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Robert Morris hockey team hits late-season stride

| Friday, March 2, 2012

It might be tough to tell by looking at game scores, but Robert Morris men's hockey coach Derek Schooley believes his team has been at its best over the final six games of the regular season.

Those games have been against three of the top four teams in the Atlantic Hockey Conference, with the Colonials posting a 2-2-2 record against squads that went a combined 67-44-26 this season.

"Our consistency over the past six games has been very good," Schooley said. "Our effort has been there. Our energy level has been there. The results haven't always been there, but it's not from a lack of effort, energy or passion."

Robert Morris finished the regular season in seventh place and opens the AHC Tournament by hosting a three-game series today against No. 10 seed American International, a team the Colonials split a pair of 2-0 games with this season.

Win those, and the Colonials advance to the quarterfinals the following weekend, with the four winners redistributed among the top four seeds.

Robert Morris played Mercyhurst, RIT and Air Force — the Nos. 4, 2 and 1 seeds, respectively — over the final three weeks of the regular season. The Colonials were outscored in those six games, 13-11, but Schooley was pleased with the number of quality scoring chances the Colonials generated, especially the 37 shots they recorded during a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 20 Air Force on Feb. 24.

"We just need to keep playing the way we're playing," said Schooley, whose team amassed 31 points this season, five fewer than first-place Air Force. "We need to bury our opportunities around the net and make sure that we're playing the best hockey we can in the playoffs. If the last six games are any indication of that, we're playing good hockey at the right time."

Cody Crichton leads the team with 25 points, and Trevor Lewis has 21. Cody Wydo has a team-high 12 goals.

The Robert Morris women's hockey team finished the regular season at 17-9-4 under first-year coach Paul Colontino — a stark contrast to last year's 6-21-7 mark — and opens the College Hockey America tournament with a semifinal game against visiting Niagara tonight.

If the Colonials win, they'll advance to Saturday's championship game and likely would play No. 6 Mercyhurst (22-6-3), which has won the past 12 regular-season CHA titles. Colontino was an associate head coach at Mercyhurst for five years before taking over at RMU.

"It's nice to have that experience of getting a few of those CHA championships to pass on to our players," Colontino said. "But we're more focused on what we need to do to be successful, and that's play great hockey."

Rebecca Vint has had a stellar freshman season. She leads the team with 21 goals and 21 assists.

WVU on target

No. 2 West Virginia captured its third consecutive Great American Rifle Conference title over the weekend, winning the air rifle portion of the competition and finishing second in smallbore. Junior Petra Zublasing won the individual title to lead the Mountaineers, who will take aim at their 16th national title at the NCAA Championships on March 9-10 at Ohio State.

She does it all

Edinboro sophomore Tabitha Bemis (Quaker Valley) was named the overall MVP of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference's women's indoor track and field championships over the weekend. Bemis won the long jump (19 feet, 5 1/4 inches) and triple jump (39-4) and finished second in the 60-meter hurdles (8.80 seconds).

Petty concerns

Few college baseball players have been busier than California (Pa.) junior Kyle Petty. Besides starting games at pitcher, first base, third base and designated hitter, Petty has 12 RBI in nine games and is hitting a team-best .485, with six of his 16 hits going for extra bases. Petty is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA. He has worked 142/3 innings over three appearances, including two starts.

WPIAL alumni honored

A few local hoopsters were named their conference's player of the year: Bethany's Nick Wilcox (Peters Township) in the Presidents' Athletic Conference and Pitt-Greensburg's David Palmer (Westinghouse) in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.

On the women's side, La Roche sophomore Jessica Pitts was named the AMCC's player of the year and defensive player of the year.

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