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February 21, 2014

RMU trying not get caught up in standings

It's human nature to want to peek ahead. Just as children have a difficult time remaining in a slumber on Christmas morning, most college hockey players can't help but imagine the possibilities that lie in wait this time of year.

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, there is plenty of peeking going on around the friendly confines of the 84 Lumber Arena, and with the Colonials right in the thick of the Atlantic Hockey standings race, there's good reason to do so.

"I'd be lying if I told you I didn't glance at the standings every weekend or so," said sophomore goaltender Terry Shafer. "We all know that we're right there and we're knocking on the door of that first round bye, so we're really hoping."

After losing for just the second time in 2014 last Thursday at Niagara by a 5-3 final, a game in which the Colonials give up a shorthanded and empty-net tally for the first time all season, RMU came home and got right back into the win column. Shafer made 44 saves in the second half of the series against the Purple Eagles, earning a 5-0 victory on Saturday. The performance was good enough to earn him AHA Goaltender of the Week honors for the third consecutive occasion.

Never one to bask in the limelight by himself, Shafer often deflects the praise to the rest of his mates. Senior defenseman Andrew Blazek believes the success is part of a chain reaction that begins in the crease.

"It's a good problem to have when (Shafer) gives the credit to us," Blazek said. "It starts with him and everyone else feels confident from there. As a D-corps, we feel confident playing in front of him and we want to do our best to keep shots away from him. Even from there, our forwards feel better once we're getting them the puck."

One of those benefiting forwards is Brandon Denham. The 6-foot-4 sophomore has points in 10 of his last 11 contests, including a goal in each game against Niagara. Showing up on the scoresheet is nice, but the man known by his teammates as 'Sticky' is relied on for energy, something his frame will come in handy for down the stretch and into the postseason.

"Whenever you play a rivalry team, being a bug guy, it's always more fun," Denham said. "You're always trying to finish your checks a little more than usual, a little harder, to make sure they remember you're coming out for the next shift. Especially this time of the year, you want to make sure they know who you are; remember your name."

Canisius is the next club that Denham hopes to instill with that knowledge. The Golden Griffins sit seventh in the AHA standings at 10-10-3 in the conference, splitting their series with third place Air Force last weekend.

RMU, 12-7-4 in the AHA, will open things up at home this week with a 7:05 puck drop on Friday night, before traveling up to Buffalo on Saturday to finish out the series.

The chance for four more points exists in the never ending quest for positive movement on the leaderboard. The club is well aware, however, that it's one game, one period, one shift at a time.

"Our team can't look too far ahead," said head coach Derek Schooley. "Just like we said we don't want to look in the past, we don't want to look too far ahead. The one thing we can control is what we do. If we take care of our business, everything else is going to fall into place. We need to worry about Friday, and once Friday is over, worry about Saturday."

Peeking at the standings is natural for everyone, especially at this juncture of the campaign. Well, almost everyone.

"Me personally, I don't look at all," Blazek said. "I try to worry about my next shift, and that's Friday.

"I'm going to save it till the end."

He'll peek in two weeks.

Robert Morris NEWS


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