Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Work in progress continues for Colonials at Canisius

Daniel Mantenuto fights off a Canisius forward on Oct. 20, 2016. -- BRIAN MITCHELL

Coming off a weekend that yielded an uneven battle level and a sweep at home courtesy of the Bentley Falcons, the Robert Morris Colonials will be looking to regroup, refine and refocus their talented roster on the goals at hand this coming weekend. Those goals include both improving their consistency and capturing either a first round playoff bye or at the very least a home ice scenario in the opening weekend of the Atlantic Hockey postseason. If the Colonials can achieve the first goal, the task of making good on the second one will be made much easier as they now face a tough road ahead starting with a two game set with the Canisius Golden Griffins this Friday and Saturday.

Robert Morris carries a four game losing streak into the weekend’s games- including a 5-2 on Friday and 5-1 loss the following night versus Bentley.

“Obviously we’re disappointed in last weekend,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said.  “The standard of our program has been to get points every weekend and to get swept at hope is something that is not sitting well with us. Right now, we’ve just got to get back to a physical, in your face type attitude, a never say die attitude. We’ve had some practices like that where guys have worked extremely hard and been more physical and hopefully that carries over to our games this weekend.”

The Colonials will also be looking to improve a defensive effort that had been solid in conference action – that is until this weekend. The Falcons attack exposed multiple weaknesses in the Colonials scheme during the previous weekend.

“Our line rush defense hasn’t been where we needed it to be. We’ve been too loose, we’ve given up too much time and space and allowed players to make some plays. It happened in some of our goals against where guys could walk down the middle or cut to the middle and we didn’t communicate well and we didn’t keep as tight a gap as possible. We’ve worked on that this week in practice.  We’ve also got to be good away from the puck. I think we saw a few goals where the puck was below the goal line and it was passed out and guys finished.”

A CRITICAL POINT

Robert Morris finds themselves with the ability to control their own destiny at this point of the season as far as their goals go. Their first-half performance placed them square in the middle of the standings at 15 points, eight behind conference leader AIC and five ahead of 11th place Holy Cross.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Schooley remarked. “We’ve taken a young group and we’re trying to instill what we believe is how we need to play and compete every day. We’re still learning and we’ve got to get a consistent effort whether you’re a freshman, a senior or a sophomore or a junior. You need effort on a daily basis and a consistent work effort for 60 minutes and we’re still trying to figure that out. The good news is, we’re not too far out of first. The bad news is we’re not too far out of last, we’re right in the thick of the middle so we need to make sure that we start taking steps to climb this weekend.”

GETTING IT TOGETHER ON THE ROAD

Things tend to have a way of coming together on the road for a young hockey team, sometimes in a galvanizing way. For the Colonials to succeed it will have to in order to make any kind of second half run.  However, they’ve not played their best hockey of the season yet. Should the pieces come together and the scoring comes around by limiting mistakes and getting consistent effort there’s reason to believe that good things could happen for them as the season continues. The upcoming weekend against the Griffins could be the catalyst for a solid run towards the playoffs.

“We don’t really have a choice,” Schooley added. “We’ve got 12 games left and nine of them are on the road and it starts with two tough ones in Buffalo followed by two tough ones in Colorado. We have to make sure we’re prepared and ready to play. We’ve got to get a running out of time attitude. We can’t just say we’ll get em next game, we’re running out of games.”

SCOUTING THE GRIFFINS

The Griffins will come into the weekend hungry themselves after a sweep at the hands of the Mercyhurst Lakers last weekend. A deep and talented roster provides a solid scoring punch, as senior forward Dylan McLaughlin amassed 25 points in 17 games thus far- including 13 goals and multiple accolades over his career. Defenseman Cameron Heath and Jimmy Mazza are as good as it gets from an offensive perspective, each providing 14-plus points this season. The Griffins are speedy, skilled and when playing their best, capable of beating anyone in the country as evidenced by a recent sweep of North Dakota.

“Obviously they’ve got a very talented offensive team and it starts with Dylan McLaughlin who’s been a player of the year in the league and an all league player for the last couple of years. He’s an outstanding hockey player. They’ve got Nick Hutchinson and Matt Hoover and Grant and Meyer up front and then they’ve got a good solid defense in Cameron Heath and Jimmy Mazza. We can’t give easy ice for their forwards and we’ve got to make them come 200 feet.”

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