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February 22, 2013

RMU hits stretch run on the ice

With just four games left in the Robert Morris hockey schedule, head coach Derek Schooley feels his team is playing some of the best hockey it's played all year. That might come as a surprise to those who watched Robert Morris rattle off a seven game unbeaten streak in December, including an upset of No. 5 Miami (Ohio) in the inaugural 3 Rivers Classic.

"When we were on the seven game undefeated streak, I didn't think we were playing very well at times," Schooley said. "I thought we were doing it through smoke and mirrors. The last four games, we're two and two, but I think we're playing the way we want to play."

Robert Morris is in the midst of three weekends of home-and-home series against natural rivals Niagara, Canisius, and Mercyhurst. Schooley said that the schedule, coupled with the tight Atlantic Hockey standings, has the Colonials already in postseason mode.

"We've been playing playoff hockey the past couple weeks. We had pressure where we had to get four points against Sacred Heart," Schooley said. "RIT and Niagara, those were playoff weekends. Everybody's fighting for points."

The Colonials currently sit seventh in the AHA but could wind up anywhere from second to tenth. All AHA teams make the tournament, so the only thing at stake is first round bye as well as home ice advantage.

"Everyone wishes they could have some points back at some point in the year," Schooley said. "I thought it would be this tight. It was this tight last year. The only difference I didn't see coming was the separation from 1 to 2 and the separation from 11 to 12."

Junior forward Colin South said that the compressed standings also has the Colonials focused on process and performance, not just the results.

"I think everyone feels we're playing real well right now," he said. "It's entirely possible for us to win all four and make a quick push up the standings."

South said the team is playing well enough that they feel confident that they'll be a strong contender no matter what position they start the AHA Tournament. That said, the goal is to be peaking for the playoffs and to get as much of an advantage as possible.

"We got taken to three games last year in the first round which is obviously something we don't want to do this year," South said. "At this point of the year, we have to bring it every night. If not, we'll be going home pretty early."

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

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