Robert Morris hockey set up for dramatic finish

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For Robert Morris, there’s nowhere to go but up. Entering the last weekend of the regular season, the Colonials have secured at least a fifth-place finish in the Atlantic Hockey Conference standings.

With four points on the line in a home-and-home series this weekend against Mercyhurst, Robert Morris hopes to steal a top-four spot, which comes with a first-round bye in the Atlantic Hockey tournament.

As it stands today, Robert Morris would play host to a first-round series at 84 Lumber Arena against last-place Army (4-25, 4-21) next weekend. But the Colonials’ 30 points are just one fewer than third-place Air Force and Connecticut (31) and two fewer than second-place Bentley (32).

Standing in the way this weekend is mighty Mercyhurst (18-12-6, 16-4-5). The Lakers clinched their first regular-season conference title last weekend. It adds up to what could be a dramatic season finale Saturday at 84 Lumber Arena. But first, Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said, the Colonials “have to take care of business” Friday night in Erie.

“If we lose Friday and everybody else wins, it doesn’t mean anything,” Schooley said.

Should Robert Morris still have a shot to move up Saturday, Schooley will have one eye on the game, the other on the scoreboard.

“A lot of scenarios play in,” he said. “If we’re tied late and need a win, maybe we’ll have to pull our goalie or something.”

In late December, Schooley and his team sat down, pushed aside their 2-12-2 record and made it their primary goal to win the Atlantic Hockey points race the rest of the season.

“Now, we’re two points up and in first place,” Schooley said, beaming.

Two points up on … the Lakers, of course. Both teams have stormed through the conference schedule since the start of January, with Robert Morris going 11-3-2 (24 points) and Mercyhurst 9-3-4 (22).

They met once already this season, skating to a 5-5 tie Dec. 14 in Erie.

“We know Mercyhurst is a very offensive hockey team — they haven’t changed their ways,” Schooley said. “But they do a few things differently, and we do a few things differently. We’re a better hockey team now than we were then.”

The Lakers average 3.5 goals per game, the best mark in Atlantic Hockey and sixth-best in Division I.

Leading the Mercyhurst attack is sophomore Matthew Zay, whose 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) are the eighth-highest point total in Division I. On his heels is Colonials junior Cody Wydo, who has 38 points (21 goals, 17 assists).

NOTE — Sophomore center David Friedmann drew his third game-misconduct penalty this season and has been suspended for one game by the NCAA. He will return for the regular-season finale Saturday.

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

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