Preview: #20 Colonials seek win at Niagara for second time this season to begin 3-game series

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, NY-The Robert Morris men’s hockey team (8-3, 6-1 AHA) looks to continue their winning ways in the new year and build on their conference success as they head back to western New York for the start of a three-game series against Niagara (2-5-3, 1-4-3-1 AHA), who the Colonials just defeated on New Year’s Eve with one of their most impactful performances overall so far this season. Before these two teams match up in a crucial series for standings points, let’s take a look at what both teams need to do to get two points and keep themselves in the hunt for a regular season title.

Recapping Robert Morris: The Colonials firmly entrenched their recent dominance in conference play this past weekend as they swiftly dispatched RIT (4-4-2-0, 2-2-1-0-1 AHA) in a two-game sweep at Clearview Arena on Neville Island, taking game one 3-1 thanks to goals by Jordan Timmons, Nick Prkusic, and Randy Hernandez, and then clawing back in game two to hang on for a 4-3 victory.

The aforementioned Prkusic ended up netting the game winner just over 7 minutes into the final period of play, in addition to tallies from Hernandez, Grant Hebert, and Matthew Guerra. Goaltender Noah West stood firm in net, stopping a combined 57 of 61 total shots over both games. The effort also earned RMU national attention, as the Colonials received enough votes to be ranked twentieth in the latest USCHO.com poll.

Previewing Niagara: Since their meeting with the Colonials back on New Year’s Eve, the Purple Eagles were able to grind out four points of their own in a two-game series sweep of Air Force (0-6-1, 0-6-1 AHA) this past Sunday and Monday in the friendly confines of Dwyer Arena. Niagara, feeling the sting of the blowout loss they suffered against RMU in their last game of 2020, was firing on all cylinders in a 7-2 thrashing of the Falcons in game one. Ryan Cox and Josef Mysak each scored twice and Croix Evingston, Eric Cooley, and Ryan Naumovski put the nails in the coffin as Niagara grabbed themselves a much needed two points.

However, the second game was much more difficult as Air Force was determined to grab their first win of the season by any means necessary. Walker Sommer put the Purple Eagles into the lead yet again at the 6:51 mark of the second, with assists going to Evingston and Jared Brandt. However, Air Force tied the game near the end of the period on a goal by Brian Adams assisted by Brandon Koch and Will Gavin. The game eventually wound up heading to a shootout, where Niagara buried the game-winner and came away 2-1 victors in the process.

Players to Watch

RMU: Nick Prkusic- Prkusic, by now, is no stranger to being present as an offensive threat for RMU. The senior has been keeping up quite nicely with points leader Grant Hebert with 12 points (3G, 9A) in 11 games. Similarly to what I profiled with Hebert in my preview of the New Year’s showdown, this point-per-game mentality is just what RMU needs offensively to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack in the AHA (and hopefully overtake 1st place in the conference from rival AIC), and if Niagara is unable to contain his scoring touch early, Prkusic will make them pay often throughout the entirety of the three-game series.

Niagara: Walker Sommer- Sommer is in a similar position to Prkusic, notching 9 points (5G, 4A) in his 10 games played, overtaking former team leader Ryan Cox. Sommer is on the same point-per-game type of roll, and if the Colonials are unable to limit his chances on (presumably) West in goal right away, we may very well be looking at a shootout of sorts between he and Prkusic to see who can carry the offense for their team the farthest all at once.

Prediction: I feel that with the dominant outing by RMU in these two teams’ last meeting, I feel that this will be no different throughout every game of this series. What will be different will be the amount of players on the scoresheet, as I feel several slumping Colonials (particularly the defensemen) will notch a goal in one of the three matchups. I say the first game goes to RMU 4-1, then the Colonials go 2-0 by coincidentally winning 2-0, and finally winning 4-3 in the final game, holding off the Purple Eagles in a valiant effort.

All three games will be streamed on video via FloHockey.com, and can be followed on radio via the TuneIn app. As always, be sure to visit colonialsportsnetwork.com and follow @RMU_CSN on Twitter for the latest updates on all Robert Morris athletics.