk about it, you have to go out and do it. There’s some frustration with where we are, because we’ve played well in spurts, but you have to put it together for a full 60 and when you do put it together for a full 60, something happens — a bad bounce. Sooner or later, something has to change to flip the script. We have to get everybody going at the same time. We can’t have any passengers on the bus. I wish it was one person who I could say ‘that’s what’s costing us’ and I could make a lineup change. But every game it’s somebody or a couple of people different that hurt the hockey team whether it’s not getting a puck in or a bad pinch. We just have to get everybody going at the same time in every game.”
Schooley has experience helping his team overcome an unexpectedly poor start before, having guided teams in similar situations to conference championship games by the time March rolled around, or better yet, and NCAA tournament birth. Such was the case in 2013-14 when the coach and team ceremoniously burned the scorecard at the halfway point of the season and went on a historic run through the Atlantic Hockey playoffs and tournament.
“They have to come together as a group.” Schooley said. “With the veteran leadership currently in the locker room, coming together as a group will be a focus going forward one would have to imagine. It’s been a strange start to the Colonials season, and unexpected one, but the faith is still strong among the team to a man, that the results are going to turn for the better sooner, rather than later.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” sophomore forward Luke Lynch said. “Because we know the team that we expect to be and that we are. We’re going through a rough patch right now, but every year that all of us have played in hockey, we’ve gone through rough patches every year know matter what. If you’re on the best team in the world, you’re going to go through a rough patch. You’ve just got to dig out of it. It never gets easier. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re just putting one foot in front of the other and stick together.”