The pieces to the Robert Morris Colonials playoff puzzle are coming together at the right time if last week’s performance in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey playoffs are any indication. Coming into the weekend on the heels of a six game winless streak, the Colonials seemed like a re-focused, well prepared team that dominated five on five play in winning two out of three versus the Bentley Falcons. The win pushes the Colonials into the Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals this weekend where for the first time since 2014, they will be on the road, facing a determined Holy Cross Crusader squad looking for it’s first trip to the semi-finals since 2011.
“I thought we did a very good job five on five and getting pucks to the net,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said, referring to his team’s performance this past weekend. “Obviously, we’d like our penalty kill to do a little bit better. Our penalty kill struggled, giving up five goals, and our power play struggled too, it’s been ineffective the last three weeks so we need to make sure that we focus on being better in our special teams because games will be one and lost with special teams. They haven’t been yet, but they will be eventually.”
A FAMILIAR FOE?
A year ago, it was the same two teams battling for one of the four spots in Rochester, NY. The Colonials dispatched of the Crusaders in two games, although they had the home ice advantage as they did in a regular season series back in November where they came back from two-two goal deficits to earn a 5-5 tie and managed to take a 3-0 shutout the following night to earn a three point weekend. It would appear that the Colonials are up against a familiar foe, but can’t exactly depend on seeing the exact same team they saw a few months ago.
“It’s tough, Schooley said.” We played them so long ago that it’s tough to remember the ebbs and flows of the games. We’ve watched a lot of video from those games. We just have to go out and play. Everybody’s got their game where they want it to be come playoff time and we need to make sure we’re focused, determined and get off to a good start and do the little things. Every play matters and we saw that with our shot blocking last week, our ability to get pucks in and out and those are the little things that go a long way within a short series.”
The Crusaders are ax experienced bunch led by the scoring of Scott Pooley’s 18 goals and 33 points and 2018 all-conference goaltender Paul Berrafato, the Crusaders stick to the system defensively so to speak, but have enough weapons to be much more than a one-dimensional team. A good start will be critical for the Colonials to impose their will and dictate more of the play.
“You have to get a lead. You’re not going to win the game at the start of it, but you can lose it. You have to make sure you’re not chasing the game.”
SCORING DEPTH COMES UP HUGE
Last weekend’s series did point to something the Colonials will need to make the most of this weekend and in any future games, the top line of Brady Ferguson, Alex Tonge and Timmy Moore don’t have to do all the damage in terms of offensive output. Champions are able to find offense in many different ways and from different players and in their win over Bentley, the Colonials got playoff winning point production from the line of Daniel Mantenuto, who scored two of his four goals on the season last weekend, Luke Lynch and Matthrew Graham. The line combined for 8 points in the series. Also, skilled forward Michael Louria is now able to move between the bottom two lines to provide scoring punch as he did with an impressive wrap around goal against the Falcons.
“Daniel’s been working hard all year,” Schooley said. “He creates a lot of chances and it was good to see him convert. He’s been a playoff performer getting four goals in seven playoff games. It’s also good to see Matthew Graham get rewarded and Luke Lynch as well, their line had eight points in the three games. Getting secondary scoring is something that we’re always looking for and to get it from those guys helps our team to be successful.”