ERIE, Pa. — “The Brady Ferguson of old was back.”
That was the way Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley described the play of his star forward over the final weekend of the first half of the 2017-18 season.
Ferguson, the Colonials’ star senior forward and the top returning scorer in the country coming into the season, had eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in his team’s first 17 games of the year, which still made him one of the team’s top offensive performers.
But it was also well below the pace the Ferguson had established for himself, particularly in 2016-17, when he recorded 58 points in 38 games.
That changed in the final weekend against Mercyhurst, when Ferguson had two goals and five assists on the way to being named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week and the NCAA Hockey First Star of the Week.
That’s more in line with the player that Robert Morris expected to have centering its top line this year, and Schooley thought it wasn’t just the way that Ferguson played with the puck that made a difference.
“[He was] outstanding,” Schooley said. “I thought his whole line was very good. I thought they played with energy and played with passion.”
That’s been part of the recipe for Ferguson, who tried not to put additional pressure on himself to increase his scoring as the Colonials went 7-11-1 in the first half — also off the established pace of the last few years.
“I try not to play like that,” he said. “I’m not really worried about points. But I understand that’s what kind of comes with my role on this team. I didn’t put pressure on myself. I don’t want to say it pissed me off, but I knew I could play better and take advantage of my opportunities.”
That’s the only difference Ferguson could attribute to the turnaround in the final weekend of the first half, that he and his teammates made it count on the scoreboard when they got some good scoring opportunities.
“This weekend showed that I’ve been playing good, but I capitalized on my opportunities and made good, smart plays,” he said.
The emergence of Ferguson and the top line helped provide the Colonials with 10 goals on the weekend, the most of any two-game series thus far this season. Through 19 games, they’ve scored 57 goals. The ten-goal outburst raised the Colonials from 2.76 goals per game to an even three. Last season, they averaged 3.23 goals per game.
In addition to Ferguson, junior Eric Israel was named the AHC Defenseman of the Week and sophomore Francis Marotte was named the AHC Goaltender of the Week.
The Colonials will return to action Dec. 29 and 30 in the Three Rivers Classic at PPG Paints Arena.