Robert Morris (6-4-2, 4-3-1 Atlantic Hockey) vs Sacred Heart (5-7-2, 3-5-0 Atlantic Hockey)
7:05 p.m. Friday, 5:05 p.m. Saturday at 84 Lumber Arena, Neville Twp., Pa.
The last time the Robert Morris Colonials met the Sacred Heart Pioneers three weeks ago, not everything was as the scoreboard would have made it appear.
The Colonials took a weekend road sweep with a pair of 4-1 victories, and while that looks great, what it doesn’t show is the fact that the Pioneers had great opportunities to win either if not both as Robert Morris broke open a 1-1 tie very late in game one with both teams mustering 28 shots apiece. In game two, the Colonials were outshot, 30-16, and made the most of their opportunities in a game that could have gone either way.
That was then, this is now. Since then, the Pioneers have taken three of their last four games and their offense has come to life with 15 goals in that span. Meanwhile, the Colonials enjoyed a weekend off to heal some bumps and bruises and went 1-1 against Dartmouth last weekend. There were good and not-so-good moments, and some lessons on what it means to be consistent to be learned.
“I thought the first two periods on Saturday night were outstanding,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “I thought we did a lot of things very well we got pucks in and got pucks to the net in the first period and then Sunday in the third period we did the same and created a lot of chances and played with a lot of urgency. The problem was the three periods in between those. We kind of watched and let Dartmouth dictate the pace and the play. We were able to dictate it in spurts and we didn’t do it consistently over 120 minutes. And when you do that for three periods out of six, you end up with a split.”
The Colonials should come out more prepared this weekend and they’ll need too as Sacred Heart won’t necessarily have to change much about the way they played the last time the two teams went head to head.
“I want us to play 120 minutes — a full 60 each night — not play 20 and take the next 20 off or 60 and 60 off,” Schooley added. “We’ve got video on what they’ve done to be successful. Both of those earlier games when we played were either tied or one goal games with three or four minutes left. They weren’t completely out of the game where they have to change what they were doing. C.J. Marottolo is a very smart coach and he’s got them playing really well right now. They’ll have a bit more confidence than the last time we played them. They were three minutes away in both games from very being successful the last time we played and I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect there for the staff there, I know they’ll have them ready and hopefully our guys will be more prepared to play than they were this past Sunday and like they came out on Saturday.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For the Colonials, Brady Ferguson continues his torrid pace that has seen him put up 21 points rather quickly including 12 on the power play. Both he and linemates Daniel Leavens and Alex Tonge come into the weekend riding six game point streaks. While the top line has performed better than expected thus far, some players are starting to make a case for more playing time as every healthy player took part in last weekend’s series against Dartmouth. It’ll will be interesting to see who makes the lineup this week as Schooley has had more game action to base his decisions on.
“I thought Alex Dagnal, Kevin Lavoie and Michael Coyne were good on Saturday night and did a lot of things well,” Schooley said. “They forechecked, they played hard and they played with enthusiasm and energy. Defensively, I thought Alex Robert played very well on Sunday, he was one of our better defensemen, and I thought Jake Coleman played with a lot of energy too. It was an opportunity to get everybody in that was healthy and we did that with both goalies, all eight defensemen and 14 forwards.”
Since the last time the two sides met, Pioneer forwards Justin Danforth, Evan Jasper and Jordan Minello have found their scoring touch and then some in the last four games with each posting multiple point with more regularity. All three have now pushed their point totals to double digits spearheading an offense that was struggling early on, in the right direction. On the back end, sophomore Liam Clare leads the way with nine points, all via assists.
It’s anybody’s guess who will be between the pipes. Senior Dalton Izyk continues to recover from his early season injury and has resumed skating but may still take a few more weeks to be game ready. Freshman Francis Marotte (1.81 GAA, .943 save percentage) took his first loss on Sunday against Dartmouth while junior Andrew Pikul (3.66 GAA, .897 save percentage) registered his first career win and shutout on Sunday. For now, the situation is the same as it was to start the season the way Schooley sees it.
“Right now, we’re taking Dalton week by week and we’ll see where that takes him as far as recovery time goes,” Schooley said. “Obviously, Marotte has played very well for us and been what we needed and Andrew Pikul has righted his game in his last two times out. I was so happy that he finally got his first win, and the fact that he got a shutout on top of that was special for him. He played well and where we go with goaltending is the same way that we started out the year. We’re going to go game by game. It’ll be hard to keep everybody fresh and sharp, but that’s my job to make those difficult decisions.”
For the Pioneers, Brett Magnus leads the way coming off a 4-2 win over Connecticut last weekend stopping 32 of 34 shots. He’s currently 4-4-1 and brings a 3.24 GAA with a .892 save percentage. Behind him, Nathan Perry has seen action in seven games posting a 2.93 GAA and a .881 save percentage.
RMU: Beat Dartmouth 3-0 on Saturday and lost 5-2 on Sunday in non conference action
SHU: Downed Connecticut 4-2 on the road and beat American International 7-3 on Tuesday 11/22
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
What’s At Stake: Four hotly contested conference points for both sides. RMU needs them to keep pace, while Sacred Heart needs to pull themselves even closer to contention. Looking at the standings currently, these are games in hand for boht teams, and if you don’t win them, you’ll be chasing them to a degree down the stretch.
All Time: RMU leads the series between the two with a 16-0-1 record.
Bold Prediction: A split here would not be surprising at all given Sacred Heart’s confidence and momentum coming into the weekend. They’ll be looking to avenge the early sweep too and now that the offense is clicking for them, they’ll be even more dangerous. I expect the Colonials to come out hungry and prepared at the same time and should play well enough to sweep. Giving RMU the win on Friday night, but on Saturday it’s a tie as Sacred Heart gets some breaks perhaps to go along with the hard work.