Tim Benz: Less than a year from returning, Robert Morris hockey programs ramping up for comeback

Robert Morris University hockey trainer Derek Schooley is acutely aware of how time is marching alongside. He has a countdown clock on his telephone. He sees it on a daily basis.

“I believe 450 days is when I started it,” Schooley mentioned. “It seemed like it was going to take forever. Now that school has started, now that we have athletes, now that we are on the road, getting some commitments. It seems like it is going a lot quicker. Before you know it, it’ll be Christmas time. Before you know it, it’ll be the spring, and we’ll be ready to get our athletes back on campus.”

The ticking days mark the period of time till the 2023-24 faculty hockey season, now just below a year away. That’s when Schooley and girls’s trainer Logan Bittle will relaunch the Colonials hockey programs once they had been reduce in May 2021.

The coaches, avid gamers and alumni of the programs fought to get the groups restored, which ultimately took place in December 2021, however now not with out a 2nd year away from pageant to assist carry finances and reconstruct aggressive programs.

Now, even though, with each males’s and girls’s NCAA hockey play underway for this season, for Schooley and Bittle, the idea that of workforce development for subsequent year is a lot extra concrete. All the theoreticals are actually actual.

“Looking at the games last weekend, you are wishing that you were playing. But we talked with our teams this week. And we said, ‘Everything we are doing, there is a goal. And that goal is a year from today when we hop on the ice.’ They took to that well. We are definitely looking forward to the fall of ‘23,” Schooley mentioned.

Yes, each coaches nonetheless do have a small choice of avid gamers. Neither workforce is beginning totally from scratch. Both the lads’s and girls’s groups carried over 3 avid gamers from the final iteration in their rosters. Both groups even have 3 newbies enrolled at school who’re dedicated to ready out the year till hockey returns to the RMU Island Sports Center.

The 12 males’s and girls’s avid gamers are protecting joint practices in combination thrice a week, adopting what Bittle calls a “one-team mentality” between the genders, as have been the case between the golf equipment of their efforts to reinstate the programs once they had been reduce.

That makes ice time more uncomplicated and establishing observe drills more uncomplicated. Plus, it permits Schooley and Bittle to on occasion unfastened up one every other for recruiting and fundraising tasks.

“It’s been fun. It’s really forced the women out of their comfort zone and made them play harder and faster. And the goalie, Maggie Hatch, is an outstanding goalie,” Schooley mentioned. “We just have one rule. Nobody can hit her in the head. We need her! She’s our only goalie.”

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The days last on Schooley’s countdown clock are ticking away speedy. Time allocation for him and Bittle is essential. There are a lot of balls within the air to juggle between practising with the present avid gamers, scheduling, fundraising, recruiting journeys for junior leagues and scouting present NCAA rosters on tv.

For each coaches, the problem of rebuilding the groups seems to be equivalent portions thrilling and daunting. On the only hand, they may be able to dole out a complete roster’s price of scholarships in a single year to land as many recruits as they would like.

But there’s a balancing act to that as smartly. As Schooley and Bittle are loading up on recruits throughout the year, they need to go away a sure collection of slots open for skilled NCAA skaters who would possibly need to switch as soon as this season ends.

Schooley mentioned he has “29 locker stalls” to be had and needs to get to a minimum of 26 avid gamers — 15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goalies. The collection of transfers he has in his thoughts is 10. But that quantity isn’t set in stone.

“You have to be flexible within the plan,” Schooley mentioned. “If I say I want to leave 10 transfer portal spots, I come up with a really good freshman that becomes available late, and I already have 19 players (before transfers are available), why would I pass on that kid?”

Schooley mentioned the workforce is top-heavy in forwards at this time and desires to start out leaning towards beefing up the blue line. As some distance as goaltending, he says there have often been a lot of fine goalies to be had within the switch portal lately, and he’ll most probably lean in that route for 2022-23.

Whether it’s engaging recruits or transfers, a part of the method is promoting the potentialities at the perception that the groups are again and on solid footing. Plus, encouraging them to consider that, amongst their choices, hooking onto what quantities to the school model of a variety workforce is what’s very best for their futures.

“You face it head-on. You answer questions before they are asked,” Bittle mentioned. “We talk about the fact that the programs were shut down. We talk about the reasons why, and we talk about the support which is greater than ever. Once people hear that, the response is positive. It’s excitement for the fact we are back and are going to get back to competing for championships.”

That used to be the case earlier than the groups had been scuttled. The ladies’s workforce gained the CHA and went to the NCAA Tournament. The males gained the common season name for the reconfigured western department of Atlantic Hockey throughout the covid year of 2020-21.

Bittle used to be an assistant trainer on that ladies’s workforce and a participant on Schooley’s males’s workforce when the programs had been introduced for the primary time in 2004-05. Now they’re each a part of the method of doing it once more. And Schooley’s countdown clock will probably be ticking quicker on a daily basis till it hits 0.

RMU Men’s hockey trainer Derek Schooley and RMU ladies’s trainer Logan Bittle speak about rebuilding the programs for the 2023-24 season.

Listen: Tim Benz talks Robert Morris hockey with coaches Derek Schooley and Logan Bittle

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review group of workers creator. You can touch Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or by means of Twitter. All tweets might be reposted. All emails are matter to e-newsletter except specified in a different way.

NHL | Penguins/NHL | Robert Morris | Sports | Breakfast With Benz | Tim Benz Columns

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