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January 25, 2012

RMU prepares for home-and-home with Niagara

Some may call it the home stretch. Others, the final push. For a select few, the 80's hair band Europe's tune pertaining to a certain countdown will suffice. No matter which cliché you prefer, Robert Morris has ten games to go, half on the road, the other five from the western end of Neville Island.

The first two of those contests, against conference rival Niagara, get started Friday evening at home, with the second 24 hours later just miles from the Canadian border. No matter where they take place, it's not hard to get up for a match against the Purple Eagles.

"We always have a big rivalry with them," senior captain Trevor Lewis said. "They're only a couple of points behind us, so they'll be big games."

Niagara is in fact just two points behind Robert Morris in the standings. A bad weekend for the Colonials could see their position in the standings slip a few places.

"They're unbeaten in their last four, and it's always a battle," head coach Derek Schooley said. "It's always a tough, physical contest with Niagara and I would expect nothing different."

Senior forward Nick Chiavetta, not unlike the rest of his team, is looking forward to the challenge.

"Anytime we play them it's a big game for us," the Harrisburg native said. "You just know the guys so well, and it's going to be a battle just like last weekend. We're pretty confident that we can get the job done again."

That weekend saw the Colonials sweep a two game series against a very good UConn team, a weekend that the bench boss was more than pleased with.

"I was really proud of our guys," Schooley said. "It was probably one of our better road wins in the history of our program, just the way we did it and the way we competed."

The team will be looking for that same compete level to be present against a Niagara squad that is sound defensively, including a hot goaltender in Chris Noonan.

"Goaltending in this league is very good," Chiavetta said. "You've just got to keep putting shots on them as much as you can until you get one in."

With the campaign winding down, Schooley emphasized that it's important for his team to worry about the task at hand this weekend against the Purple Eagles, rather than thinking about how things may play out down the line in the AHA standings.

"I think we get into trouble when we look too far in advance," Schooley said. "I think if you look too far in advance you're going to get burned. We've really taken the motto over the last couple weeks of 'we're concerned about two points and that's the next game.'"

The veteran head coach says that they'll simply worry about Friday night first. Those are two important points, as are the eight others that are available the rest of the way.

"We've just got to capitalize on all of our chances," Chiavetta said. "If we're able to battle just like we did last weekend, I think we'll be alright."

- Friday night's puck drop will take place at 7:05 from the Clearview Arena on Neville Island. The Colonials will then bus to Dwyer Arena for Saturday's contest, also a 7:05 start.

- Defenseman James Lyle is questionable for the weekend series after going down last Saturday night against UCONN. Coach Schooley confirmed that the team is still waiting on a final decision, but as of right now, the senior is out with an upper body injury. -Last weekend's sweep of the Huskies didn't go unnoticed by the AHA, as Senior forward Cody Crichton was named the league's Co-Player of the week. Crichton recorded two goals and two assists over those two contests, pushing his point total to a team high 21. -Senior goaltender Brooks Ostergard and Freshman forward Cody Wydo earned recognition on this week's Atlantic Hockey honor roll.

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