Preview: Men’s hockey hopes to climb conference standings against Holy Cross


Photo credit: David Auth

By Jack O'Brien, Contributor

PITTSBURGH — The Robert Morris Colonials currently stand at 6-7-1 overall on the year so far, 5-6-1 in conference play and are sixth in the AHC. Granted three teams are tied for second place with 15 points and RMU is tied with Mercyhurst and Canisius for third place at 11 points, the race to make the conference tournament is close if anything. A chance to secure a spot in the tournament, however, presents itself to the Colonials this weekend against Holy Cross, the worst team in the conference with a record of 1-10-2 overall and 1-6-1 in conference play. If Robert Morris plans to get a foothold on the mountain that is the AHC standings, they’ll need to storm through these two games.

Holy Cross hasn’t seen the most glamorous season in 2018-19. After winning their first game of the season they’ve lost ten of their last twelve games and the two they didn’t lose were both ties. The Crusaders are winless since October and a win against a tougher opponent like RMU would be just what the doctor ordered to get some consolation for the season. Though this outcome seems far from likely, remember that hockey can be weird and Holy Cross has a couple guys who might make you say that after the game.

Though Holy Cross hasn’t been lighting up the league in terms of scoring they do have their weapons. The first is freshman forward Matt Barry. Barry has played in 12 games this season while scoring four goals and 11 assists to lead the team with 15 points. Barry came from the USHL team the Youngstown Phantoms where he scored 54 points in 57 games. Needless to say, Barry is the most skilled of the Crusaders and warrants to most attention on the defensive spectrum.

The second most dangerous Crusader is senior defenseman Johnny Coughlin. Coughlin has played in all 13 games for Holy Cross scoring two goals and 10 assists for 12 points. The 6’3″ defenseman is second on the team in scoring and offers a controlled presence at the blue line as the backbone of the Crusader attack.

The Colonials have their ways of counteracting players like this though, and it starts as always, with Alex Tonge. Tonge leads the team in points with 15. Tonge is key for the Colonials to win any game, and he is expected to have two big games this weekend. Look for Tonge to lead the way for the Colonials past a weak opponent.

The Crusaders may have Johnny Coughlin but the Colonials have Eric Israel. Israel has 11 points so far and is another player that will thrive against a team like Holy Cross. Though Holy Cross hasn’t won a game since October, they haven’t necessarily been easy to defeat. The Crusaders’ last six games have been decided by one or two goals meaning that the Colonials will have to play a larger portion of the game defending then they’ll hope to. This is where Israel comes into play, a defenseman who can make a big stop and jump-start a rush all in one play.

The Colonials should win both of these games, but if Holy Cross continues to play the gritty style of hockey they have been, these games aren’t going to be easy wins. The main points of this game are that RMU has won three of their last four games and Holy Cross is winless since October. The Colonials have an opportunity to gain some ground in the conference against a squad that’s been struggling from the beginning. If Robert Morris doesn’t come away with two victories then something must have gone wrong.