Colonials set to play stingy Connecticut

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The Robert Morris hockey team’s road swing comes to a close with a two-game series tonight and Friday against Connecticut at the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs, Conn.

Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley asked his team a week ago to wipe the slate clean after a two-win first half of the season, and the Colonials did just that, snapping a five-game winless streak by sweeping host Sacred Heart with two, 2-1 victories.

“We needed to experience some success,” Schooley said. “We needed to experience being on the other side of those one-goal games.

“It was really good for us to get hard-fought wins. Hopefully our guys learned from that and we’ll continue to play that way.”

The team had written down a list of goals over the holiday break, one of which was to strengthen the penalty-kill, which, at a 66.2 percent success rate, was the worst in Division I.

Against Sacred Heart, Robert Morris did just that, killing off all 10 of the Pioneers’ power-play opportunities.

The final challenge came Saturday in the final minutes of the third period, when sophomore forward Brandon Denham was sent to the penalty box for tripping. The Colonials fought off the disadvantage and sent the game to overtime.

Junior forward Scott Jacklin capitalized just 16 seconds into the extra session.

“I thought our guys sold out,” Schooley said. “They played extremely hard, and they got rewarded for it, finally.”

The penalty-kill will be tested again against the Huskies, who boast a 21.9-percent power-play success rate.

Connecticut swept RIT, 2-1 and 6-2, at home last week. Senior captain Brant Harris had a five-point weekend, including a hat trick Saturday — his fourth, fifth and sixth goals this season — and was named Atlantic Hockey Association’s player of the week.

“He’s a hard-nosed player who had been in a slump, but he got rewarded for going to the net,” Schooley said. “He, like their team, plays physical.

“They’ve got size down low, and that’s one of the reasons Harris had success last weekend, because he got to the front of the net.”

At 2.53 goals per game, the Huskies offense isn’t going to scare off any opponents, but Connecticut, behind senior goaltender Matt Grogan, has the No. 15 defense in Division I, allowing just 2.35 goals per game.

“Anytime you compete and have good size and a good goaltender,” Schooley said, “you’re going to have a good hockey team.”

Scouting report

Matchup: Robert Morris (4-12-2, 4-5-2 Atlantic Hockey Association) vs. Connecticut (9-6-2, 7-3-1), 7:05 p.m. Thursday, 5:05 p.m. Friday, Freitas Ice Forum, Storrs, Conn.

Internet: AmericaOneSports.com, RMUColonials.com.

Robert Morris: Leading scorers Zac Lynch (20 points) and Cody Wydo (18) rank ninth and 10, respectively, in AHA. … Sophomore G Terry Shafer has a record of 4-10-2 with a 3.23 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Connecticut: Knocked out Robert Morris in the AHA tournament a season ago, sweeping the first two games of a best-of-three series. ... Has won its past three games. … Senior F Jordan Sims leads the team with 14 points (3 goals, 11 assists).

Hidden stat: Robert Morris is averaging 13.7 penalty minutes per game; only one team in the NCAA — Yale — takes fewer penalties than Connecticut (7.4).


Stephen J. Nesbitt: snesbitt@post-gazette.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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