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After completing the 2013-14 regular season with a record of 14-16-5, the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team came into the Atlantic Hockey Association Playoff Tournament as an underdog.

But the team came together and won six out of their seven playoff games to capture the tournament and earn their first berth to the NCAA National Tournament.

“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we continue to do well. We continue to have good seasons,” head coach Derek Schooley said. “For the previous three years, we had good seasons and not so good playoffs. This season, we had an average season and good playoffs.”

Despite last year’s success, Schooley says that there is still more work to be done to keep RMU as a national contender.

Robert Morris is the second-youngest program in Division I hockey. While last year’s squad was the first to advance past the AHA playoffs, they have been making strides throughout their 10 year history, including four straight seasons where they finished with at least a .500 record. Because of this, Schooley believes that people are starting to take notice.

“They’ve been telling people for years that their goal is to get the NCAA tournament, and now they’ve done it. They’re not selling a concept, they’re selling reality,” RMU hockey announcer Mike Prisuta said.

Robert Morris seems to be buying that reality, as Schooley’s contract was extended through the 2019-20 season back in July. Schooley has been the only head coach in program history, and he said he is excited about the future of his team, even if he thinks they are going to have a target on their back now.

“I’ve always had great support from my athletic director,” Schooley said. “I believe they were very happy with the direction the program is going, and I’m appreciative of the fact that they gave me an extension, but I don’t think that’s going to affect how we’re going to work, how we’re going to prepare and how we’re going to be ready for this year.”

This year’s team features 19 returning players from last season’s squad, and of the 26 players on this year’s roster, only four are seniors, meaning there is potential for a good holdover of players for 2015-16 as well. The team is still veteran-laden though, as there are 10 juniors on the roster to welcome in the eight new freshmen.

“You just got to keep doing the things you’ve been doing,” Schooley said. “Working extremely hard, keeping the guys on task and making sure we try to reach the goals of our program.”

Prisuta believes that last year’s run and Schooley’s coaching style should also help recruiting.

“The style of play, which is action up and down, is a style that I really think is appealing because it allows the players to showcase what they can do,” Prisuta said. “You combine that with the success they’ve had the past couple years, and they’re in a better position than they have ever been.”

While last year’s success was genuinely meaningful for the program, Schooley knows that the Colonials have to turn the page and get ready for their October 4 opener, as well as future seasons.

“I think you just need to keep moving forward,” Schooley said. “You can’t take away our championship, but we can’t look back on that and dwell on it. We have to look toward the future.”

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