The Robert Morris Colonials entered their weekend series on the road against the American International Yellow Jackets in seventh place in the 11-team Atlantic Hockey Conference.
The Colonials and Yellow Jackets split their series, with AIC winning, 3-1, on Friday and Robert Morris bouncing back for a 5-3 victory on Saturday. The 1-1 weekend, though, was enough to lift the Colonials three spots in the conference standings, as they are now in third place with 22 points.
It’s far from a stable situation. With just one weekend’s worth of points in one direction or the other, the Colonials could be in first place or tied for ninth.
That’s why some positive developments beyond the box score could help the Colonials as the games tighten down the stretch run.
COLEMAN LIGHTS THE LANTERN
Sophomore winger Jacob Coleman is one of the Colonials’ hardest-working forwards. Listed at just 5-foot-7, the diminutive winger has developed a reputation for being one of the harder hitters on the team and his speed and tenacity on the forecheck have made him a valued member of the Colonials’ bottom six.
But Coleman hasn’t done a lot of goal scoring in his year and a half at Robert Morris. He scored just once last season in 26 games and took until Game 25 of 2017-18 to record his first tally of the season, a third-period goal in Friday night’s Robert Morris loss.
After his goal, Coleman was moved from the fourth line to the third line for Saturday’s game, skating alongside Spencer Dorowicz and Brandon Watt. The Colonials would love to get a third line scoring to go along with the recent hot play of Brady Ferguson, Timmy Moore, Michael Louria and Alex Tonge at the top of the lineup.
PICKING IT UP
Before this weekend, the last time senior goaltender Andrew Pikul saw any action, he started gave up six goals on 42 shots in a 7-4 loss to Penn State on Dec. 17. This time around, Pikul came into relief situation, with starter Francis Marotte getting pulled just 8:42 into Saturday’s game.
At that point, the Colonials were down, 2-0. But Pikul shut down the Yellow Jackets the rest of the way, giving up just one goal in 51:18 to earn his first win of the season.
Saturday was Marotte’s ninth straight start, and it would seem unwise to run the sophomore netminder out the rest of the season without a night off. Some renewed confidence in Pikul’s game might make that easier to do for Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley.
The Colonials’ m.o. as a hockey program is that of a high-powered offensive unit that scores in bunches and makes other teams play from behind.
But this season, they have played some of their best hockey games when they’ve been led by the defense. That played out on Saturday, as Pikul had to face just 10 shots the rest of the way after relieving Marotte, who had faced only six. The 16 shots allowed were a season-low for Robert Morris, eclipsing their previous best of 19, which they have done three times this year. The Colonials are 3-1 this season when they allow fewer than 20 points.
FOR SURE THIS TIME
Ferguson thought he had set the school’s assists record with 91 on his career the previous weekend at Bentley, but thanks to a 10-year-old scoring error, former record holder Nathan Longpre was revealed to have been shorted one in Robert Morris’ official record books. With the correction made and Longpre now also at 91, the two were tied heading into the weekend.
Ferguson made sure there’s no doubt going forward. He had three assists on Saturday to give him 94 for his career and a definitive school record. There’s been no word on if Longpre is scouring old videos to find more forgotten assists.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Photos of Friday’s game from Brian Foley Photography.