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Posts from the ‘athletics’ Category

RMU Grad Working to Make NHL Dream Come True

Levine hockeyLast March when I interviewed then RMU senior and goaltending phenom Eric Levine ’13, he told me his dream was to one day play in the NHL. And now he’s one step closer to making that dream a reality.

This past summer Levine, a graduate of RMU’s psychology program, signed an amateur tryout contract with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch. The former Colonials goaltender, who had an average save percentage of .921 and a goals-against average of 2.89 at RMU, helped the Crunch reach the Calder Cup finals before eventually losing to the Grand Rapids Griffin. But his time with the team served as a valuable learning experience.

“My two months in Syracuse were extremely beneficial because I got a taste of what professional hockey was like,” he says. “Seeing how hard they prepared for practice and games taught me a lot. And being on the ice with such talented players really raised my level of play.”

While there, Levine got to work with Tampa Bay goalie coach Frantz Jean on a daily basis. “It was simply amazing. He taught me a lot about what it takes to be a professional goalie and the type of work you have to put into the little details of the game in order to be successful.”

Less than a week after his time with the Crunch ended, Levine received a call to attend the New York Rangers development camp. “I got the call Saturday night and flew out Sunday morning,” he says. “That’s how quickly things happen in professional hockey.” In New York he scrimmaged with the team for four straight days and even got a chance to work with goalie coach Benoit Allaire. “He showed me a few things about my game I needed to work on in order to make the jump from college to pro. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I think I did pretty well.”

After returning home to Chicago, Levine was promoted to assistant director of the Midwest Goalie School, overseeing their four camps that run for just over a month, five days a week, nine hours a day. “It’s a good thing I enjoy being at ice rinks,” he says, “because I spent an awful lot of time there.”

He was then invited to participate in training camp for the Nashville Predators. “That was a life-changing experience that taught me a lot about my game,” says Levine. “Any and every weakness you have as a goalie is exposed at the NHL level. They’re all so unbelievably talented. Even the so-called ‘fourth liners’ have skill and can shoot the puck harder than I have ever seen.”

While in Nashville, Levine was on a team with Predators’ goaltender Pekka Rinne. “Getting a chance to watch him and how he practices taught me a lot. He is easily the most talented and hardest working goalie I have been on the ice with, not to mention the nicest guy imaginable. He would spend time after practice answering my hundreds of questions about everything it takes to be an NHL goalie. He’s an example of what I can accomplish if I just put in the hard work and never quit on my dreams.”

Levine also had the opportunity to work with Nashville goalie coach Mitch Korn, who he admits was a little tough on him. But that’s a good thing. “Coach Korn knows how difficult it is to be an NHL goalie, and he was trying to acclimate me to that level. For that I am eternally grateful.”

Even though he didn’t sign a contract with Nashville, Levine says it was a life-changing experience that gave him a taste of what might be possible with a little determination and hard work.

“I learned that pro hockey is a business, one that is very tough to crack, especially as an undrafted goalie because with so few spots available. It’s a numbers game. But my agent and I are confident something will materialize soon.”

Written by Valentine J. Brkich

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From Student Athletes to Coaches

RMU Colonials_web_smRobert Morris University is known for developing competitive, academically focused student athletes who excel both on the field and in the classroom. What you might not know is that many of these same individuals go on to successful coaching careers after graduation.

(NOTE: This list shows only current coaches. Of course RMU is proud of all of our students who have gone on to coach or build successful careers in sports over the years, which includes hundreds of our graduates. However, if we have omitted you in error, we apologize. Please contact Val Brkich at brkich@rmu.edu and we’ll be sure to add your name and title.)

Football
Hank Fraley ’12 – offensive Line coach, San Jose State Spartans
Sam Dorsett ’03, M’09 – running backs coach, Monmouth University Hawks
Colyn Haugh ’07, M’09 – assistant coach, St. Francis University Red Flash
Jake Nulph ’05, M’07 – co-defensive coordinator, linebackers’ coach and recruiting coordinator, St. Francis University Red Flash
Alex DiMichele ’11 – graduate assistant/assistant coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Basketball
Brett Vincent ’90 – head men’s basketball coach, Chowan University Hawks

Ice Hockey
Jason Evans ’02 – head ice hockey coach, Chatham University Cougars
Brett Hopfe ’08 – head ice hockey coach, Olds Grizzlys of the AJHL (Alberta Junior Hockey League)
Chelsea Walkland ’10 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Oswego St. University Lakers
Samantha Ullrich ’09 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Lindenwood University Lady Lions
Logan Bittle ’08 – assistant women’s ice hockey coach, Robert Morris University Colonials

Softball
Jill Dorsch ’07 – assistant softball coach, Lynn University Fighting Knights
Keri Meyer ’06 – head softball coach, Monroe College Mustangs
Stephani Moore ’00 – assistant softball coach, California University of PA Vulcans
Michael “Jexx” Varner ’07 – head softball coach, Lafayette College Leopards
Lauren Dickinson-Stawartz ’02, M’05 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Jaci Timko ’12 – assistant softball coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Kristin McDaniel ’09 – assistant softball coach, Edinboro University Fighting Scots
Cory Shay M’11 – head softball coach, CCAC-South St. Bernards
Annie Dubovec ’11 – assistant softball coach, Youngstown State Penguins

Lacrosse
Brad Barber ’13 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Hood College Blaze
Mike Rowse ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Queens University of Charlotte Royals
Jillian Howley ’09 – head women’s lacrosse coach, Lake Erie College Storm
Dane Smith ’11 – assistant men’s lacrosse coach, Robert Morris University Colonials
Dan Mulford ’09, M’11 – head men’s lacrosse coach, Winchester Thurston School Bears

Volleyball
Mike Bruno ’90, head volleyball coach, Point Park University Pioneers

Running / Track and Field / Olympic Sports / Other
Justin DiIanni  ’04 – coaches marathoners in Pittsburgh
Marques Dexter  ’07 – assistant track and field coach, Cortlandt State University Red Dragons
Kevin Argauer  ’09 – assistant strength and conditioning coach, University of Pittsburgh Panthers
Erica Schmidt  ’10 – assistant compliance officer, University of Akron Zips

An Interview with RMU Men’s Hockey Goaltender Eric Levine

Eric minding the net at the Three Rivers Classic

Eric minding the net at the Three Rivers Classic

During this year’s inaugural Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center, RMU Colonials Men’s Ice Hockey goaltender Eric Levine, as they say in the hockey world, stood on his head.

Over the course of two days, Levine stopped 99 shots without allowing a goal, shutting out Penn State 6-0 and No. 5 Miami 1-0, and helped the Colonials bring home the tournament crown.

But this is just standard operating procedure for Levine. Since coming to RMU from Wheeling, Ill., in 2009, the senior psychology major has been like a brick wall for opposing teams. Over his first three years with the team, he boasted an average save percentage of .921 and a goals-against average of 2.89.

Levine was named to the Academic All-Atlantic Hockey team in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, and in his first collegiate win against Quinnipiac in October 2009, he set a new school record for saves in a game with 58.

On February 22 versus Canisius, Levine set a new RMU single-season win record in goal with win number 16.

Besides being president of RMU’s Student Psychology Honorary (Psi Chi), Levine is also the co-vice president of RMU’s Advertising Club; his roommate/teammate, Andrew Blazek, is the club’s president/founder.

How did you first get into hockey?
When I first moved into my house as a 3-year-old, the neighborhood kids all played street hockey. I really wanted to play with them, but they were older and said the only way I could play was if I played goalie. I would always come home crying because I got hit with a ball. My mom told me that if I didn’t want to play, I didn’t have to go back out. But I’d already be on my way back outside to play until the sun went down.

When I got into ice hockey, my first year I was a forward. Our team had a policy that every player had to play goalie since we didn’t have a full time one. The first time I played, I got a shutout and loved it so much I told the team I wanted to play the rest of the season. From there on out, I never played anything but goalie.

What is it that makes you excel in goal?
I think the biggest aspect of my game is the mental part. I put a lot of emphasis on being mentally tough. The other part is my love for the game and the position, so much so that no matter how much failure I have endured, I always continued working and getting better. For all athletes, particularly goalies, failure is something you will experience a lot. So the biggest factor that determines how far you go in the sport will be your ability to get back up and find a way to overcome adversity. There are always people who want to give you reasons why you won’t succeed, and for me, I’ve used those words to drive me to become the best I can possibly be.

What have you enjoyed best about your RMU experience?
Getting the chance to play with my teammates, some of whom I’ve been with for four years now. Sharing experiences here, not only with hockey, has been memorable. The other thing I love is being part of a class that has seen such a culture change with RMU hockey. When I was a freshmen, not many people outside the school even knew we had a hockey team. Over my four years, we have built a program that the city of Pittsburgh has taken a shine to. I feel we represent a small part of the tremendous amount of growth that Pittsburgh has seen over the years. A lot of the credit should go to Coach Schooley, who built the program for nothing and has been here since day one. He’s a tremendous promoter of the game and of our team, and a lot of the recognition has been because of his work off of the ice. He’s a key reason whey RMU will host the Frozen Four this April and bring RMU a lot of national recognition.

What would you like to do for a career post-hockey?
My goal has always been to play in the National Hockey League. I have always believed in the notion that dreams are meant to be pursued, and I am grateful for Robert Morris University and Coach Schooley for giving me the opportunity to play NCAA Division 1 hockey. I hope it leads to a pro career one day.

Have you received any pro offers yet?
I have talked to a few NHL teams, but my only focus right now is helping RMU capture an AHA Championship and a birth in our first NCAA tournament. The more success our team has, the more opportunities each player will have.

What advice can you give to younger players?
There are two things that have changed the way I view the game of hockey. The first is a teaching lesson for all aspiring goalies out there. Glenn Hall, arguably the greatest goalie to ever play the game; inventor of the butterfly, and holder of quite possibly the most impressive record in all of sports – 502 consecutive games played in the NHL – was once asked what is one most important skill that a goalie must possess? Quickness? Reading the play? Foot-work? Determination? His answer: “It’s not one thing; It’s everything.”

Jonathon Quick, the most recent Conn Smythe winner and Stanley Cup Champion, was once asked what makes him great. His answer: great teammates. I have a laundry list of reasons how every player on this team has directly made me a better goalie.

Hockey is a hard game, and being a goalie is a very demanding position with a lot of pressure. But the thing that keeps me working and that has allowed me to be successful is just having fun. It’s just a game, and any time I take off my equipment, good game or bad, I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity to play. I have more fun that anybody can imagine playing hockey.

Go Colonials!

_____

Interview by Valentine J. Brkich

This season the Colonials (18-12-2, 13-11-1 Atlantic Hockey Association) are in fifth place with two games left. Levine and his teammates can set a new season win record and, with help, earn a first-round bye in the conference playoffs with a weekend sweep of rival Mercyhurst and a split by Holy Cross or Connecticut. If the Colonials finish between fifth and eighth, they would start the playoffs on home ice March 8.

4th Annual Susan K. Hofacre 5K Run/Walk

Just today, I got an e-mail announcing the 4th annual Susan K. Hofacre 5k Run/Walk, which will take place at RMU’s Moon Township Campus on Saturday, Nov. 7, at 9 a.m.

This e-mail came at an interesting time, since I’ve recently been considering getting back into running again. Considering. I have a two-year-old daughter, you see. Ever since she was born, instead of running, I’ve been working on my long-distance loafing on the couch, which is a lot easier on the knees.

Susan K. Hofacre, Ph.D., was RMU’s first female athletic director. Hofacre, who earned an MBA from RMU in 1999, joined the university’s athletic department in 1989 as its senior women’s administrator, assisting with compliance issues, academic advising, events scheduling and policy development. She also served as department head and professor of sport management.

As athletic director from 2000-2005, Hofacre helped the Colonials add seven new NCAA Division I athletic programs, including the first men’s and women’s hockey teams in Pittsburgh. She also oversaw the development of the new track and field at the RMU Island Sports Center, as well as the construction of Joe Walton Stadium and athletic administration building.

In 2002, Hofacre was awarded the Robert Morris University Alumni Philanthropist Award by the Alumni Association for her establishment of endowed scholarships and her raising of funds for the University. She passed away on Jan. 8, 2005, at the age of 54, after a courageous battle with cancer.

The Susan K. Hofacre 5k Run/Walk benefits the Susan Hofacre Memorial Scholarship Fund. If you’re an avid runner or considering getting back into running like me (considering), be sure to mark November 7 on your calendar and support this important cause. (Registration starts at 8 a.m. at Joe Walton Stadium. The race begins at 9 a.m.)

— Valentine J. Brkich

Around the horn

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Highlands High School quarterback Jeff Sinclair is coming to RMU because of our strengths in nursing. That will please the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, which is looking for a few good men. (Ladies welcome too.) Highlands coach Sam Albert says some nice things about us, and we couldn’t more grateful.

Looking elsewhere, RMU women’s basketball standout Monet Johnson finds herself mentioned in this New York Times article, while club hockey coach Jason Evans scores his 100th victory.

Finally, A. J. Grant, head of the Department of English Studies and Communication Skills, wants to make sure we get credit where credit is due. (Link; last item.)

That’s all. Stay warm.

Go Colonials!

If you haven’t done recently, now’s a good time to visit RMU’s athletics web site. It’s been a particularly good week for the Colonials — on the field, on the court and on the ice.