Robert Morris Excited to Host No. 1 Miami of Ohio at Mellon Arena
/ Pittsburgh Penguins
Top-ranked Miami of Ohio will take on Robert Morris University in the feature game of the fourth annual Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase on Friday, Jan. 8 at Mellon Arena. Game time is 8 p.m.
“Playing on the big stage at Mellon Arena will be exciting for our hockey team,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “It is not only going to be exciting for our team but exciting for our University. That is one of the neat things about it.”
Robert Morris enters the game with a deceptive 3-12-3 overall record, including a 1-4-2 mark in conference play. The Colonials have already played six teams ranked in the top-20 of the USCHO.com poll, including current No. 3 Colorado College, who narrowly defeated Robert Morris by scores of 4-3 and 4-1 on Nov. 20-21 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“It is going to be a challenge for us against the No. 1 team in the nation,” Schooley said. “We have done well against ranked teams before and we have played a lot of ranked teams already this year. Colorado College is the current No. 3 team in the nation and we lost 4-3 to them.
“Our schedule has been extremely challenging. We have played six teams that have been ranked when we played them. We have played them hard and competed very well but just came up short for one reason or another.”
The No. 1 ranked Red Hawks enter Friday with a 13-2-5 overall record and a 10-1-3 mark in the conference. Miami averages 3.2 goals per game and is led by forward Andy Miele, who has a team-best 19 points (7G-12A).
“Miami is a very good hockey team,” Schooley said. “They have some explosive forwards in Carter Camper, who is from Ohio and Andy Miele. They have a lot of NHL draft picks. It is going to be a challenge for us against the No. 1 team in the nation.”
Robert Morris has a strong Pittsburgh presence in their lineup with seven players from the greater Pittsburgh area. Schooley says it is important to his program both now and in the future to recruit potential Division I prospects from this area before they head elsewhere to play juniors so they stay right in their back yard when it comes time to play college hockey.
“We like to be involved in all of the good local kids,” Schooley said. “Denny Urban (Pittsburgh, Pa.) was a kid that we recruited right away because he was a player that we had seen play. He has been an all-league player for us for two years. He went to the Penguins prospects camp this past year.
“Furman South (Sewickley, Pa.), we watched play for the (Pittsburgh) Hornets. Ron Cramer (New Wilmington, Pa.) the same thing. If you go down the list, Josh Jones (Scenery Hill, Pa.) played for the Junior Penguins organization. Andrew Blazek (Pittsburgh, Pa.) played for the Hornets organization.”
Urban, South and Cramer all rank among the top-six scorers this season for the Colonials. Urban is fourth on the team with 12 points (5G-7A) in 18 games while South has added 10 points (3G-7A) and Cramer nine points (1G-8A).
Schooley believes the talent level in the Pittsburgh amateur hockey leagues has only continued to improve and he credits the Penguins’ three Stanley Cup championships since 1991 and better coaching at the youth level as the primary reasons. Pittsburgh continuing to develop high-end prospects can only help Robert Morris’ efforts to become an elite program moving forward.
“It is a credit to the Penguins of the Stanley Cup era with (Mario) Lemieux and that group because you see a lot of good local hockey players who were young when that happened,” Schooley said. “That is what got them hooked on hockey. You are going to see it again with the (Sidney) Crosby and (Evgeni) Malkin effect in another 10 years.
“The local coaching has gotten a lot better. The amateur organizations and the AAA organizations have done a good job of feeding players to the next level. That is something that is a very good thing because you see the growth of hockey in the area. That is going to be a benefit to our program because we want to keep the best local kids at home. We want them to play their Division I hockey here in Pittsburgh.”
Continuing to play games at the home rink of the Stanley Cup champions in the hockey showcase is something that should only help Schooley’s ability to recruit western Pennsylvania down the road. He understands this and is thankful for the chance to play one final game at Mellon Arena. He knows it is going to be a tough contest for his squad, but Schooley said if they can just play their game, you never know what can happen.
“You can’t thank the Penguins and the people at Mellon Arena enough for helping put this event on,” Schooley said. “I think it’s going to be a good event for our kids. We just have to come out and not be in awe of the No. 1 team in the nation and the surroundings. We have to go out and play hard and let the chips fall where they may.”
It will be a full day of college hockey at the arena, with the Robert Morris women’s team facing the University of Connecticut at 2 p.m., and the Robert Morris club hockey team taking on Penn State at 5 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for general admission and $17 for Igloo seats. The tickets, which may be used for all three games, are available through Ticketmaster, at the Mellon Arena Gate One box office or by calling 800.745.3000.