Preview: Colonials look to ring in new year against Niagara

Justin+Addamo+carries+the+puck+against+Niagara+in+2018.+Photo+Credit%3A+David+Auth

Justin Addamo carries the puck against Niagara in 2018. Photo Credit: David Auth

By Adam Melluso, Contributor

LEWISTON, NEW YORK– The Robert Morris men’s hockey team (5-3, 3-1 AHA) will look to end 2020 in the win column and move on to 2021 with momentum, as they travel to Western New York this New Year’s Eve for a road matchup against the Niagara Purple Eagles (1-4-2, 0-3-2 AHA) at 2:05 this afternoon at Dwyer Arena. Before these two teams square off in a final farewell to the year that was, by all means unpredictable, let’s take a look at who can make a difference to grind out a win for each side.

Recapping Robert Morris:

The Colonials are coming off their first game action in nearly four weeks as they headed on the road to the Buckeye State to tangle with #7 Bowling Green (9-1) at Slater Family Ice Arena this past Tuesday in a non-conference bout. Grant Hebert opened the scoring at the 16:22 mark of the second period off a nice passing play from Brendan Michaelian and Justin Addamo to give RMU the 1-0 lead. However, the Falcons responded with two quick goals in the final period from Connor Ford and Will Cullen, and the Falcons edged out a narrow 2-1 win in what was an extremely tight contest, similar to their home-and-home series played last year.

Previewing Niagara:

The Purple Eagles are coming off a close loss as well, as they headed north to Potsdam, New York on Tuesday for a non-conference game of their own against #10 Clarkson, whom Niagara had upset when the Golden Knights ranked 7th back on December 9th in Lewiston, winning 4-1 in that outing. This time, however, Clarkson was hungry for revenge and got it in a big way. Goals from Jack Billings, Ryan Cox, and Carter Randklev were not enough for Niagara as Anthony Callin’s two goals bolstered Clarkson who rolled to a 6-3 win over the Purple Eagles, in a much-needed boost to their prospects of potentially being ranked higher.

Players to Watch:

Grant Hebert and Justin Addamo (RMU) – The previously mentioned Hebert has been an offensive force this season so far for RMU, potting three goals and seven assists for 10 points in just eight games played. Coincidentally, Addamo is a dual-threat, who uses not only his size to cut to the net and get into dirty areas for goals as a defenseman, but also to bring a physical edge to the Colonials game in the checking department, resulting in his four goals and five assists for nine points. If Niagara is unable to contain these two potent scorers, they will have a hard time breaking through on the defensive side of the contest as well and will be out on their feet early.

Ludwig Stenlund and Ryan Naumovski (NU) – Stenlund’s offensive prowess has become fully on display this year as he has seven points (3G, 4A) in seven games for Niagara. This point-per-game showcase from the junior out of Skellefteå, Sweden proves that he is a scoring threat from anywhere on the ice, as he has proved in the past when he scored the OT winner to upset heavily-favored RIT in the 2019 AHA Tournament as a freshman. For his counterpart in Naumovski, he is keeping pace at a consistent rate, especially with his passing game, picking up five assists in addition to his single goal so far this season for six points. The sophomore and Shelby Township, MI native has impressed on both sides of the puck this year offensively and defensively, and similarly to Addamo and Hebert if RMU lets these two get going, they’ll be unable to recover unless they play a staunch defensive game.

Prediction:

I feel that RMU’s scoring threat and the added tightness of their recent game against BGSU will motivate them enough to take over Niagara 5-3. While I feel like the Purple Eagles have some offensive thrust on their side currently, I don’t think it will be enough to get past the RMU defense and especially the recent hot streak of play in net by the Colonials’ freshman netminder Noah West.