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Robert Morris hockey team is seeking some exposure

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Miami's Austin Czarnik defends on Robert Morris' David Friedmann in the first period during the finals of the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center Dec. 27, 2012.

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By Josh Yohe
Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, 10:12 p.m.
 

The Robert Morris hockey program has become so respected that its 1-0 victory against No. 5 Miami on Saturday at Consol Energy Center was viewed as a surprise but hardly a shock.

Coach Derek Schooley's Colonials have done this kind of thing before.

So where does Robert Morris go from here?

For Schooley, the answer is simple. Keep winning, and people will come, and his program will grow stronger.

“I think people enjoyed what they saw,” Schooley said. “We just can't let them down now. We set the bar really high.”

More than 22,000 people came to Consol Energy Center to see the Three Rivers Classic, which Robert Morris won with victories against Penn State and Miami.

The university and Penguins officials were delighted with the attendance.

Next season, Robert Morris will host a similar event that will bring Penn State, Bowling Green and national power Boston College to Pittsburgh.

Before then, the Frozen Four will be played at Consol Energy Center in April.

Schooley mentioned last season that he didn't believe hockey fans were supportive enough of college hockey. But after last weekend, he is starting to change his tune.

“I don't just want people to be hockey fans and Penguins fans,” he said.

“I want them to be college hockey fans. This (the Three Rivers Classic) leads up to the Frozen Four. This is the start of a lot of big events coming to the city of Pittsburgh. People put a lot of effort and time into these events. I hope people get behind college hockey, and I think they have.”

Robert Morris had twice defeated Miami in the 2009-10 season.

On both occasions, the RedHawks were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

In fact, during Schooley's tenure, Robert Morris has accumulated a 4-5-0 record against teams ranked in the top five.

The Colonials are clearly equipped to beat the nation's best teams, and they'd love an opportunity to play them in the NCAA Tournament. Schooley's squad has come tantalizingly close to qualifying for the tournament but has fallen just short of winning the conference title that would provide an automatic berth.

Schooley's team clearly believes in its coach.

“He's got a way about him,” forward Colin South said. “We're all on board with everything about this program, and it starts with him.”

Schooley hopes that Robert Morris may move closer to becoming one of the big boys of college hockey.

“We'll find out in two weeks when we're at home,” Schooley said.

“We play in a very nice, 1,500-seat building. Hopefully, of the 22,000 people that came here this weekend, some will want to see us play against UConn and see us play on national TV against Army.”

Robert Morris (9-4-2) is 4-3-1 in Atlantic Hockey conference play this year, its last regular-season loss coming Nov. 17.

“We believe in ourselves and in what we're doing,” South said. “And we hope the city believes in us, too.”

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

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