Robert Morris Hockey: No. 4 Ohio State just another opponent for confident Colonials
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When Robert Morris welcomes Ohio State tonight to Consol Energy Center for the sixth annual RMU Hockey Showcase, the Colonials will be entertaining a Buckeyes squad regarded as one of the nation's elite teams. Ranked No. 4 in USCHO.com's poll, Ohio State has won 10 of its past 11 games and is in first place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Colonials, though, do not lack confidence.
"It's just another opponent," Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley said. "If you get caught up in rankings or things like that, then you're looking at the wrong things."
The Colonials have plenty of reasons to believe they can beat Ohio State. They also have been hot recently and are on program-record eight-game unbeaten streak. Robert Morris' most-recent loss came Nov. 5 against American International.
Also playing in the Colonials' favor is their history against highly ranked teams. In just eight seasons of Division I hockey, Robert Morris has five victories against top-10 teams, including a two-game sweep of then-No. 1 Miami of Ohio in 2010. One of those wins came at Mellon Arena in the Showcase.
"We're been in the position before, obviously, against Miami," junior forward Adam Brace said. "We've beaten better teams than [Ohio State]."
The Colonials and Ohio State met last year in Columbus, Ohio, with Robert Morris skating to a 4-3 win.
The Buckeyes, though, are a much-improved squad. They average 3.28 goals per game, led by Danny Dries and Chris Crane with 11 and 10. Defensively, senior goalie Cal Heeter has a 2.11 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.
"They're pretty skilled all around," Robert Morris senior captain Trevor Lewis said. "We just need to be good at the blue lines, both offensively and defensively, try and limit turnovers in the neutral zone, don't let them get too many odd-man rushes."
The Colonials' quick start this season has been due to the contributions of their freshmen. Cody Wydo leads the team with eight goals and classmate Scott Jacklin is second with seven. Both scored in a 4-0 victory Dec. 17 against RIT.
Lewis said he and the other older players have tried to prepare the freshmen for what to expect playing in an 18,387-seat NHL arena.
"You get a little nervous before," he said. "But they're well into the season and a big part of the team, so they shouldn't have any problems adjusting to it."
Schooley said Brooks Ostergard will get the start in net. Ostergard has split time with Eric Levine this season but has started the past three games. The senior began the season 0-4, but is unbeaten since Oct. 29, going 5-0-2 in that stretch.
"I think he's got a lot of confidence right now," Schooley said. "I think when he started out the year, he was a victim of some tight losses and I thought that rattled his confidence a little bit."
That confidence certainly would be buoyed even more with a win against the Buckeyes. Robert Morris is receiving votes in the USCHO poll and could slip into the top 25 with a victory.
"It's just a good challenge for us," Lewis said. "It's something where we, as players, always get excited to play against top teams."
First Published December 30, 2011 12:00 am