Local duo hopes to continue RMU's hockey playoff push
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The Robert Morris University men's hockey team wants to celebrate more at Consol Energy Center this year.
The Colonials captured the inaugural Three Rivers Classic tournament on the Pittsburgh Penguins' home ice in late December with wins over Penn State and Miami (Ohio).
Ultimately, they'd like to take that excitement to the next level by winning the NCAA Frozen Four tournament in the same building. It certainly would mean a lot to RMU defensemen and Pittsburgh natives Andrew Blazek and Brendan Jamison.
“We always thought that'd be an unbelievable story. I definitely think that everybody realizes we have a special team and it can be done,” Jamison said. “We just have to realize how much work has to be put in for us to have a chance. It's something we think about and a goal of ours.
“Winning the Three Rivers Classic was a dream come true for me and the rest of the team.”
The road back to Consol Energy Center is a long and certainly formidable one. The Colonials' focus is on securing a top seed for the Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs, which begin Friday. The top four squads earn a key first-round bye in the tournament.
“That bye would be nice. Either way, I really like where our team is now, mentally and physically. I think we have it in us for a playoff run and I am pretty excited for it,” Blazek said. “It's a totally different mindset; it's a lot of fun to play at that time of year.
“The Frozen Four is a great opportunity for us, the city and the program. We're looking at it one game at time and anything can happen. I am confident with this group.”
Jamison, a senior, is the first Pittsburgh-born captain in the program's nine-year history. He is a Shady Side Academy product.
“Growing up, I watched this team play. I always thought to myself how cool it'd be to play here,” he said. “I never thought I'd be captain. It's a memory I'll hold for a long time.”
Statistically, Jamison is enjoying his best season at Robert Morris. He had a career-best 11 points (1 goal, 10 assists) through 32 games.
“I think every senior dreams to have his best year his last year. I have had a few good years leading up to it,” he said. “Definitely, this one is the one that stands out.”
The 6-foot, 188-pounder is the team's blueline anchor.
“I always try to emulate (former Penguins defenseman) Rob Scuderi,” Jamison said. “I want to be the piece of the puzzle that goes unnoticed. If you don't notice him during a game, then he's doing his job.”
Blazek is a redshirt junior. The Upper St. Clair product continues to recover from shoulder surgery that cost him almost all of last season. The converted forward had 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) in 26 games played.
“I am taking steps in the right direction toward where I want to be as a player,” he said. “Looking back, from walking onto the team to where I am now, my development is a tribute to the coaching staff and university. I am happy to be close to home and have family around.
“I am still trying to define myself as a player. The things I like to do are more offensive minded because I grew up as a forward. I made the switch to defense my freshman year. I am still getting to know when to jump into the play and when not to. It's a fun process.”
Blazek and Jamison said they just hope to embark on a long postseason journey.
“It's crunch time now. I have been here for four years and, the last month before playoffs, you try to treat every game like a playoff game and they basically are,” Blazek said.
“Both teams are going hard and giving it their all. They are must-wins for us if we want to get a bye in first round. The standings are really tight, and it's putting a lot of pressure on us. We have to bring our best.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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