2023 Robert Morris vs Bowling Green - Men's

The Return Of Robert Morris: "People Want These Teams Here"

The Return Of Robert Morris: "People Want These Teams Here"

Seven months after the elimination of the Robert Morris hockey program, it was announced that both the men's and women's teams would return.

Jul 29, 2023 by Jacob Messing
The Return Of Robert Morris: "People Want These Teams Here"

The Robert Morris Colonials finished third in Atlantic Hockey during the 2020-2021 pod-based season. Two months later, the program was cut.

Citing various considerations for the changes, the university cut the women’s ice hockey program simultaneously. The women’s team was coming off a second-place finish in College Hockey America, a conference tournament championship and a berth in the national tournament.

Both men’s head coach Derek Schooley and newly named women’s head coach Logan Bittle played large parts in raising the funds to reinstate both programs.

Seven months after their cancellations – when both programs would have been wrapping up their fall schedules – their return was announced.

Still, the damage was done.

Many players, including the 2021 Atlantic Hockey Rookie of the Year Randy Hernandez, already had found new programs. Hernandez was the first Colonial men’s player to win the award. Shortly after, he transferred to Atlantic Hockey’s Canisius, where he’s played the past two seasons.

The Colonials were essentially starting from scratch, apart from a welcomed return to Atlantic Hockey for the men’s program and CHA for the women’s program, each would have to recruit a new roster and earn the trust of its feasibility following the initial abrupt closure of the programs in 2021.

“Two years ago, nobody would have thought this was gonna happen,” Bittle said of both programs’ return this October, adding that “people want these teams here,” following the successful fundraising and community contribution to revive RMU hockey.

Getting back to their 2021 statuses will take time, but familiarity will help.

In February 2023, the program announced the return of Schooley as head coach, the only head coach the program has known since its inaugural 2004-2005 season in the CHA.

Bittle spent the previous decade behind the women’s bench alongside head coach Paul Colontino, but now has taken over the whistle.

Bittle also played four years under Schooley, from the inaugural season of Colonial hockey (2004-2005) to the 2007-2008 campaign, and has seen precisely what his former coach is capable of doing.

“Derek’s had a big impact on a lot of people’s lives, big impact on the university and obviously a big impact on the hockey program,” Bittle said. “I have no doubt he’ll get his program right back to where it was prior to the teams being dropped.”

Schooley was able to weigh in on how things compare to his first time around.

“The landscape of college hockey’s so much different than it was in 2003 when I recruited this team the first time,” he said about getting his program back to where it left off. “You have the transfer portal, we’ve got fifth-year seniors, you’ve got guys who have played extra years of junior hockey and we’ve got some players who have already played some hockey games for [Robert Morris] coming back.”

Schooley was quick to throw credit around in the return of both programs, naming athletic director Chris King, associate athletic director TJ Brown, university president Dr. Michelle Patrick, the board of trustees and all the unnamed supporters along the way.

As students return to campuses across the nation, practices will intensify and that second “inaugural” season soon will be underway.

The women’s team officially will drop the puck on Sept. 29-30 with a trip to Union College, but all eyes are on the following weekend.

On Oct. 7, the women’s team will celebrate its home opener at Clearview Arena against Saint Anslem at 2 p.m. Five hours later, the men’s team will drop the puck on its first game of the season, hosting Bowling Green for the university’s doubleheader.

“I still miss the players I didn’t get to coach the last time through, but I’m thankful to have the program back,” Schooley said.

Bittle also is excited about the big hockey weekend in October.

“That home-opener weekend is going to be a great event,” Bittle said. “We’re expecting a lot of alums and family members to be a part of the relaunch. It’s going to be a really great feeling to go back and step on the bench and get the girls on the ice and the guys on the ice wearing those Robert Morris jerseys.”

Don’t miss the return of Robert Morris. Catch the men’s game live, right here on FloHockey on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. and their entire “second inaugural” season all year with Atlantic Hockey on FloHockey.

Have a question or a comment for Jacob Messing? You can find him on Twitter @Jacob_Messing.