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November 6, 2011

Colonials split AHA opening series

They put 75 shots on net, generated countless scoring chances, and generally controlled the pace of two games.

Yet all Robert Morris can come away with are two goals and a conference opening series split against American International.

The Colonials fell to AIC 2-0 at the Island Sports Center Saturday after winning by the same margin Friday night. The offensive struggles have been recurring problem for Robert Morris in the first nine games of the season. Despite a stellar penalty killing unit that ranks as the best in the nation and quality goaltending from Eric Levine and Brooks Ostergard, Robert Morris has limped off to a 3-6 start.

The main culprit? An offense that has scored more than two goals in a game just once.

"You have to make sure that you do everything the right way. You're never going to win if you don't score goals," head coach Derek Schooley said. "When you don't score any goals, and it's difficult, you have to play perfect. Unfortunately we didn't play perfect tonight."

Robert Morris could consider themselves a little snakebit, especially Saturday night. American International goaltender Ben Meisner turned aside 33 shots, allowing very few rebounds or clear looks at the net. Schooley said the lack of a consistent net presence helped Meisner out.

"I think you have to be determined around the front of the net and I don't think we're as determined," Schooley said. "You have to get to the tough areas. You have to win the battles to get there. Pucks were out of our reach, pucks were sitting there that we couldn't get to, and their goaltender didn't give many second chance opportunities."

Robert Morris' best chances came on two power plays - a five minute one midway through the second period where they put four solid shots on net, and a two minute session in the third where they came within inches of beating Meisner.

Schooley said that the pressure of trying to put up a few goals is beginning to slip into the minds of the Colonials.

"Then we start playing a little different and we've got some guys gripping the stick, that's for sure," he said.

Eric Levine started for the second straight night in net and did all he could to keep Robert Morris close. Levine had his first career shutout Friday night and his performance early on coupled with Friday's game convinced Schooley to go with Levine on back-to-back nights.

"He had the hot hand," he said. "It's unfortunate because I don't think he got much support tonight."

The Colonials have just one game between now and Thanksgiving, a trip up to Erie on Friday to play Mercyhurst. they'll have a full two weeks to prepare for a two-game series against Army on November 25 and 26, and Schooley said the time will be well spent.

"We have to do some extra work. We have to make sure we get guys before and after practice working on some stuff," he said. "We have to make sure we as coaches do a better job of working on them. We don't have many natural goal scorers, so we have to do some extra work on it."

ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at achiappazzi@yahoo.com.

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