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In part two of our series about the Robert Morris Colonials, we’re going to take a look back at the season where the program reached the national tournament for the first time in its history: 2013-14.

Looking to build upon a successful 20-14-4 campaign from the previous season, the Colonials had high hopes heading into the fall of 2013. However, it didn’t start out exactly how the team had planned with Robert Morris going winless in the first four weeks of the season with a 0-5-1 record. Tough interconference games against Lake Superior State, Ohio State and Penn State put the team in an early hole. In fact, it set the tone for the first half of the season. By the time the calendar flipped to 2014, the Colonials were staring down a 2-12-2 record. The Colonials even ended up in fourth place out of four teams in the Three Rivers Classic; a Pittsburgh holiday tournament RMU hosted in December that the team had won just the year before.

If the Colonials were going to dig themselves out of the hole they created, the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors. The second half of the season saw RMU begin play with four away games in seven days. Perhaps the team felt it had nothing to lose and played loose or Coach Derek Schooley made the necessary adjustments but no matter what it was, the team won three of the four games. This began a run of games that resembled what the team expected to do at the onset of the season. The Colonials ended up going 11-4-3 in the second half.

This impressive second half pushed the Colonials to a 5 seed in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. With an automatic bid to the national tournament on the line, 8 of the 12 teams faced off during the first weekend of March in best-of-three series. The top four seeds received byes. Robert Morris hosted Army and easily won 8-4 in the opening game. Army bounced back to win the second game to force a deciding game three. In this third game, Army scored first but the Colonials rallied for three unanswered goals to advance to the next round. Robert Morris traveled to UConn to take on the Huskies in the best-of-three Quarterfinals. The Colonials blanked the Huskies in game one 3-0 and swept the series 3-2 the following night to earn a spot in the semifinals in Rochester, New York.

It would be single elimination from here on out for the four remaining teams in the Atlantic Hockey Tournament with the victor earning a bid to the national tournament. The Colonials squandered a 4-2 lead to Niagara late in the third period and the game ended up going to overtime. Scott Jacklin was the hero as he scored with five minutes left in overtime, sending RMU to the championship against 7 seed Canisius. The Colonials took home the hardware by defeating the Golden Griffins 7-4 behind a hat trick from Cody Wydo. It was the first (and only) AHA Tournament title for RMU. Four Colonials made the All-Tournament Team with Wydo receiving the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

Robert Morris received a tough draw for the national tournament. During the tournament selection show, the team learned they were going to face the number one overall seed, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in their backyard in St. Paul on March 29, 2014. The Colonials put up a good fight for the majority of the first period but three Gophers goals in three minutes and thirty seconds late in the first period proved to be too much. Wydo put RMU on the board in the second period. Goals by Zac Lynch and David Friedmann later in the game weren’t enough to overcome the early deficit as the Gophers won 7-3. In the accompanying photo, goalie Dalton Izyk makes a sprawling save while losing his stick in the second period at the Xcel Energy Center.

Looking back seven years later, it can be considered a successful season for the Colonials. The team overcame a very rough first half of the season and could have easily packed it in after winter break. Instead, the team went on a very impressive run of games and won the Atlantic Hockey Tournament. The Colonials made it to the national tournament for the first (and only) time in school history and eventually lost to the national runner-up in their home state. All involved should be proud about what they accomplished during the 2013-14 season.

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The 2016 Three Rivers Classic was held in Pittsburgh during the final weekend of the year. The four college teams vying for the Confluence Cup were host Robert Morris, Quinnipiac, Boston College and Ferris State. This was the first time this combination of teams participated in the holiday tournament since it began four years prior. Robert Morris was defending its tournament title after defeating Massachusetts Lowell in 2015. The opening round in 2016 between Robert Morris and Ferris State was a nail biter as the Colonials won 1-0 on a goal from Daniel Leavens. Robert Morris freshman goalie Francis Marotte earned the shutout. In the other opening round game, 13th ranked Quinnipiac defeated Boston College 3-1.

The Bobcats jumped on the board first during the tournament’s championship game with a goal from Chase Priskie. The Colonials evened the score and then pulled away for good on a goal from Rob Mann with 46 seconds left in the second period. In the above photo, Daniel Mantenuto of Robert Morris handles the puck against Kevin McKernan in the third period.

Robert Morris went on to defeat Quinnipiac 5-2 to win the Confluence Cup; a trophy provided to the winner of the annual tournament. It was the Colonials third Confluence Cup in five years. After surrendering just two goals throughout both games, Francis Marotte earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. Earlier in the day, Boston College defeated Ferris State in overtime to win the consolation game.

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Robert Morris again hosted the Three Rivers Classic the following two seasons with Providence and Brown each winning one. With the recent news that Robert Morris has discontinued its men’s and women’s hockey programs, it doesn’t look promising that this tournament will come back without the host school. In fact, the tournament wasn’t held in 2019-20 because the organizers took a year off to reevaluate strategy. The Colonials still played a game at Pittsburgh’s PPG Paints Arena against Penn State on January 4, 2020. And the tournament didn’t have a chance of reappearing this past season because of reduced schedules due to COVID protocols. If a weekend college hockey tournament is to happen again in Pennsylvania, then the responsibility falls to Penn State to act as the host due to the Nittany Lions being the only remaining Division I program in the state. It’s worth noting Penn State was a fixture in the first four Three Rivers Classics. No matter what happens with the Robert Morris program or future tournaments in Pennsylvania, it appears this era of the Three Rivers Classic is designated for the history books.

On July 23, 1987, the Alabama Huntsville athletic department called a press conference. The school’s hockey team had just completed a 20-win season – its first in Division II. The university announced that the Chargers hockey team was elevating its program to Division I – effective immediately. The NCAA did not sponsor Division II hockey so the move allowed the school to play against the best competition at the collegiate level with a chance to participate in the NCAA postseason.

The Chargers first opponent in Division I was the Maine Black Bears on October 30, 1987. It was a true test to start this new era as the Black Bears were nationally ranked and coming off a 24-win season that ended in the national tournament. The Chargers put two goals on the scoreboard that evening but it wasn’t enough as Maine defeated the host team 8-2.

The Chargers ended their inaugural Division I season with an 11-18-1 record. The schedule for the 1987-88 season was a mix between Division I and II opponents. It is common for programs to schedule a mix of Division I opponents in the first season at the highest collegiate level. The season saw the team travel to Alaska in December to play a total of four games against Alaska and Alaska Anchorage in six days. The Chargers also faced off against St. Cloud State four times in the month of February. The season ended on a high note with a victory over Queens University of Ontario in the Alabama Face-Off Tournament that the school hosted.

As with all hockey programs, Alabama Huntsville has had its ups and downs throughout the years. The program dropped back down to Division II in 1992 and ended up winning two national championships over Bemidji State in 1996 and 1998. After six seasons in Division II, it was elevated back to Division I in 1998 and then joined its first Division I conference – College Hockey America – in 1999. The Chargers participated in two Division I national tournament games; losing both in 2007 and 2010. Alabama Huntsville was admitted to the WCHA conference in 2013. It was an historic moment for this program. On its own proverbial island, the Chargers hockey team is a one-of-a-kind program in the southern United States. This is a program that has defied the odds and keeps pushing forward.

Its toughest test yet came seven years later. In response to COVID-19, Alabama Huntsville announced in May 2020 that the hockey program would be discontinued. However, the university stated that the program would be reinstated if the community could raise $750,000. Pledges from alumni and the general public surpassed that goal in one week so the program ended up participating in the WCHA for the 2020-21 season. With the majority of teams in the WCHA leaving to create a newly-reformed CCHA for the 2021-22 season, Alabama Huntsville announced on May 5, 2021, that the university was suspending the hockey program. The school officials and the alumni group that helped provide funds the previous season had both agreed to discontinue the program if they were unable to secure a new conference. There is a caveat that the hockey program will be reinstated if a new conference can be secured. If that happens, Alabama Huntsville will not be eligible for conference play for at least one year after receiving an invitation. This leaves the door open for a possible return in 2022-23.

If we’ve learned one thing about college hockey over the past eight seasons, it’s that the conference structure is not set in stone. There have been major conference realignments as well as several new teams that have joined Division I. While it looks almost certain that Alabama Huntsville won’t play hockey in the 2021-22 season, we’re not going to rule anything out regarding its future. A conference invitation could be in its future along with a new lease on life for the Alabama Huntsville Chargers hockey team.

Photo Credit: UAH Magazine, Winter 1988. Archives and Special Collections, M. Louis Salmon Library at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The 1939-40 college hockey season was a successful one for the Colgate Raiders hockey team. The Raiders won the Lake Placid Invitation Hockey Tournament at the beginning of the new year. After defeating Union on New Year’s Day and then Middlebury the following day, Colgate met MIT in the tournament championship game. It was the third game in three days for both clubs. The thrilling game ended when co-captain Steve Dewey scored a goal in the closing seconds of the second (and final) overtime period to give the Raiders a 5-4 win. The game would have been called a tie if the second overtime period remained scoreless. Harry Wheeler, the other co-captain, received praise for his goal-scoring prowess throughout the season. There were numerous games where he scored the only goals of the game for the Raiders. Wheeler totaled 15 goals and 7 assists by season’s end. Fan-favorite Jack Wells followed with 11 goals and 4 assists. This earned him the lone captaincy the following season. Other notable items from the season included the postponement of three games due to poor ice as well as an exciting Sophomore line that was broken up near the end of the season when two of the three Sophomores dropped out of college halfway through the spring semester. The team lost the final three games of the season after this occurred. There are some discrepancies regarding the final record of the team. After consulting additional sources, we recognize the record of 8-6-0. In the accompanying photo, the 14 members of the 1939-40 Colgate hockey team lined up for the annual team photo that later appeared in the school’s yearbook. The goalies wore different jerseys compared to the rest of the team. Note the different color sweater with numbers on the front compared to the school’s name for the remainder of the team. Looking at it even closer, it appears the number font is different between each goalie.

Photo credit: 1940 Colgate Yearbook

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The second semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four will look familiar to hockey fans. When Massachusetts and Minnesota Duluth drop the puck Thursday night, they’ll be playing against one another for the first time since the most recent championship game in 2019. In that game, UMD blanked UMass 3-0 to earn back-to-back titles. Since there wasn’t a Frozen Four last year, UMD is looking to three-peat while UMass is looking to avenge their loss. In the accompanying photo, Hunter Shepard sprawls out to block a shot from Anthony Del Gaizo to help preserve his seventh shutout of the 2018-19 season. Shepard finished his NCAA career undefeated in the NCAA tournament at 8-0. The upcoming game on Thursday will mark the fourth Frozen Four in a row for UMD and the second in a row for UMass. UMD is looking to become the first three-peat champion since Michigan did so in 1951-53. However, the roles are reversed for this meeting as UMass is the higher seed instead of UMD. If the Bulldogs win, they’ll head back to the championship game looking for the program’s fourth title. If the Minutemen advance, they’ll be looking to win their first championship trophy.

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A little over 50 years ago in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the Huskies hosted the hockey team from Mankato. The southern Minnesota team we currently know as the Minnesota State Mavericks were known as the Mankato State University Indians when this game occurred. St. Cloud State games at that time were played outdoors on campus. This January 1971 game took place towards the end of the outdoor game era in St. Cloud as they moved indoors to the Municipal Athletic Complex in the early 1970s. The two teams split the series in St. Cloud during the second-to-last weekend in January that year. The accompanying photo was taken at one point during these two games. In it, Paul Oberstar skates with the puck for the Huskies as the two teams look on in front of a snowy embankment. These two programs faced each other four times in a row at this point in the 1970-71 schedule with Mankato winning three. This game took place two years prior to the designation of Divisions within the NCAA. However, both of these teams at the time were effectively Division II-equivalent programs. St. Cloud State made the leap to Division I in 1987 and Minnesota State followed suit in 1996. St. Cloud State and Minnesota State were WCHA foes for 14 seasons before conference realignment in 2013. Up until now, they have never faced one another within the NCAA Division I National Tournament. That streak will end Thursday as they face off against each other in the first semifinal game of the 2021 Frozen Four. The Huskies and Mavericks are both looking for their first Division I men’s hockey championship.

Image courtesy of the St. Cloud State University Archives.

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As the de facto home team in the 2011 Frozen Four, Minnesota Duluth made itself at home in St. Paul. In what is currently the most recent championship game decided in overtime, UMD won its first national title when Kyle Schmidt scored 3:22 into overtime. The Bulldogs had been less than three minutes away from winning it in regulation but Jeff Rohrkemper tied the game at 2 for Michigan. The only #1 seed that made to the Frozen Four that year was North Dakota. Both UMD and Notre Dame were 3 seeds and Michigan a 2 seed. The Wolverines shocked the crowd in the semifinals when they blanked North Dakota 2-0. UMD defeated the Fighting Irish 4-3 to stamp their ticket to the championship game. This was the first of three trophies UMD won in the 2010s. The Bulldogs’ second championship also took place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul seven years later in 2018. For the first time since this overtime thriller in 2011, Minnesota Duluth and Michigan will meet Friday afternoon in Fargo. The winner of this 2021 opening round game will face the winner of North Dakota and American International.

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Boston College and Notre Dame first met on the ice in 1969. In a rivalry that spans multiple decades and conferences, the meeting between the two Catholic schools is referred to as the Holy War on Ice. In 2008, this game’s importance vaulted to a whole new level when the two teams met on the biggest stage: the NCAA Division I men’s championship. It was the first time the two teams met in the NCAA tournament. After a scoreless first period, the Eagles jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second period. Notre Dame answered back with a goal but it wasn’t enough as Boston College added one more in the final period and won the game 4-1. It was Boston College’s third championship at the time. It also marked the first time the Fighting Irish played in the title game. The same two teams were scheduled to meet this weekend in the opening round of the 2021 NCAA tournament but Notre Dame dropped out of the tournament two days prior to the game due to COVID protocols. It would have been the first time the programs met in the NCAA tournament since this championship game in Denver on April 12, 2008.

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Two years ago on March 23, 2019, Minnesota Duluth outlasted St. Cloud State in two overtimes to become 2019 Frozen Faceoff Champions. The game set the record for the longest game in Frozen Faceoff history falling just short of the overall NCHC record for longest game played within the conference. Billy Exell tied the game 2-2 for UMD on a short handed goal with under five minutes remaining in the third period. After a scoreless extra session, Nick Swaney capped off a 2-on-1 breakaway in the second overtime period to give the Bulldogs their second Frozen Faceoff championship in three years. At the time of the game, the Huskies were ranked #1 in the country and favored to beat the #4 ranked Bulldogs. Minnesota Duluth carried over their postseason win streak to the NCAA tournament and ultimately captured the program’s first back-to-back national championship after defeating UMass in the title game.

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On February 11, 2014, UConn earned the program’s first win over a top 10 team when it defeated #9 Providence 3-2. The Tuesday night upset took place at Schneider Arena in Providence, Rhode Island. In the accompanying photo, senior Billy Latta follows the puck in the net after he scores the game-winning goal in the third period. Connecticut senior Matt Grogan set a team record by making an astounding 58 saves throughout the three periods of hockey. These same two teams will meet this weekend in Storrs, Connecticut in the Hockey East Quarterfinals. UConn holds a 2-1 season series lead after a 5-3 win just last week.