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Recent efforts vs. UND a positive for Robert Morris

by James Murphy
It's rare when a coach will come away from an 8-0 loss encouraged by his team's performance, but sometimes the score doesn't always tell the story and that was the case for the Robert Morris Colonials (12-7-2, 7-5-2 Atlantic Conference) and coach Derek Schooley last weekend, when his team went into Grand Forks, N.D., to take on the second-ranked Fighting Sioux. Robert Morris lost 8-0 last Friday, and while they still lost the second of the two-game set 2-1 on Saturday, Schooley was impressed with his team's efforts in both games.

"I think if you look at the scoreboard, it's a little deceiving because I thought we played fairly well against North Dakota both games," Schooley said. "We had two bad bounces, off one of our sticks and one off a skate. Two bad breaks there early and then we gave up a couple goals that were suspect and I think that put us behind the eight-ball and I think we were a little overwhelmed once we got down a lot. The shots were fairly even and the scoring chances were fairly even. Obviously they (North Dakota) didn't think it was as big a blowout as the score says because they played their No. 1 goaltender and didn't make any lineup changes. So it wasn't like they were playing their non-regulars."

Schooley made sure his team was drawing on the positives throughout that loss and after as they prepared for Saturday's game. He wanted his team to know he really believed the game wasn't as bad as the score indicated and that they could hang with the high-powered Fighting Sioux. That's just what they did, holding North Dakota to only two goals and scoring one themselves.

"The second night I thought we played just as hard," Schooley said. "It just shows that we come and we can skate with any team in the nation. It's just that when it's 0-0 with four minutes to go in the game, you do like to get that next one, but they made a big-time play and we couldn't convert. We outshot them 17-5 in that third period, on the road in a tough place to play."

That lone goal in the 2-1 loss came courtesy of the Colonials' leading scorer, senior forward and alternate captain Nathan Longpre, who now has 10 goals and 18 assists. His 28 points tie him for 10th in the NCAA. Longpre has been the go-to player on offense for Robert Morris and Schooley saw a man on a mission in the two games at North Dakota.

"Nathan is very competitive, and he probably was playing at his highest level this past weekend and competed for 120 minutes harder than he's ever competed before," Schooley said. "He creates a lot of offense with his chances and his competitiveness. He got a lot of opportunities and you just feed off that when he's playing his hardest, and he did that this past weekend. He's a very highly-skilled player that when he competes at that level, the team can jump on his back."

Senior defenseman and alternate captain Danny Urban, who's second on the team in scoring, got an assist on Longpre's goal, and he has been the perfect offensive catalyst from the blue line for the Colonials. Urban now has 19 assists and 26 points and is second in scoring among NCAA defensemen.

"Danny is a very offensive-minded defenseman, as you can see by his points," Schooley said. "He's led the nation in points for a defenseman for most of the year and he just brings a poise to his game. He's very competitive defensively, very good with the puck and will join the offense when he can. He's a player that creates a lot from his position, and you can see that with his points. He's two points away from 100 for his career, and for a defenseman is pretty good."

With two lethal scorers and veteran experience, the Colonials have the potential to do some damage in the Atlantic Conference playoffs and possibly in the NCAA Tournament. There were lessons learned in the North Dakota experience despite the losses and they plan on taking those lessons and applying them going forward.

"Any time you can play a high-level team like that and in an exciting atmosphere, you look at that as something that will see where your team is, and we walked out of there feeling very good about our hockey team and I thought we played very well," Schooley said. "We have to bring the same level of intensity against every team that we brought against North Dakota. You have to have confidence against high-level teams, and we feel we have a very good hockey team. We just have to skate and play the same way against everybody.

"We needed to come back and have a good performance and have some results to prove that the Friday night game was not as bad as it looked. We talked about it after the second game, that if we played that way -- and even both games, actually -- we're going to be very successful more often than not."

On Campus notes -- For the first time since October 2004, the Ohio State Buckeyes swept a two-game set from CCHA rival Miami, and it was capped with a rousing comeback that saw the Buckeyes erase a 2-0 third-period deficit with five unanswered goals. "It is another step," Ohio State coach Mark Osiecki said. "That is really what we're talking to our team about. Enjoy it right now. Understand that feeling in the third and what it took, and how they played how they had to play hard for each other." ... Former Harvard star and San Jose Shark Tom Cavanagh was found dead in the parking lot of the Providence (R.I.) Place Mall on Jan. 6. The 28-year old suffered traumatic injuries due to "blunt force impact." His father, lawyer Joseph Cavanagh, said in a statement Friday night: "Our son, Tom, was a young man who bravely fought the demons of mental illness for many years. This private struggle far surpassed his public athletic accomplishments. Our family will celebrate and always remember his beautiful but short life."
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