Friday, December 30, 2016

Scouting the enemy: Robert Morris Colonials

The No. 13/14 Quinnipiac Bobcats head to the Three Rivers Classic Championship to face Atlantic Hockey power Robert Morris tonight in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Colonials come into the championship game 10-6-3 on the season with impressive wins over Ohio State, Dartmouth and Ferris State. Head coach Derek Schooley has done a fantastic job leading the Colonials in his 13 seasons with the program as he has built a strong team in Atlantic Hockey that has won the regular season title the past two seasons. His 2013-2014 team won the tournament title and reached the NCAA title for the first time. This season he once again has them in the mix for the Atlantic Hockey regular season crown. Quinnipiac has not faced Robert Morris since the 2012-2013 season. All time the Bobcats are 10-5-1 all time against the Colonials.
Brady Ferguson (photo by Paul Bereswill/RMU Athletics)

Offensively the Colonials are a solid team scoring 3.11 goals per game but they are very top heavy with the bulk of the offense coming up front from three players. Those three players are all averaging well over a point per game this season. Junior Brady Ferguson leads the Colonials in scoring with 33 points (14 goals and 19 assists) with eight of the goals coming by way of the power play. Senior Daniel Leavens 25 points (7 goals and 18 assists) while sophomore Alex Tonge 24 points (10 goals and 14 assists) with five of them on the power play. Junior Timmy Moore has 12 points (7 goals and 5 assists) with three of the goals coming off the power play. Some freshman to watch are Luke Lynch (9 points), Matthew Graham (6 points) and Daniel Mantenuto (5 points). The Colonials are a top five team in the country on the power play converting at 23.81% (25-of-105) so Quinnipiac will have to be very strong on the penalty kill and not take a ton of penalties to avoid facing a strong Robert Morris power play unit on the ice.
Daniel Leavens (photo by Robert Morris Athletics)

The Colonials are within the top third in the country defensively giving up 2.58 goals per game. Led by captains Robb Mann and Alex Bontje, Robert Morris brings solid size on the back end with a good mixture of experience and youth. They have some good shot blocking defenders in Bontje and Mann along with sophomore Eric Israel who is also an offensive weapon with 17 points (5 goals and 12 assists) with three of the goals coming on the power play. Those three players have blocked over 30 shots apiece already this season. The Bobcats need to have effective passing in the offensive zone in order to prevent Robert Morris from setting up to block shots. This is a middle of the pack team on the penalty kill at an 83.8% clip. They don't bring a ton of offense outside of Israel but this is a solid group that has the ability to tighten things up in their own zone to make it tough on opponents. Quinnipiac needs to play fast and physical and dictate the game on their terms and not let Robert Morris have control of this game.

In goal the Colonials turn to a freshman in Francis Marotte who is 8-3-2 with a 1.72 goals against average and a .946 save percentage. He also shutout Ferris State in the opening round of the the Three Rivers Classic. The Longueuil, Quebec native plays bigger than his 6 foot frame in net bringing solid athleticism in the crease. He has elevated his play from his previous three junior seasons which has been a big boost to the Robert Morris program. Junior Andrew Pikul will likely back up Marotte in the championship game.

This is an important game for the Bobcats to keep the momentum going into the second half of the season. They are a team on the cusp of the top 16 of pairwise rankings and need to keep winning to climb higher. This should be a good match up between two solid teams looking to make a second half push.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathan_singer.

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