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.
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.