Robert Morris doing its part in the growth of Western Pennsylvania college hockey

Last weekend was a good one for Robert Morris. The Colonials came back to defeat Ohio State 3-2 in Columbus on Friday and then played an entertaining 2-2 tie with the Buckeyes on home ice in front of a record 1,589 fans.

It was a good lead-in to Frozen Four tickets going on sale to the public Monday. Robert Morris is the host school for this season’s championship, which will be played at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

RMU coach Derek Schooley was nonplussed, however. He said that last weekend was just a step in the right direction for his team, which got votes for the first time this season in Monday’s Division I Men’s Poll.

“We played hard and had two good hockey games,” he said. “We had a good weekend. We need to continue to play well and have even better weekends.

“The Frozen Four is going to sell out with or without us doing well. But I think that the crowd we had and the excitement around the game validates that college hockey is on the rise in Pittsburgh. We turned people away for the second time I can remember. It’s the perfect lead-in to the Three Rivers Classic and then the Frozen Four.”

The inaugural Three Rivers Classic will be played at Consol on Dec. 28 and 29 and also features Penn State, Ohio State and Miami. It’s expected to be an annual affair with Robert Morris and Penn State bringing in two other schools.

“It’s important to increase the visibility of college hockey in Western Pennsylvania,” Schooley said. “There’s three teams within a few hours drive with us, Mercyhurst and Penn State.”

Ohio State is also a big name to bring into Pittsburgh, both to the Consol Energy Center as well as the Island Sports Complex last Saturday.

“I said that if we didn’t sell out [on Saturday], that would show that this is a Penguins town,” Schooley said. “But it’s more than that, a great hockey town.”

The teams went to a shootout on Saturday after the 2-2 tie was in the books, with the Colonials winning it and sending the crowd home happy.

“It was fun for us and the fans,” Schooley said. “It was the first shootout we had ever been in. We had some fun with it but also practiced it last week because we knew we might have to do it to settle who’s going to advance in the Three Rivers Classic.”

Freshman David Friedmann scored his fourth goal of the season on Saturday and was the reigning AHA rookie of the week at the time. Big things are expected from the rookie who had 110 points last season in juniors.

Schooley said he was forced to bench Friedmann for a few games because he needed more two-way play from him.

“He’s a very talented player and had some defensive struggles that we wanted to nip in the bud early in his career,” Schooley said. “We looked at video and the assistants did a lot of work with him on positioning. He was 100 percent receptive and is doing a very good job on both ends of the ice.”

Schooley said his seniors have been leading the way and will be key in determining the Colonials’ fate this season. Goaltender Eric Levine has been big, registering a .941 save percentage so far. Forwards Zach Hervato and Adam Brace are tied for the team lead with 12 points each.

“They’re having big years as seniors and that’s what you hope for, that guys will have outstanding senior years,” Schooley said.

“We didn’t know at the beginning of the year who was going to score goals for us and those guys have come through. They’ve been a catalyst.”

Players of the week

From the home office in Haverhill, Mass.:

Atlantic Hockey player of the week:
Michael Colavecchia, Rochester Institute of Technology

Colavecchia had six points (three goals and three assists) to help the Tigers to a sweep of Sacred Heart. The junior has five goals and five assists so far this season despite missing the first month due to injury.

Atlantic Hockey goalie of the week:
Eric Levine, Robert Morris

The senior wins the award for the second time this season. He made 79 saves in a win and a tie with Ohio State, not including a “win” in a shootout following the draw. Levine has a save percentage of .941 this season, fifth in the nation.

Atlantic Hockey rookie of the week:
Alexander Kuqali, RIT

The rookie defenseman from Pittsburgh had a four-point weekend, including his first two collegiate goals, in a pair of wins against Sacred Heart.


It was a week for milestones in Atlantic Hockey:

• American International senior goaltender Ben Meisner became the school’s all-time saves leader, making his 3,015th save on Saturday. He passed Chance Thede (2001) and has 3,032 saves with more than half a season to play.

• Air Force forward Kyle De Laurell hit the century mark for points in style with a career-best four-point game on Friday in a 7-4 win at Bentley.

• Bentley junior Brett Gensler recorded his 100th career point in the same series with an assist in a 2-2 tie on Saturday, capping a four-point weekend. The junior took just 88 games to reach the century mark, the fastest in school history.

• Sacred Heart senior netminder Steven Legatto recorded the 3,000th save of his career in last Friday night’s game on his 37th of 39 saves in the contest.

Poll vaulting

Niagara moved up from 18th to 16th in the most recent Division I Men’s Poll, with Holy Cross and Robert Morris also garnering votes. It’s the highest ranking for the Purple Eagles since the 2006-07 season.

The same three teams are also in the PairWise Rankings with Niagara at 16th, Robert Morris tied for 22nd and Holy Cross 25th.

Tweet of the week

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Robert Morris announces its record-setting attendance on Saturday.

Want to be eligible for TOTW? Follow me at @chrislerch.