Robert Morris made an impressive splash in Atlantic Hockey last season, its first in the league. The Colonials spent the early part of the season in first place, and were near the top of the standings the entire way, finishing fifth but just three points out of second place.
But the most successful class in school history has moved on, and coach Derek Schooley must find a way to build off of last season despite losing the likes of Nathan Longpre and Denny Urban, who combined for 84 points in 2010-11.
“You can’t replace players like that,” he said. “All five guys. You’re not going to have incoming freshman ready to replace those players. Instead, we need everyone to take it to the next level. We need guys who had 15 points last season to get 20 points, guys who had 20 points last season to get 25.”
A large senior class will be called on to shoulder the load while the rookies get up to speed.
“We’ve got five freshman forwards, and like all freshmen they’re learning the speed of the game,” said Schooley. “I like what we have. But it’s going to be a baptism by fire. They’re going to get ice time and have to come up to speed fast. We’ve got seven senior forwards and this class is going to have to be ready to move up next season.”
Leading the big senior class are forwards Adam Brace (28 points last season) and Trevor Lewis (10 goals, third on the team last year). Junior Andrew Blazek is expected to take on an big role on the blue line.
Senior Brooks Ostergard is the designated starter, coming off last season’s third-team all-AHA honors.
“Of course he’s going to get that tag [of starter]“, said Schooley. “He’s earned that. But we’re also very comfortable with [junior] Eric Levine. He came in and played very well for us when Brooks was hurt last year.”
Schooley said his first season in Atlantic Hockey after coming from the defunct College Hockey America show his team the importance of a 27-game conference schedule.
“The urgency of every game,” he said. “We used to play the same three teams and play 18-20 league games. With 27 games and 12 teams you can’t let any points slip away and we did that a few times last season. RIT beat us late in overtime. Holy Cross scored with five seconds left. You don’t want to get to February and wish you had those points back.”
About the Colonials
2010-11 overall record: 18-12-5
2010-11 AHA record: 13-9-5 (fifth)
2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Sixth
Key losses: Nathan Longpre (F), Denny Urban (D)
Players to watch: Adam Brace (sr., F), Trevor Lewis (sr., F), Brooks Ostergard (sr., G)
Impact rookie: Cody Wydo (91 points to lead the NAHL last season)
Why the Colonials will finish higher than the coaches poll: Teams with large senior classes tend to do well.
Why the Colonials will finish lower than the coaches poll: RMU won’t advance if it can’t find a way to replace the leadership and points lost to graduation.