Robert Morris thinks big right away in Atlantic Hockey

The Robert Morris Colonials are an unknown commodity heading into their first season in Atlantic Hockey. But an impressive, experienced lineup has made them a favorite to finish near the top of the standings. Robert Morris was picked to finish fourth in the coach’s preseason poll, and got two first-place votes.

Are they the team to beat right off the bat?

“We need to learn how to play in the AHA,” coach Derek Schooley said. “There’s new teams you’re playing against in new arenas. It’s going to be a welcome change from playing a team six times [a season] in the CHA; playing teams somewhere around 13 to 14 times over two years. That makes for a lot of familiarity where now we’ll be playing teams on the fly without knowing a lot about them. There’s a new opponent every weekend.”

Schooley and others who are expecting big things have a right to be optimistic about returning 23 players, including three CHA all-stars.

Senior forwards Nathan Longpre (31 points last season) and Chris Kushneriuk (30 points) lead a experienced offense, and senior defenseman Denny Urban (25 points) was one of the best two-way players in the CHA.

“We like our freshman, but it’s going to be tough based on what we have returning,” Schooley said. “You’re going to have to beat a guy [for a spot in the lineup] who has a lot of Division I experience.”

The Colonials start league play right away, with their first games of the season coming at American International.

“We understand what we have to do to get home ice, and that’s our goal,” Schooley said. “You need to win your scheduling pod, and that’s going to be tough with so many good teams. We’ve had great games in the past with Canisius and Air Force and we expect more of the same.”