Preview: RMU men’s hockey looks to continue hot conference start

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Preview: RMU men’s hockey looks to continue hot conference start

The Robert Morris men's hockey team discusses a play during a game against Niagara Nov. 2, 2018. (David Auth/RMU Sentry Media) Photo credit: David Auth

The Robert Morris men's hockey team discusses a play during a game against Niagara Nov. 2, 2018. (David Auth/RMU Sentry Media) Photo credit: David Auth

The Robert Morris men's hockey team discusses a play during a game against Niagara Nov. 2, 2018. (David Auth/RMU Sentry Media) Photo credit: David Auth

The Robert Morris men's hockey team discusses a play during a game against Niagara Nov. 2, 2018. (David Auth/RMU Sentry Media) Photo credit: David Auth

Nathan Breisinger, Contributor

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WEST POINT, N.Y. — The RMU men’s hockey team (2-2, 2-0 AHA) will continue Atlantic Hockey conference play this weekend when they travel to the state of New York to take on the Army Black Knights (2-0) in a two-game set. This will begin a four-game road trip for the Colonials before returning home on November 9. The Colonials look to reach the top-25 in the NCAA D1 USCHO.com rankings, as they received two votes in the most recent poll.

Recapping RMU

As the Colonials hit the road for the first time this season, they come off an important bounce-back sweep of the Bentley University Falcons (0-2, 0-2 AHA). Leading the way for Robert Morris in their 3-0 victory in the first game was Nick Prkusic, who factored in all three Colonials’ goals as he scored two and assisted on the other. As for the second game, it was Aidan Spellacy’s turn to light up the score sheet, as he scored twice and also assisted on another Colonial goal as they would go on to win 4-1. Both Prkusic and Spellacy have been significant pieces throughout the season thus far as they have a combined 22 shots on net.

For the Colonials in net they, have relied on senior transfer Justin Kapelmaster, who has shown that he can be one of the top goalies in all of college hockey. In his first start for Robert Morris, he stopped 29 shots in a nailbiter that Michigan Tech (2-2, 0-2 WCHA) would eventually take in overtime 2-1. After a rest in game two against the Huskies, he would start both games against Bentley, where he would shine all weekend long. He shutout the Falcons in game one on 35 saves and only let in one shot out of the 46 that the Falcons registered in game two for the victory. In all of NCAA D-I men’s ice hockey, Kapelmaster has a .973 save percentage, which ranks fourth. Kapelmaster will be a significant factor for the Colonials to stick around the top of the AHA and with his first three performances so far, the team has aspirations to be competitor throughout college hockey.

Scouting Army

The Black Knights will enter AHA play against the Colonials coming off of two non-conference victories. Their first game came against the Union College Dutchmen (0-5), where they were victorious 3-2. Army scored twice on the power-play as they had six chances with the man advantage. Michael Wilson was a pivotal piece to their victory, as he added their lone even-strength goal along with an assist on the opening goal. Following the season-opening win, they traveled to the state of Connecticut to take on the University of Connecticut Huskies (1-2-1), where they would add another win by the score of 2-1. Both goals for the Black Knights came in the second period as John Zimmerman and Daniel Haider found the back of the net. In the cage for Army so far this season, Trevin Kozlowski has stopped 47 of the 50 shots he has faced.

Players to Watch

Daniel Mantenuto (RMU)

Experienced leaders will be key for the Colonials throughout the season and one guy who is a seasoned player as a junior is Mantenuto. He only has one point, an assist against Bentley, so far this season but do not take your eyes off of him as he is dangerous in all aspects on the ice, including the penalty kill and power-play. Also, Mantenuto continues to prove he is a pivotal centerman as he continues to dominate opponents at the dot. Daniel will be a player to keep an eye on as his all-around play for the Colonials will be important on the road.

Luke Lynch (RMU)

Sticking with veteran players, Luke Lynch, one of the captains along with Mantenuto, and Prkusic will be a guy who will step up in this two-game set versus the Black Knights. Similar to Mantenuto, Lynch has failed to register a goal this season but he has tallied three assists. Luke will be a valuable piece to RMU’s power-play on this road trip, as all three of his points came on the power-play. Look for Lynch to score a few goals this weekend and have a few points coming off of the man advantage.

Alex Wilkinson (Army)

As Army will look to neutralize any scoring chances for the Colonials, they will rely heavily on senior defenseman Alex Wilkinson, who heads their defensive core. Wilkinson has proved to be a huge part of their defense for several years as in the 2017-2018 campaign he was named AHA’s Best Defenseman along with being named to the AHA’s All-Conference First Team. Last year he did not get the same recognition but still put up big numbers, including 22 assists. This year he leads the team with six block shots and leads all defenseman with five shots. On the defensive side, Wilkinson will show his offensive abilities this weekend for the Black Knights.

Eric Butte (Army)

The youthfulness of sophomore Eric Butte will be something to watch for Army. He scored the team’s first goal of the season, which came on the power-play against Union. Expect Butte to be hungry on the ice this weekend as his first career collegiate goal came against the Colonials last season. His power-play presence and ability to shoot the puck on net will be tough to defend against when the Colonials travel to West Point.

Prediction

The Black Knights have had recent success against the Colonials, as Robert Morris has not beaten them in their last three matchups. This is the first time the Colonials will travel to West Point since 2015. This weekend two-game set will feature a fantastic goalie matchup and Kapelmaster for RMU and Kozlowski for Army, as they will seek similar success in their past two games. If the Colonials want to be successful this weekend they need to be more disciplined as they have spent 44 minutes in the sin bin. In the first game, I think the Colonials will jump out early and won’t look back as they glide to a 4-1 lead. However, in the second game, the Black Knights will answer well with a 3-2 victory. Therefore, the start of this road trip for the Colonials will see a split against Army.

 

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