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Tuesday September 25 2018
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Robert Morris Hockey Preview

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“This is not a rebuild year but a reload year,” Robert Morris University hockey defenseman Rob Mann said. “That’s our motto.”

With two straight Atlantic Hockey Conference regular season titles already locked away in their pockets, the RMU hockey team is optimistic about the upcoming season.

A young energy and enthusiasm replenished the locker room during the pre-season, thanks to 10 freshmen and a transfer added to the roster. The Colonials are motivated to learn and to improve as players, adding a new dynamic to the team.

“It’s a different team, different energy and a different group of guys,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “I don’t know what we have, but we have a lot of it.”

Because of so many new players, Schooley describes the season as an opportunity to make changes, tweak things and to continue teaching. Although he may not know the exact dynamic of the team quite yet, he is anxious to figure things out on the fly as the season unfolds.

According to Mann, the newbies have an incredible work ethic, and chemistry on and off the ice rink is amazing. As long as “you love playing for the guy next to you,” RMU can do nothing but prove coaches wrong about being picked sixth in the preseason poll.

Looking back at the previous season, the two-time defending regular-season champions finished with a 24-11-4 overall record. With eyes now set on their current competition, “everyone is undefeated right now,” Schooley said.

However, the continuous optimism of the Colonials’ energy and passion is sure to have coaches regretting the placement of RMU as sixth.

With a chip on their shoulders, Robert Morris is stronger defensively and has wasted no time in adjusting the freshmen to the team. Mann explained how the incoming players greatly rely on the upperclassman. Therefore, as much information as possible has be thrown their way.

As one of the fresh faces joining the Colonials roster, Michael Coyne is a 6-foot-1, 190-pound forward from Kenmore, NY. Coyne was the captain of Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League, and during his career, he recorded 33 goals and 99 points in three regular seasons.

In their quest for a third consecutive regular-season title, the Colonials, in the first several games, will learn which players are willing to step up into new roles, including the freshmen. With Mann as the Colonial team captain, Daniel Leavens, Ben Robillard and Alex Bontje have already stepped up as assistant captains.

Despite the positive energy of the renewed season, RMU must deal with nine graduated seniors who accounted for 65 percent of the team’s scoring power last season.

Perhaps the biggest lost is Zac Lynch, the team’s all-time leading scorer with 156 career points. Lynch recorded 55 points (25 goals and 33 assists) a year ago and was named to the Florida Panthers 23-man rookie tournament roster this fall.

While Lynch is no longer on the ice clothed in an RMU jersey, the Colonials entered the season with some good news from the Atlantic Hockey Conference. The conference's athletic directors recently voted to increase the scholarship limit to 18, the highest allowed by the NCAA.

“The scholarships are an opportunity to be more serious about getting better and growing as a league," Schooley said. "There are an abundance of new facilities and it is up to the coaches to win non-conference games.”

The Colonials opened the season by splitting a pair of games agianst conference foe R.I.T. on the road in Henrietta, N.Y. They play two games at Canisius Oct. 21-22 before returning to Moon Township for their home opener against Army Oct. 28.

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