ACHA DI hockey finishes season on high note

Although the season didn’t play out the way the Robert Morris University ACHA DI hockey team had hoped, the club was still able to make the season one for the record books and send their seniors off on a positive note.

The team started this season off under a new coaching staff, which bought back one of the programs’ founding members and first coach, Michael Joseph.

As head coach of the Colonials from 1995-2002, he helped RMU make it to three Western Pennsylvania College Hockey Association Championships, as well as bring in a Division III ACHA National Championship in his final year.

“Mike definitely brought a lot more to the table coaching wise than we’ve had the previous two seasons,” said senior Max Rickard. “He stressed a lot upon discipline and I think that’s one of the main things that helped this team basically become what was this year.”

Not only did the team see a change in coaching, but they also saw several new faces on the ice as well. Some featured players from other playing levels, included goalies Ryan Gayso and Sean Scannell, defenseman Joe Boyer, and forward Cody Brightbill.

“Gayso came down from the NCAA team and Scannell from the ACHA D3 team, those were the two big ones this year. Boyer and Brightbill came up as well,” said Joseph. “Boyer and Brightbill both did great things on the ice this year.”

They would start the season off 6-0 before suffering their first loss of the season against the Drexel Dragons. The Colonials continued to see big success on the ice during the first half of the season under Joseph, his staff, and the team’s captains, Camden Zappi, Taylor Jarvis, Eric Barger, and Wes Heinle.

This took the team into winter break with a record of 13-6.

Once January struck, the team was hit with a stream of injuries which led to a late season slump for RMU. The team was unable to put a tally in the win column during their remaining seven games, and they missed Nationals, but they were able to clinch a playoff spot.

Despite all the injuries, the team was able to make it into the playoffs with a full roster. The team won its first game against Mercyhurst after splitting the regular season series, but would fall to West Virginia University the following night in what Joseph likes to call the game they lost 5-5.

The playoff win was a huge moment for the team, including the senior class since it was their first playoff win in four years.

Not only did the team have their serious games and practices this past season, but they had several team events, including their annual scavenger hunt in October, and fans had the oppurtunity to skate with the team on February 15.

“We’ll be doing similar things to that. The scavenger hunt, we have to redo. We have a cup that has to be passed on the goaltenders are going to be upset giving that up,” Joseph said. “I always plan team activities like that thought out the season. It gives the players a chance to interact and socialize off the ice, particularly at the beginning of the season, when you have new bodies and new faces.”

As for next season, the team is already looking ahead with activities, training camps, work outs, recruiting, and even coaching.  The team is looking to add 10 new faces to fill the spots of their seniors and other players due to transfers.

Fans can expect to see familiar faces around next season since some of the teams’ seniors will be returning to help out the program.

“I think we’re planning on coming back to help out with the team in different ways next year. We’re going to be at the school completing our masters in Organizational Leadership, all three of us, Jarvis, Zappi, [and myself],” said Rickard. “We’ll be around the team even more, but just in a completely different aspect.”