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Posts from the ‘psychology’ 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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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.

Robert Morris Pittsburgh to D.C. Bike Ride – Day 1

From May 26-31, a group of Robert Morris University staff members, students, alumni, and friends embarked on a group bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., with stops in Ohio Pyle (Pa.), Cumberland (Md.), Hancock (Md.), and Harpers Ferry (W. Va.). Over the next five days, RMU Senior Writer Valentine J. Brkich will be sharing his first-hand account of the journey. SPOILER ALERT: Val survived. Barely.

DAY ONE – Boston (Pa.) to Ohiopyle (Pa.)

Ride my bike to D.C. It sounded doable.

Sure, I may just be your average desk jockey, but I try to keep in shape, going for the occasional jog and walking instead of driving to the bank or the grocery store when I can. I even stand up at my desk while working. Surely I was fit enough to ride 60 miles a day at a leisurely pace over a span of five-days.

During the first two days of the trip, the 22 of us would be riding along the Great Allegheny Passage (G.A.P.), an old rail bed covered with a layer of packed, crushed limestone, which snakes its way through southwestern Pennsylvania down to Cumberland, Md. The average grade is only 1% until you reach the Eastern Continental Divide. After that, I was told, it would be “all downhill” as we continued on the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Canal Towpath to D.C.

Heck, this was going to be more like a vacation than anything.

We hit the trail at 9:20 a.m. on May 26 in Boston, Pa. It was the perfect morning. Partly sunny. Temperature in the mid-60s. We were abuzz with anticipation as we mounted our pedal-powered steeds and shoved off for our nation’s capital, a mere 300 or so miles down the trail.

If you’ve never ridden along an old rail trail, it triggers an awakening of the senses. A spring trickles down the rock face to your right. A butterfly flutters through the air to your left. The perfume of spring flowers. The crackle of rubber tire on crushed stone. It’s peaceful and exhilarating, and you feel as if you could ride forever.

Then you hit the 5-mile mark.

Five miles! Is that all the farther we’ve ridden? How many more do we have? FIFTY-FIVE?!?!

I just need to get warmed up, I told myself, as fatigue began to set in. Then my allergies kicked in, and soon my eyes felt like they were filled with sand (Photo: My feeling-like-they’re-filled-with-sand eyes). Then my left knee began to throb. My upper back ached. My lower back began to spasm.

Maybe I should have trained for this.

This first day of our adventure saw a series of bad omens. At Boston, before he had even put foot to pedal, Todd Hamer, the ride’s organizer and RMU’s strength and conditioning coach, got a flat tire and immediately fell behind the pack. Bill Joyce, RMU’s director of planning and design, busted the crank on his bike and had to backtrack for a lost bolt. Further down the trail, Ethan, a sophomore finance major, clipped a wooden post and tore a gash in his right arm. Later on, his father, Mark, collided with an oncoming rider, flipped over his handlebars, and bent his front fork. Jamie, a sophomore psychology major, had a bad spill and suffered a painful cut on her left arm and a bruise on her hip. All along the trail there were landslides and signs of recently downed trees, giving you the eerie feeling that, at any moment, you could be pedaling your little heart out to avoid being crushed by a falling sycamore or an avalanche of mud and rock. And did I mention the unforgiving headwind?

So much for a leisurely ride along the trail.

We persevered, however, and continued on down the dusty trail, past the Old Dravo Cemetery (est. 1824); past secluded hamlets like Buena Vista, Van Meter, and Whitsett; and past the ghosts of former industry, like old trestles and the site of the once bustling Banning No. 1 Coal Mine.

Somewhere along the trail I caught up with Jamie, who was struggling mightily under the mid-day sun. Luckily Mark J. Eschenfelder, Ph.D., associate professor of economics at RMU, his brother Michael, and their friend Jonathan were already there helping. After a brief stop to rest and rehydrate, we decided to walk a ways down the trail before hopping back on our bikes. Jamie recovered and was soon chugging along again.

After a brief stop in Connellsville for lunch at the local Sheetz (Gatorade and a pre-wrapped mystery-meat sandwich), we continued on down the trail. By this time I had learned to hate milepost markers. You try to ignore them, so as not to see what little distance you’ve covered, but it’s impossible. They stick out from the foliage along the side of the trail like signposts of your physical inadequacy, mocking you as you huff and puff your way along the path.

Finally in mid-afternoon we began to trickle into our day-one destination: Ohiopyle. Around 3:50 p.m. I slowly rolled across the town’s familiar arched bridge, which spans the white waters of the Youghiogheny River. Ethan and Mark were already there, so I had them pose for a photo with RoMo, who I’d brought along for the ride (Photo: Ethan and Mark with RoMo).

Famished and fatigued, I stumbled passed Armand Buzzelli, RMU’s director of campus recreation, and Mike Yuhas, RMU event manager, sitting at the local ice cream shop enjoying milkshakes and looking way too composed.

“Don’t worry,” said Armand. “You’ll feel better after a shower.”

I hope I can stand up long enough to take a shower.

An hour later, just as we were about to head off to dinner at Falls City Pub, a freak squall blew through, knocking out all power in town. Clearly the gods were against us. Fortunately there was enough cold beer to hold us off while Seth, an online MBA student, ordered pizzas from the next town over. When the pies finally arrived nearly an hour later, we tore into them like ravenous piranha. I managed to grab just two pieces in the frenzy, as the pub’s menu of mouthwatering specials stood nearby, reminding us of what we could have been eating (Photo: What we could have been eating).

And so, still hungry and getting stiffer by the minute, I staggered back to my room to hit the sack early (8:30 p.m.) and prepare for the next day—the mostly uphill, 72-mile jaunt to Cumberland.

Stay tuned….