With the College Hockey America Conference shrinking, there were questions about where Robert Morris University’s Division I Ice Hockey program would play in the future.
That question was answered Wednesday afternoon in the Hat Trick Club at Island Sports Center when it was announced that Robert Morris accepted an invitation to join the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA).
“We are excited that Robert Morris has accepted admission to the Atlantic Hockey Association and that they bring a highly visible and competitive program into the league,” AHA Commissioner Bob DeGregorio said.
“We are extremely excited about our acceptance into Atlantic Hockey,” Robert Morris Director of Athletics Dr. Craig Coleman said. “Atlantic Hockey is an established, high quality hockey conference that we will be very proud to be a part of.”
The Colonials will be admitted administratively into the AHA for the 2009-10 season and will start competition in the league for the start of the 2010-11 campaign. Robert Morris will join Air Force Academy, American International College, Army, Bentley College, Canisius College, the University of Connecticut, the College of the Holy Cross, Mercyhurst College, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sacred Heart University and current CHA member Niagara.
... Our hope is that this will provide fans of both Mercyhurst and Robert Morris a chance to see Division I hockey and the start of a great rivalry between the two schools. - AHA Commissioner Bob DeGregorio
“We will now have a pair of institutions in Western Pennsylvania," DeGregorio said, "and our hope is that this will provide fans of both Mercyhurst and Robert Morris a chance to see Division I hockey and the start of a great rivalry between the two schools."
“It puts us in with some very good geographical rivals in Mercyhurst and Canisius and continuing with Niagara and RIT,” Colonials head coach Derek Schooley said. “We have not played some of those teams (in the AHA). To be able to go out and visit West Point and take our kids to different places is going to be a neat experience. The fact is we could have 25 games within four-and-a-half hours of our campus. You can’t put a price tag on that with home games and your fans being able to travel.”
Robert Morris joined the Division I Ice Hockey ranks when it entered the CHA for the 2004-05 season. During their brief history in Division I, the Colonials defeated Boston University on their way to capturing the 2007 Nye Frontier Classic in Anchorage, Alaska.
“We have worked hard at RMU to develop our hockey program to a high level in only five years,” Coleman said. “I believe that our entry into Atlantic Hockey is the next big step in that development.”
The CHA dropped to only four teams this season with the Colonials, Bemidji State, Niagara and Alabama-Huntsville. With the Conference shrinking, schools starting looking into joining other conferences.
Robert Morris and Niagara joined up with the AHA. Bemidji State bid to join the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), while the Chargers are trying to enter the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).
“Atlantic Hockey has been great and we’re very appreciative of them taking us in,” said Schooley, who is the first and only head coach at Robert Morris. “Now we need some of the other leagues to help out our two remaining teams: Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville. Hopefully, this is just the start of a little bit of restructuring in hockey.”
The AHA will be split into geographical scheduling pods. Teams in each “regions” will play three games against teams in their own “region”, while playing two cross-over games against the other “region” squads. Thus, Robert Morris will play every AHA team for a total of 27 conference games.
This lets our players know exactly where we’re going. We needed to find a home. This is a very good home for us. This is where we wanted to be. - Colonials head coach Derek Schooley
“We play each team this year six times (in the CHA) and that only gets us 18 games,” Schooley said. “This gets us 27 games. There’s more home games and a lot of positives too it.”
The biggest positive is that Robert Morris’ future is secured, which should help in recruiting and building the program.
“Hopefully we’ll stop getting the question asked of ‘Where are you going to be?’” Schooley said. “That was a common question among recruits – as it should be. Now we can point to where we’re going to go. The players are excited to get some closure as to what was going to happen with the future of our program and where we’re going to be.
“This lets our players know exactly where we’re going. We needed to find a home. This is a very good home for us. This is where we wanted to be.”