There’s nothing like an early season test to see what a team is made of. The Robert Morris Colonials will take that test this weekend as they open up their regular season schedule against the 20th ranked Bowling Green Falcons. The teams will play in a home and home series this Friday and Sunday. 11 new faces will make their debut in the Colonial lineup this weekend and their skills and absorption of the system will be on display against a stout opponent that has managed to put up 14 goals in their first two games.
“This is the most freshman we’ve had since 2012,” Colonial head coach Derek Schooley said to PHD. “Obviously we knew there would be some growing pains, we knew we were going to have to learn on the job, but I really believe our guys are grasping what we’ve accomplished, they’re grasping our systems. They need to not think as much and just go out and play but that will come with playing more games.”
Schooley has some experience folding in large incoming classes over the years and knows what it takes to get players acclimated and performing at a pace that is perfect for developing the most out of a young team. Veteran leadership is a key component of keeping a large class feeling welcome and wanting to get better day in and day out. Schooley believes he’s got another special group of upperclassman leaders to help the freshman learn what Colonial hockey is all about.
“You have to have good leadership and we’ve got that with Brandon Watt and Alex Tonge and the rest of the senior class. Luke Lynch is an assistant captain as a junior as well and they’ve done a great job of integrating them into our culture, teaching them what it means to be a Colonial. We’ve done a lot of team building stuff and some of it away from the rink and I can’t say enough good things about our leadership group. You need great leaders when you’ve got a class like this to show them the way. We’ve got a very good older group that mixes well with the older group. Rome wasn’t built overnight, we know we have to continue to get better as the year goes on, but the ultimate goal is to win hockey games and we have to make sure while we do that, we continue to make our hockey team better.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Up front, the Colonials have returned some key pieces to the 2018-19 puzzle in the manner of skilled forwards that can take over games. Seniors Alex Tonge and Luke Lynch coupled with junior Luke Lynch and sophomore Nick Prkusic make a formidable core of high end forwards that each add a different dimension and all are capable of 35 plus point seasons. They’ll be supplemented by some key freshman forwards that have shown some flashes of good things ahead in their small amount of time with the team.
Six foot Six forward Justin Addamo looked completely comfortable in his power forward role in the Colonials preseason game versus Brock last Saturday night putting up a goal and an assist while on the back line, freshman defenseman Brent Michaelian skated on a top pair with junior Alex Robert and came through with an assist on the opening goal of the game. His presence may help to fill a temporary void with senior Eric Israel still looking to return to the fold. In the net, junior Francis Marotte turned in a solid thirty minutes against Brock, holding the Badgers scoreless and looks as if he’s ready to pick up right where his first two seasons have left off from a performance standpoint.
SCOUTING THE FALCONS
Bowling Green comes in hot on the heels of a two game winning streak to start their season beating Mercyhurst 8-2 last week, and ranked Western Michigan 6-2. this week. Leading the charge for the Falcon offensive attack is senior Stephen Baylis who has managed five points in two games, and sophomore Max Johnson, who has four points. In the net, the Falcons have turned to junior Ryan Bednard for all 120 minutes of their season to date, and with good reason as he’s only allowed four goals while putting up a .929 save percentage.
The Falcons are big, skilled and hungry to stack wins early on in the season and will present a tough challenge for a young Colonial squad.
“We’ve got a huge task ahead this weekend against Bowling Green,” Schooley said. “They’ve played two real games already and they’ve been pretty dominant in their two victories. They’re a big team that can skate and Chris Bergeron is a good coach and he’s got that program in an upward trajectory. It’s a team on a mission. They’ve got some high end, skilled forwards in Stephen Baylis. Their defense is very mobile and big and then they’ve got Ryan Bernard in the net who’s made a lot of big time saves over his career already. It’ll be up to us to have our game going right off the bat and be able to hold them back.”
DID YOU KNOW
The Colonials and Falcons have met only twice over the years as they played a home and home series in 2014-15. The teams drew even in an outdoor game in Toledo, Ohio on Jan. 3, 2015 and the Falcons bested the Colonials on the back end of the series, scoring a 4-1 victory at the Island Sports Center.