Preview: Men’s hockey positioned to surprise in Atlantic Hockey

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Preview: Men’s hockey positioned to surprise in Atlantic Hockey

Photo Credit: David Auth

Photo Credit: David Auth

Photo Credit: David Auth

Photo Credit: David Auth

Jonathan Hanna, Sports Assistant Editor

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After a strong finish to the 2018-19 season, the Robert Morris men’s hockey team is hoping for an Atlantic Hockey record seventh straight semi-finals appearance, and beyond. This year, the Colonials were projected to finish seventh in Atlantic Hockey, which is one place higher than they finished last year. In the regular season last year, the Colonials finished with a 16-22-2 overall record, and an 11-15-2 record in-conference. Last year’s regular season and playoff champions, American International College (AIC) is projected to finish first with 10 of the 11 first-place votes.

Recap:
Last season, Robert Morris started the season mediocrely, getting off to an 8-9-1 record before the Three Rivers Classic in early January; including a pair of drubbings by no. 8 Penn State by the scores of 2-7 and 6-11. After the Classic, the Colonials’ season wasn’t looking much better, only garnering four wins in 14 games. The Colonials only had two Atlantic Hockey sweeps the entire year; both in home-and-homes to in-state rivals Mercyhurst.

However, where the Colonials stepped their game up was in the playoffs, reaching the AHC semi-finals for a record-tying sixth straight year. Based on the regular season, the Colonials held the no. 8 seed, and they started off strong with a two-game sweep of no. 9 Holy Cross. After dispatching the Crusaders, the Colonials faced off against no. 2 seeded Bentley, where Robert Morris was able to upset the Falcons thanks to a game three overtime game-winner by Justin Addamo to advance to the semifinals at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York.

In Buffalo, the Colonials’ run was stopped, losing to the eventual champions, top-seeded AIC 3-2 in overtime thanks to a game-winning wrap-around goal by Blake Christiansen. After the game, head coach Derek Schooley praised his team’s effort, saying “we were able to overcome some tough scenarios and a tough January. We were able to put ourselves in a position in the end.” He continued to say, “…credit to everyone involved to not stop believing.”

Losses:

Francis Marotte (G) → Graduate transfer to Clarkson (ECAC)

As the leader in wins for the Colonials with 50, Marotte provided a stable option in net for Robert Morris. The senior goaltender used his graduate transfer over the summer to go to no. 10 Clarkson. Last season, Marotte had a down year, posting a career-high goals-against average (2.85) and a career-low save percentage with a .908. Over his career, Marotte has a career 50-44-8 record, eight shutouts, a 2.55 GAA and a .917 SV%.

 

Alex Tonge (F) → Graduation (Now with Florida Everblades (ECHL))

Last year’s leading scorer with 39 points (9g, 30a) in 39 games, the Kingston, Ontario, native provided a key leadership role to the Colonials. In his career with Robert Morris, Tonge sits sixth in goals (56), fifth in assists (82), and is tied for fourth in points with 138. After his career with Robert Morris, Tonge signed on with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades, where, in five regular-season games last year, Tonge scored eight points (5g, 3a). In the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs, Tonge added four points (2g, 2a) in 13 games.

 

Michael Louria (F) → Graduation

After transferring from UMass-Lowell after the 2015-16 season, Louria proved himself to be a workhorse for the Colonials, tied for sixth all-time with 41 games played in a season (2017-18). Last year, Louria skated in 40 games for Robert Morris, scoring 9 goals and 17 assists, good for 26 points. Louria also added two game-winning goals for the club last year. In his 81-game career with Robert Morris, the Gibraltar, Michigan native is ninth all-time in shots per game, averaging 3.12 shots. Louria joined the Tulsa Oilers of the ECHL for three games last season, scoring 0 points, and was a minus-3.

 

Eric Israel (D) → Graduation (Now with Fort Wayne Komets (ECHL))

A full-time defensive stalwart during his time with the Colonials, Israel will be sorely missed this year by the Colonials d-corps. During his tenure with Robert Morris, Israel is second all-time in points by a defenseman (84). He finishes his career 28 behind the leader, Denny Urban (‘11), who had 112. Last year, playing in only 33 games due to injury, Israel still managed to lead all Colonial defensemen with 22 points (7g, 15a). Since graduating, Israel signed with the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL. Israel is joining a team fresh off a first-round Kelly Cup loss to the Toledo Walleye. Toledo signed former RIT captain Abbott Girduckis over the summer; Abbott is the brother of current Robert Morris defenseman Aidan Girduckis.

 

Key additions:

Justin Kapelmaster (G) → Graduate transfer from Ferris State (WCHA)

After the transfer of Francis Marotte, the Colonials needed a strong presence between the pipes. Enter Justin Kapelmaster, a graduate transfer from the Ferris State Bulldogs. Last season with the Bulldogs, Kapelmaster saw a reduced role due to the emergence of freshman Roni Salmenkangas. In 12 games last year, Kapelmaster posted a 3.52 GAA and a save percentage of .902. The Coral Springs, Florida native’s best season was his freshman year, where he started 19 games, finishing with a 2.22 goals-against average and a .930 sv%. Kapelmaster also played in the Three Rivers Classic that year, making an event-record 58 saves in a 1-1 draw to then no. 6 Boston College.

 

Cameron Hebert (F) → Freshman (Formerly with Johnstown Tomahawks (NAHL))

The Hebert pipeline continues to run through Robert Morris, as Cameron joins his brother Grant on the men’s hockey team, and his sister Allyson is a freshman on the women’s side. Hebert brings a scoring touch to a Colonials team that will need one, due to the loss of Louria and Tonge. Last season with the NAHL’s Johnstown Tomahawks, Hebert scored 78 points (26g, 52a) in 58 games; good enough for third on the Tomahawks and fifth in the entire league last season. In 13 postseason games, Hebert was tied for first with 15 points (4g, 11a) as the Tomahawks lost in the third round to the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.

 

Garrett Clegg (F) → Freshman (Formerly with Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL))

Last season, Clegg tore up the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), scoring on a 1.30 point-per-game pace. Clegg was second on the Sherwood Park Crusaders with 70 points (32g, 38a) en route to the Crusaders being eliminated in the conference finals of the AJHL playoffs to the Spruce Grove Saints.

 

Bradley Stonnell (D) → Freshman (Formerly with Drumheller Dragons (AJHL))

With the departure of Eric Israel, the Colonials are hoping to find his successor in Stonnell. A 5’11” defenseman from Surrey, British Columbia, Stonnell is a quick skating, puck-moving defenseman who also isn’t afraid to use his body and get in the dirty areas. Last year with the Drumheller Dragons, Stonnell was the top point-getting defenseman, scoring 23 points (8g, 15a) in only 22 games played. Stonnell was also named the top defender of the Dragons last year, repeating from the 2017 season, in which he also took home the award.

 

Prediction:

Due to the losses of key players in Eric Israel, Francis Marotte, Alex Tonge and Michael Louria, the Colonials were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Hockey coaches poll. However, with the additions of Kapelmaster, Hebert, Clegg and Stonnell; along with the developments of last years’ incoming freshman class of 11 players, including Justin Addamo, Aidan Spellacy and Kip Hoffman; this team looks primed to surprise again, and advance to a record-breaking seventh straight semi-final appearance in the Atlantic Hockey Championships.

 

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