RMU skaters bring lofty goals into year
If there's ever a season for the Robert Morris men's hockey team to think big, this is it.
The NCAA Frozen Four is coming to Consol Energy Center in April, giving the host Colonials the chance for a Disney ending.
“I dream about it all the time,” said senior defenseman Brendan Jamison, a Shady Side graduate. “It's surreal whenever I get there in my dreams. I think it's attainable.”
The feat isn't as unlikely as it may seem. More than one-fourth of the 59 Division I programs make the 16-team NCAA Tournament. And the Frozen Four isn't limited to big-name schools. Last season, Ferris State lost in the championship and Union (N.Y.) College reached the semifinals. In 2011, Minnesota Duluth won it all. Rochester Institute of Technology (2010) and Bemidji State (2009) lost in recent semifinals.
RMU coach Derek Schooley, whose team opens the season with games Saturday and Sunday at 18th-ranked Quinnipac, is guarded with his expectations. But he expects the Frozen Four and the Three Rivers Classic from Dec. 28-29 at Consol to serve as a boon to college hockey in the area.
“I think people have so far missed the boat on college hockey in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I think it's still kind of a hidden gem. Having the Frozen Four here will draw more fans, and obviously with the NHL lockout, people are going to need their hockey fix. Hopefully, people will get hooked on college hockey.”
For local players such as junior forward Colin South, seeing the Frozen Four come to Pittsburgh holds a special meaning. South grew up in Sewickley and idolized Mario Lemieux. They met several times, including once when South was a toddler and he bumped into Lemieux with a shopping cart at the grocery store. South's family had season tickets at Civic Arena, so he was there for the good times and the bad.
“I remember going to games when they were awful, when there were like 10,000 people there,” he said. “It's really not that long ago where we thought hockey was basically dying in Pittsburgh, that the Penguins would be leaving. Now they have a new arena; the Frozen Four is here. It definitely makes me feel good about how far we've come.”
The Colonials hope to make similar progress following a 17-17-5 season. The team is young, featuring nine freshmen and seven sophomores, but returns four of its top five goal scorers.
Jamison, a defensive defenseman who said he models his game after ex-Penguin Rob Scuderi, anchors the blue line.
“Every piece is there for us to make a lasting impression this year,” Jamison said. “More than any year I've been here, this is the year to make a statement.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.