RMU alumna Brianne McLaughlin looks to Sochi, keeps heart at RMU

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RMU alumna Brianne McLaughlin looks to Sochi, keeps heart at RMU

Alissa Dorman

Alissa Dorman

Alissa Dorman

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During her time as an assistant coach with the program, former Robert Morris women’s hockey goaltender Brianne McLaughlin would constantly utter a piece of advice to net minder Courtney Vintet, which the junior believes is the greatest guidance she’s ever received from her mentor.

“The best advice was just to stay positive and to keep working hard because in the end it will pay off,” Vinet said.

She has earned, what most consider, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Twice.

This past summer, McLaughlin was selected to represent Team USA for the second time in the Winter Olympics.

The RMU’s women’s hockey program was, of course, hoping for the best for its former goaltender.

“I think everybody was kind of eagerly and quietly awaiting any word, and you don’t want to be the one to ask the question, ‘Did you make it?  Did you make it?’ because making a team like that is just a huge deal and the competition for the spots are so tough that truthfully, it could go either way, so we all kind of sat on pins and needles and as soon as we got the word,” said head coach Paul Colontino of the Ohio native’s selection.

But making the team is only the first challenge of donning the red, white, and blue.

The squad balances practices, games, and community events.  On top of that, the athletes need to adjust to an all-new coaching staff headed by Katey Stone, the first female to ever head the U.S. women’s hockey team.

“I think our staff this time around is pretty tough on us,” McLaughlin said.  “They expect a lot every single day and to bring everything every single day. I think they’re truly going to be what prepares us the most when we finally get to Russia.”

Situated in Boston, McLaughlin’s day begins at 9:30 for lift. After an hour in the weight room, the team heads about twenty minutes down the road to the rink, where practices can range from one to two hours.  When the scheduled practice ends, players remain at the rink for an extra half hour or so to work on various skills depending on their position.

Coaching the Colonials has proven advantageous for McLaughlin.  As an athlete inexperienced in the realm of coaching, the goaltender focused only on the puck in front of her and not so much the movement of the players on the ice.  After some time standing behind the bench, however, she sees things differently.

“I’ve been coaching the last couple of years and you try to look at things from a coach’s perspective and now that I’m a player again, I’m much more in tune with their thinking,” she noted.  “When they pick out little things going on, I’m noticing them and thinking about it from both sides. I’m much more aware of what’s going on on the ice, which has made me a better goalie.”

Just because the Olympian has a busy schedule far from the 84 Lumber arena doesn’t mean she doesn’t think back on her time spent at RMU.

“There’s five or six of us that have a text messaging chain and I get the texts from them all the time and it’s fun to hear from [them],”she said. “It’s this whole experience; playing Division I hockey is being around how many, near 21 players or something like that, every single day.  Going to practice, going to class, traveling, that’s what I miss about being on a team.”

McLaughlin had the chance to return to her collegiate barn a few weeks ago to catch up with some of the current athletes as well as fellow alumni.

“It was nice to see them and hang out with them not as their coach.  It was a change to watch the games, too, because I got to watch it from the stands instead of being on the bench.  I like both, but it’s more fun watching and being able to cheer.”

Although Brianne McLaughlin has reached great heights in her hockey career, RMU will always be a special place for her.

And vice versa, the women’s hockey program at RMU can’t forget about McLaughlin.

“The fact that she’s now been able to get there twice and be a part of that team is just huge, not only for her, but for RMU women’s hockey and the university as a whole,” said Colontino.  “Her dedication is huge and if we can get each and every player with the same type of character and the same type of determination we can go a long way.”

“I think it’s great for the image,” agreed Vinet. “She’s our only Olympian, and I think we needed everyone to see that we aren’t Minnesota Duluth or Wisconsin that has many Olympians coming in and out of the system, but we are a very strong program. I think that helps prove it to people and show it.”

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