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February 24, 2012

Air Force, RMU showdown at ISC

One final weekend remains in regular season action in the AHA. Each of the 12 squads receives a chance to compete for the conference crown, and it seems as though the Colonials have some sort of potential to play any one of their 11 other foes.

Alright, so maybe it's more like eight or nine. Confused? Same here. Any way you look at it, the standings are tight. The fate of RMU rests not only in their own hands, but around the rest of the league this weekend as well.

The top ranked Air Force Falcons are the opponents on senior weekend for the Colonials at the Clearview Arena, and facing off against the number one club in the conference is certainly a solid postseason tune-up.

"I think it's a perfect test," senior goaltender Brooks Ostergard said. "Coach (Derek) Schooley has been saying all along 'it's a process, it's a process,' and this weekend the process will be tested."

Trevor Lewis, who will play in game number 137 tonight, an RMU record, is also looking forward to the challenge against Air Force, knowing that the effort level that has been present over the past couple of weekends will need to be matched, or better.

"It's just going to be another physical weekend," the Colonial captain said. "They're a very good team and we know the type of hockey they like to play. Making sure we bring a full 60 minute effort for both nights will be big for us."

So what's in it for the Colonials if they come up with four points against the Falcons? For a chance to even think about receiving a first round bye in two weeks, they'll need the sweep, along with some help from the rest of the AHA.

The more likely scenario is that the Colonials will finish between 5th and 8th place in the conference, guaranteeing that they will host a best-of-three series next weekend on home ice.

You can only control so much however, and head coach Derek Schooley will be concentrating on making sure his team is prepared, starting this evening at 7:05.

"Well the first thing that we have to do is take care of is our own business," the RMU bench boss and former Air Force assistant said. "We've looked at all the scenarios, we know what we have to do, but first and foremost, we have to come out with four points before we can even talk about (a first round bye)."

First round bye or not, the Colonials are certain to host at least one series on Neville Island, something that is widely regarded throughout the locker room.

"Any time you can get home ice in the playoffs is good," Lewis said. "We've been getting really good crowds and it definitely helps us with the way we play. We still would like to try to get a bye and that can only be possible if we get four points this weekend."

The Colonials won't be getting too ahead of themselves however, and as Schooley pointed out, huge points are at stake during this special occasion.

"This is about celebrating the seniors, but it's also about winning hockey games," Schooley said.

Ostergard concurred with his head coach, realizing that while four years of hockey will be culminating with a Saturday night photo op with his family, coming out on top is the goal of the weekend heading in to the postseason.

"We don't want our last memory going into the playoffs as a defeating weekend morally or statistically," Ostergard said. "The whole key to playoffs is staying healthy and peaking at the right time and we just want to keep improving week in and week out."

With a successful weekend, this year's class of 10 graduates has the chance to be the winningest in program history.

"It'd be big," Lewis said. "Last year's class had some unbelievable hockey players and we really looked up to those guys. For us to leave our own mark now and possibly surpass them is something we talked about as a group at the beginning of this year. It was one of the goals that we had and to have a chance to do it is something that we're hoping we can accomplish."

If that accomplishment comes to fruition on Saturday night, that'd be a monumental step leading into the AHA tournament. With that could come a chance to accomplish much more, no matter whom they're facing.

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