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Know Your Enemy: No. 8 Penn State Hockey vs. Robert Morris

No. 8 Penn State men’s hockey (6-0-1, 0-0-0 Big Ten) will wrap up its season-opening eight-game homestand this weekend.

The Robert Morris Colonials will come to Pegula Ice Arena at 7 p.m. Friday, and the two teams will meet once again on Saturday night in Pittsburgh for Penn State’s first road contest of the year. The Nittany Lions are coming off their first loss of the season and have an opportunity to bounce back this weekend.

The General

Robert Morris (3-4-1, 2-3-1 Atlantic Hockey Conference) is off to a lukewarm start. The Colonials began their season well enough with a 3-2 victory over No. 10 Bowling Green, but they’ve won only two of their seven games since. 

The team tied and lost to Army in the second week of the regular season, and split with conference foes RIT and Niagara. 

Head coach Derek Schooley’s program has left a lot to be desired offensively this season. It’s scored just 16 goals in eight games for a paltry average of two per contest, which ranks No. 48 in the country in terms of total offense. Leading scorer Alex Tonge has two goals and four assists this season — good enough for second on the team in goals behind freshman Nick Lalonde’s three.

Junior Daniel Mantenuto and freshman Justin Addamo also have scored twice, and junior forward Luke Lynch is tied with Tonge for the team lead in assists with four.

Defensively, the Colonials are a bit better, ranking No. 29 in the nation by allowing just 2.67 goals per contest. Junior goalie Francis Marotte has carried the load in net. He’s started all eight of his team’s games and has posted a .908 save percentage in that time. He played a big role in Robert Morris’ opening night upset over No. 10 Bowling Green, stopping 37 of the Falcons’ 39 shots on goal.

Juniors Eric Israel and Alex Robert have anchored the team’s top defensive pairing this season, while the rest of the defense is mostly comprised of freshmen and sophomores. Sean Giles — one of three juniors on the blue line — played for Lone Star in the NAHL, the same organization that Penn State graduate transfer Ludvig Larsson thrived at before beginning his college hockey career at Merrimack.

Zeroing In

Oddly enough, the first goal might not be all that important in this weekend’s games based on Robert Morris’ track record this season. The Colonials have won just one of four games in which they scored first and are 2-2 when conceding the opening tally of the game.

Robert Morris’ bottom-15 ranked offense may be just what Penn State’s defense needs after conceding nine goals in two games last weekend against Arizona State.

In the first game of two-game weekend series, the Colonials are 3-0-1, so expect Derek Schooley’s program to be ready to go on Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.

Last Meeting

Penn State and Robert Morris annually play a home-and-home series. The Nittany Lions won 5-2 in Pittsburgh and returned home to win again, 7-4. The Nittany Lions’ all-time series with the Colonials is tied 4-4.

Prediction

Robert Morris is, statistically, a weird team this year. There aren’t any standouts on offense, and the defense isn’t exactly world class, but this team is clearly capable of pulling off an upset over quality opposition. With that being said, Penn State is easily the Colonials’ toughest test yet, so I’ll predict a tight 4-3 victory for Guy Gadowsky’s team on Friday night followed by a 7-2 drubbing in Pittsburgh on Saturday to complete the sweep.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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