Plum graduate Loebig aims for another run at nationals with Pitt hockey
Last year, Ryan Loebig was one of several first-year members of Pitt’s Division I men’s hockey team to hear shared stories from the Panthers’ 2017 trip to the American College Hockey Association national tournament.
Then, after helping Pitt to a successful regular season, which included the College Hockey Mid-American championship and 21 victories, the Plum graduate got his own first-hand experience at nationals.
Now, he is hoping to do everything in his power to get the Panthers back for a third year in a row.
“The seniors last year were really supportive in helping me get comfortable with college hockey. They were a good group of guys to kind of show me the way,” Loebig said.
“It took me a few games to get used to the physical aspect. It’s a little more physical than anything I’ve played. The speed is similar to what I’ve seen before.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound defenseman said with a full year of college games under his belt, he felt he entered the season an improved player.
“My poise with the puck has gotten better, I’d like to think, and just making better decisions,” Loebig said. “My defensive positioning also is something I’ve really worked on. I’ve worked with my defensive coach, Jerry Bass, on a few points there that has really helped.”
Pitt head coach Stu Rulnick said Loebig has matured as a player and as a leader both on and off the ice.
“He’s doing a great job for us,” Rulnick said. “He’s a very skilled defenseman. He’s a very good penalty killer and a steady two-way player. It’s been a process so far with 12 freshmen and trying to find out who can play with who and all of the lines and defensive pairings. We know we can count on him to get things going in the right direction.”
Pitt enters the New Year 8-9 overall. The Panthers struggled early on with only two wins over their first 10 games. That included a seven-game losing skid from Oct. 6 to Nov. 3.
But the team turned its fortunes around and has won six of its last seven games.
It scored just eight goals during the seven-game skid, but it averaged five a game during the 6-1 streak. Pitt tallied 15 combined in a two-game sweep of Towson on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.
“We just kind of stuck with what we do and what our game plan was,” said Loebig, who has a pair of assists in 16 games played.
“We didn’t really change how we were playing when we started to turn things around. We were struggling offensively early on, and then we just found our stride, I guess. We knew we had to be patient, and things would work themselves out. We started finding goals and finding wins.”
Pitt is 4-2-1 and fifth in the CHMA standings behind IUP (8-2), Duquesne (7-3), Slippery Rock (6-2) and Robert Morris II (3-3-3).
Loebig and the rest of the Panthers players will resume play Friday and Saturday with a two-game set at Rhode Island.
Then it’s on to Ohio for a pair of games Jan. 18 and 19. The Bobcats (12-3-3) are No. 4 in the most recent ACHA Men’s Division I poll.
Rhode Island (11-9) is ranked 21st.
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at email@example.com or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.