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Robert Morris hockey programs are thriving

| Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, 10:50 p.m.

The Robert Morris men's hockey program is continuing its rapid ascent this season, a once-forgotten team that coach Derek Schooley has guided to respectability and now to the verge of being an annual power.

Schooley's program has some company in its own school.

The RMU women's team is suddenly becoming a local presence, a clear sign the epicenter of Western Pennsylvania hockey is in Moon.

“People know all about this school now,” Robert Morris women's coach Paul Colontino said. “The success the men's program has had is no fluke, and I think that has helped us in a big way.”

Last weekend spoke volumes of the direction both Robert Morris programs are headed.

Colontino's team upset Mercyhurst — the No. 4 team in the country — in consecutive games.

The men's team defeated Ohio, 3-2, in Columbus, Ohio before earning a tie against the Buckeyes the following night.

For Schooley, the tie was almost as rewarding as the victory.

“Anybody can beat anybody,” he said.

“So, getting the win against them was great. But playing the way we did in the second game, I think, kind of validated everything what we did in the previous game. It was very satisfying to play like we did.”

Schooley might have been satisfied with those performances, but he isn't satisfied with his program. The coach knows future goals remain.

“The ultimate goal is to get to the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “We've been close, losing in overtime in two (conference) championship games. Until you get there, you keep working and striving for that goal.”

He also wants the Colonials to land the first punch in what he believes could be a terrific rivalry.

Robert Morris (6-4-2) travels to Penn State on Saturday night. The Nittany Lions are a first-year Division I program, and Schooley realizes Saturday's winner could have the upper hand in recruiting.

“Anytime you add a program to college hockey, it's great,” he said. “Penn State has done well. I know how difficult it is. We expect a difficult assignment this weekend. This is a great game for us, and if it increases fan awareness and if people get excited, that's even better.”

People are getting excited about the Robert Morris women's program, too.

Consider that in the program's first seven years, Robert Morris went 57-133-16. In Colontino's first two seasons, Robert Morris is 28-10-4.

“There were a lot of pieces in place,” said Colontino, a native of Burlington, Ontario. “And it's been nice to see this team come together the way it has.”

The recent victories against Mercyhurst may have changed Colontino's perception of his team.

“I can't tell you how huge those wins were for us,” he said. “When you beat the fourth-best team in the country, it does special things for your confidence. It's really a big thing for us.”

Colontino expects to deliver a very strong recruiting class next season, adding to a team that is 9-3-2.

“I think this is becoming a special place for hockey,” he said. “The men's team is a power, and I feel like we're on our way.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jyohe@tribweb.com.

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