Preview: Colonials look to down Knights in early season showdown

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Preview: Colonials look to down Knights in early season showdown

Robert Morris split the series 1-1 with Bowling Green. Photo credit: David Auth

Robert Morris split the series 1-1 with Bowling Green. Photo credit: David Auth

Robert Morris split the series 1-1 with Bowling Green. Photo credit: David Auth

Robert Morris split the series 1-1 with Bowling Green. Photo credit: David Auth

Jack O'Brien, Contributor

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The 2018-19 campaign is still very young, and one thing that’s important to keep in mind in the early portion of the season is there’s nothing better than a hot start. That’s what the Colonials are preparing to do this weekend. They come into this weekend series against Army at .500, completely even. The Colonials (1-1) lone win and loss come against Bowling Green, winning the first game 3-2 and losing the second game 6-0.

Recapping RMU

Though the Colonials most recent game is nothing less than discouraging, that doesn’t necessarily mean there weren’t positive attributes coming from that game. Three of the Falcons’ six goals came with a man advantage. The Colonials were 4-7 on the penalty kill and 0-5 on the power play. They were given their chances but failed to execute after a night where the power play propelled them to a win. Hockey is an unpredictable sport as most people know, so don’t be alarmed by this unit having a rough night.

Recapping Army

Army West Point (1-2) finished fourth in the Atlantic Hockey Conference last year with a record of 12-10-6 and 30 points, three more than the Colonials, but lost to the eventual conference champion, Air Force. Recently, the Black Knights started their season losing the first two games by scores of 4-1 to Union and 5-2 to UConn, but are coming off their first win of the season, a 3-2 victory against Merrimack. Though the Knights have seemed to fall flat on the offensive side of the puck, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat to put up points. The Knights power play is operating at 31% right now and are only allowing their opponent’s power play unit operate at 15%.

Players to watch

Alex Wilkinson (Army): While staying on the topic of offensive play on the Knights, the spotlight falls on junior defenseman Alex Wilkinson thus far in the season. Through three games Wilkinson has racked up four points for the Knights with two goals and two assists. Both goals came on the power play so he will definitely be a threat on the blue line if the Colonials take a penalty.

Michael Wilson (Army): Another Black Knight to keep an eye on is last year’s leading scorer, junior forward Michael Wilson. Though he only has one point so far this season, don’t get too comfortable with that narrative. Wilson had 18 goals and 12 assists last year for 30 points on the year that also included five game-winning goals. It’s a matter of time before Wilson finds his stride and starts scoring at will again. The Colonials need to make sure he doesn’t return to form this weekend.

Alex Tonge (RMU): That will start with senior forward Alex Tonge being able to counteract any offense from the Black Knights. Tonge had 44 points in 41 games played and was second in scoring to Brady Ferguson who had 49 points. Tonge netted the game-winning goal in the Colonials victory over Bowling Green last Friday, so he’s already got his feet wet with scoring this season. It’s only been two games, but Tonge is producing at a point per game right now and it should continue that way for the rest of the season.

Luke Lynch (RMU): Another player expected to have a big year is junior forward Luke Lynch. Lynch finished last year with 37 points made up of 17 goals and 20 assists. Lynch showcased his offensive ability last year so an identical year or better is presumed to be the standard.

Prediction

The Colonials should win this series barring they don’t take more than two penalties per game. I’m aware that no one’s game plan is to take a single penalty let alone more than two. I’m just pointing out that relying on your penalty kill to win games is costly in the end. Most of your more fundamentally sound players are the ones you send out for the kill so fatigue becomes a factor.

The Colonials have the offensive firepower but their in-zone defense will make or break them. In the first game against Bowling Green, the Colonials looked strong at even strength and even stronger on the penalty kill. This team is capable of scoring goals, so the speculation resides in their ability to prevent their opponent from doing the same.

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