Robert Morris vs Holy Cross
Atlantic Hockey Quarterfinals
Friday March 10, 7:05 p.m.
Saturday March 11, 7:05 p.m.
Sunday March 12, 7:05 p.m. (if Necessary)
84 Lumber Arena
The road to Rochester starts this weekend for the Robert Morris Colonials as they face the Holy Cross Crusaders. The task at hand for RMU represents perhaps one of the toughest opening round opponents in their playoff history. The Crusaders will bring a disciplined approach, relying on staying the course with a system that makes them very difficult to play against.
Now throw in the fact that Robert Morris will have to acclimate a large freshman class to the speed and intensity of playoff hockey at the same time, and it’s fairly easy to see that they’ve got their work cut out for them. But they won’t be going in without any idea of what to expect from their opponent as the teams played earlier in the year, and have both enjoyed a bye weekend by virtue of their finish in the Atlantic Hockey standings. The momentum will be neutralized, and it’s a clean start to the second season.
“There’s obviously things you can take out of the games,” Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. “We got to see how their systems play and what they like to do and how they might counter us. It’s playoffs, it’s the second season, obviously the intensity level will be ramped up and we just need to worry about our game. We don’t want to overload our guys with them, because we have to worry about ourselves, but you still have to have an idea of what they’re trying to accomplish.”
Working to the Colonials advantage however, will be a group of seniors and upper classmen that have been through these battles before. It’s a group that has enjoyed postseason success whether in series play or single game elimination mode, and it could very well be the calming presence that makes a difference. Led by captain Rob Mann, the level of leadership the Colonials have had has brought a young team to an ever increasing level of competition. It will just take one more level to ensure a berth in the Atlantic Hockey Semi Finals next weekend.
“We’ve had really good practices and I think our guys know what’s at stake,” Schooley said. “Our older guys have been through battles, they’ve been through quarterfinal wars where we’ve had to go to three games and our seniors have won series on the road so they’ve been through this, and our freshman are just excited to play. It’s been tough sitting around for two weeks knowing who you’re opponent is. They’re ready to play.”
LAST TIME OUT
Jan. 27 and 28: The teams met once earlier this season in Worcester, Mass for a two-game series that saw the Colonials return home with a split. In the first game, Holy Cross converted 10 first period shots into four goals and managed to hang on for a 4-3 victory despite being out shot 35-23. Colonials forwards Luke Lynch, Brady Ferguson and Timmy Moore found the back of the net for RMU. In the second game, both the first period and the final result belonged to the Colonials who managed six-first period goals en route to a 6-0 win. Moore picked up two more goals while Daniel Leavens and Alex Tonge both picked up tallies and Dalton Izyk stopped all 25 Crusaders shots on his way to collecting the shutout.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
RMU: The Colonials top line of Tonge, Leavens and Ferguson are no strangers when it comes to playoff hockey, and they finished the regular season on a high note with either multiple point games or multiple goal weekends against Niagara in the final action before the playoffs.
Top lines were meant to be neutralized come postseason time to a degree. However, what was evident over the course of the season, was that the scoring depth improved a great deal for the Colonials who can look to forwards like Moore and Lynch to supply scoreboard support. Moore just wrapped up a season that saw him 15 goals while Lynch supplied 19 points during his freshman campaign.
Holy Cross: For the Crusaders, keep an eye out for forwards Danny Lopez, Mike Barrett and T.J. Moore who lead a scoring by committee campaign by averaging just under a point per game each. At the back, Spencer Trapp leads the way with 16 points.
RMU: It’s anybody’s guess as to who fans will see between the pipes come Friday night, or Saturday or Sunday, if necessary. Schooley couldn’t really go wrong with either goalie. Freshan Francis Marotte leads the way statistically with a 2. 04 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. But Izyk’s numbers are very incomplete with his early season injury knocking out a large chunk of his season. Since his return, he has been solid, which is to say one of the best in the conference. Izyk has been here before, having carried the load in the Colonials 2014 postseason run which saw him earn seven postseason starts.
“We’ve got two very good goaltenders and we’re going to do the same thing that we’ve done all year,” Schooley said. “We’ll go game by game and minute by minute and see what shakes out. But having two very good goaltenders at my disposal is a good problem to have. I have a good amount of confidence in either of them and I’m sure they’re excited to get going. Anytime you’ve got an all-rookie team goalie and anytime you have a all-League and all-tournament team goalie returning, it’s a great luxury.”
Holy Cross: Junior Paul Berrafato should be the man in net for the Crusaders, and his play, combined with their attention to detail on defense makes, it very difficult for the opposition Berrafato (2.69 GAA; .900 SV). He’s played in 34 games thus far, and while that may seem like a staggering total for an NCAA season, he should be ready to play at a high level having played in postseason action before.
All Time: The Colonials lead the all time series with a record of 8-5-1
Bold Prediction: It may take one or maybe even two overtime games. It may take a Sunday night game possibly too. But at the end of the weekend, The Colonials prevail here and advance to Rochester. It’s the playoffs, nothing will be easy and the Crusaders may win a couple of periods here and there, and may get some fortunate bounces, but unless they can convert nearly all of them into scoring chances and some goals, they’ll be hard pressed to take this series.