Colonials hockey team making progress in a hurry

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It’s not quite a worst-to-first turnaround — not yet, at least — but Robert Morris, sitting fifth in the Atlantic Hockey standings, has risen quickly from the conference cellar, going 6-1-1 in January after a 2-12-2 first half of the season.

The Colonials (8-13-3, 8-6-3) will enter their weekend series against Army (3-18, 3-14) at 84 Lumber Arena tonight with a five-game unbeaten streak on the line.

They’re cautious, though. A year ago, Robert Morris had a seven-game unbeaten streak when it visited the Black Knights.

“We had just won the Three Rivers Classic, and we went into Army and they pummeled us, 5-0,” Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley recalled. “It’s a lesson we learned the hard way last year.

“It’s going to be a hard-working dogfight.”

This time, Schooley expects his team to leave its foot on the gas.

The Colonials swept visiting Air Force, 3-1 and 5-3, last weekend, outplaying the Falcons until the last period, when the Air Force scored twice to make it a one-goal game before an empty-net tally sealed the contest.

“We bent,” Schooley said, “but we didn’t break.”

It hardly seems like just a feel-good story anymore. Robert Morris has gotten used to this winning thing, gaining confidence each weekend. Still, Schooley said, the focus is on the next game, not on the standings.

“Our mindset is on Friday night and giving the best effort we possibly can,” Schooley said. “We don’t want to look too much into where we are; we want to make sure we do everything the same way we’ve been doing.

“If we start looking at the big picture, the big picture will bite us.”

Army has lost seven regular-season games in a row but defeated Royal Military College, 5-2, in an exhibition game Saturday in Kingston, Ontario. The Black Knights have allowed the most goals per game (4.5) in Division I and scored the fourth-fewest goals per game (1.9).

Schooley highlighted the impressive play of sophomore forward Zac Lynch, the Colonials’ second-leading scorer (11 goals, 12 assists) who also leads the team with a plus-9 in the plus/minus ranking.

Lynch had 5 goals and 9 assists in 34 games as a freshman.

“If you would have told me Zac had 20 points, I would have been pleased,” Schooley said. “But, at this point he’s got 23, and that’s obviously taking a big step from freshman year to his sophomore year.”

Stephen J. Nesbitt:, 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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