When Robert Morris returned from its holiday break two weeks ago, coach Derek Schooley walked the players through a series of team-building sessions, then the Colonials sat down to set goals for the second half of the season.
Robert Morris, then 2-12-2, broke the season down into four segments, beginning with a four-game road trip to open 2014. The Colonials made it a goal to win three of those games.
After sweeping Sacred Heart, Robert Morris, a team battling illness and injury, was routed, 5-1, by Connecticut in the series opener Jan. 9. Sophomore goaltender Terry Shafer was yanked after allowing two goals on two shots; his replacement, Dalton Izyk, gave up another goal on the third shot of the game.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Schooley said.
The next night, though, the Colonials bounced back to stun the Huskies, 6-1, in what Schooley called “our most complete effort of the season.”
“We were puck hounds,” Schooley said. “If we didn’t have the puck, we wanted it back. And if we had it, we didn’t want to give it up until we got the shot we wanted. That game just shows what this team is capable of.”
Tonight, Robert Morris (5-13-2, 5-6-2 Atlantic Hockey) is back home to host American International (6-14, 5-8) for the opener of a two-game series at 84 Lumber Arena, where the Colonials haven’t played since late November.
“One of our other goals was to not look back on anything we’ve done, whether it’s good or bad,” Schooley said. “Now we have to look forward to this [American International] series.”
The Yellow Jackets are fighting through an equally frustrating season, as they lost nine consecutive games from Nov. 29-Dec. 14, but they split series against Air Force and No. 6 Niagara the past two weekends and knocked off Massachusetts, 3-2, Tuesday.
“They’ve got a lot of confidence right now,” Schooley said.
American International’s defense, anchored by freshman goaltender Hunter Leisner, has allowed a worst-in-the-nation 4.55 goals per game this season.
“They’ve got high-end forwards who can make you pay if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game,” Schooley countered.
Shafer will be back between the pipes for Robert Morris. He rebounded from the two-goal, no-save performance against Connecticut to make 25 saves the following night.
“I don’t know if the two goals on two shots were indicative of his play,” Schooley said. “I think it was more of a team performance. He did what he’s done since we got back from Christmas break, and that’s given us opportunities to win hockey games.”
Matchup: Robert Morris (5-13-2, 5-6-2 Atlantic Hockey) vs. American International (6-14, 5-8), 7:05 p.m. today, 4:05 p.m. Saturday, 84 Lumber Arena.
Radio, Internet: WBGG-AM (970), AmericaOneSports.com, RMUColonials.com.
Robert Morris: Allows 3.25 goals per game. … Has the second-worst penalty-kill (70.9 percent) in Division I. … Junior forward Cody Wydo (14 goals, 7 assists) and sophomore forward Zac Lynch (9 goals, 12 assists) have a team-high 21 points.
American International: Has the 13th-worst offense (2.45 goals per game) and the worst defense (4.55 goals allowed) in Division I. … Freshman defenseman David Norris (3 goals, 15 assists) has 18 points in 19 career starts.
Hidden stat: American International takes just 71⁄2 penalty minutes per game, the third fewest in Division I.
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.