Hockey Preview: No. 8 Penn State Faces Off with Robert Morris in Home-and-Home Series

By Kaitlyn Dividock on November 9, 2018 at 8:00 am
Penn State Defenseman Cole Hults
Linsey Fagan, Roar Lions Roar
Robert Morris Colonials
3-4-1 (2-3-1 AHC)
7:05 p.m. ET – FRIDAY, NOV. 9
7:05 p.m. ET – SATURDAY, NOV. 10

After receiving their first loss of the season at the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils, the No. 8 Nittany Lions (6-1-0) will play host in Game 1 of their home-and-home with Robert Morris before traveling to Pittsburgh the following night for Game 2. They'll look to carry over their onslaught over the Colonials from last season. These two upcoming tilts will be the ninth and tenth time these clubs meet, where an all-time record of 4-4-0 between them will potentially tip over.

Colonials Scouting Report

Bobby Mo enters Hockey Valley with a 3-4-1 record and is coming off a series split with Niagara, a team in which the Lions absolutely spanked a few weeks ago. Last year, Penn State won both games against RMU with a 5-2 victory at PPG Paints Arena and 7-4 win back home in Pegula. Denis Smirnov and Nate Sucese had powerful nights on the score sheet, netting two goals apiece plus five and four total points, respectively.

Forwards Outlook

Brady Ferguson is the biggest missing piece on this Colonial offense, as he led the team in points last season. However, they do return the services of senior forward Alex Tonge. In 2017-18, Tonge put up 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists), and as of now, he's still the points leader for Robert Morris with six (two goals, four assists). Penn State's defense should have its eyes all over him if they want to ease the pressure off goalie Peyton Jones.

The Colonials also return the talents of double-digit scorers Luke Lynch and Michael Louria, and added high-flying freshman Nick Lalonde, who currently leads the team in goals scored with three.

Defensemen Outlook

The Colonials' blue line leaves much to be desired when it comes to providing offense, but Eric Israel has done the most damage on the nightly box score, tallying four points (one goal, three assists) in just four games – half of what most of his teammates have played.

When it comes to shutting down opposing offenses, RMU has struggled mightily out of the gate, getting outscored in a big way in the opening frame. The Colonials are also trying to find an answer on special teams, more specifically with their power play, where they're only converting at a 13.3-percent rate. That being said, Robert Morris's penalty kill has been decent; it has prevented goals against in the 83rd percentile and ranks 20th nationally.

Goalie Outlook

Junior net-minder Francis Marotte will likely get the nod between the pipes, as he's started all eight of Robert Morris's games so far this season. He currently boasts a .908 save percentage and is averaging just 2.67 goals against. The Lions' electric snipers and playmakers found twine quite easily last year, so hopefully that theme continues into this weekend.

Keys To A Penn State Win

Control possession in the attacking zone, suffocate the Colonials' forwards and back-check hard if they manage to get in deep, and prevent miscues along the blue line that lead to odd-man rushes in front of Jones.

That last point was a huge detriment to Penn State in its series with the Sun Devils last weekend, and it can't continue to gift their opponent with Grade A scoring chances in the slot and goal crease at the rate it did. It might be an issue with the Lions' forecheck, as pinching too hard can create big lanes for their opponent to fill going the other way. It might also just be the system in which Guy Gadowsky deploys. His emphasis on offensive aggression is great until a guy over-skates the puck or bobbles a pass. Guy was visibly frustrated with this after his team's 4-3 overtime loss, but little mistakes like these can easily be fixed, especially against an inferior team like Robert Morris.

Penn State also has the Alex Limoges-Evan Barratt-Liam Folkes line firing on all cylinders. They're unstoppable and have already tallied 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) as a group. Robert Morris might just provide another feeding frenzy for this trio.

Series Prediction

Kaitlyn: I don't see this series ending without Penn State easily taking two wins from the Colonials. Bobby Mo isn't nearly as talented as the Lions, especially up front and on its depth chart, and it possesses an even weaker defense, which is saying something. When you have to rely solely on your forwards to get down low and set each other up instead of being comfortable to cycle the puck up to the points and to your defenseman for slappers, it's a tough road ahead. The Nittany Lions will overwhelm RMU with their forecheck, their playmaking ability, and with Jones's (hopefully continued) hot streak. Game 1: 7-2, Game 2: 5-1.

Sam: The Sun Devils exposed some of Penn State’s defensive weaknesses last weekend, and there’s no way that went unaddressed during practice this week. Unlike Arizona State (who is good), Bobby Mo is not good. Penn State will be faster and more skillful all weekend, and it will wear down the Colonials. The Lions get the sweep with 5-1 and 4-2 wins.