Robert Morris men's hockey has an outside shot at NCAA tournament

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The Robert Morris men's hockey team learned Monday that it has a slim -- but real -- chance at earning an at-large bid to the NCAA hockey tournament.

If things fall right for the Colonials, a bid to the 16-team tournament could be theirs for the first time in program history.

"It is still a long shot, but it's better than the shot we felt Saturday and Sunday," said coach Derek Schooley.

"This is uncharted territory for us and hopefully everything can go our way and we can still continue our storybook season."

Robert Morris was ousted from the Atlantic Hockey Association playoffs by Connecticut over the weekend, but the team earned 20 wins for the first time in program history this year and finished with a 20-14-4 record.

An objective but complicated mathematical formula is used to determine the field of at-large teams for the tournament.

Robert Morris is considered what is referred to as a "team under consideration," and the Colonials have non-conference wins against Quinnipiac, ranked No. 1 in the country, and No. 3 Miami. When those teams do well it improves the Colonials' strength of schedule rating.

The winners of the five major hockey conference tournaments to be determined this weekend earn automatic bids to the NCAA playoffs.

"The long and short of it is we need the favorites to win," said Schooley. "Mercyhurst has to beat UConn and Niagara has to win the Atlantic Hockey title. Ohio State has to beat Michigan and Miami has to beat Ohio State. Quinnipiac has to win their tournament.

"Those are all teams we have wins against and those help propel us higher and higher up the standings."

For that reason Schooley got in touch with his seniors Monday morning and they all agreed to delay signing professional tryout agreements or other contracts.

Instead the Colonials will return to the ice today and practice this week until they learn their fate.

"I think the excitement of it will be good for our young guys," said Schooley. "Showing them how close we are could be good."

Schooley calculates there is an 8 percent chance of Robert Morris earning a No. 15 seed and an 8.7 percent chance of earning a No. 16 seed in the 16-team field.

The team is No. 24 in the latest PairWise comparison which mimics the selection criteria used by the NCAA when determining the at-large field for the NCAA tournament.

The field will be officially announced Sunday night.

National polls

Quinnipiac (26-6-5) stayed at No. 1 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, followed by No. 2 Minnesota (26-7-5), No. 3 Miami (24-10-5), No. 4 Boston College (22-10-4) and newcomer to the top-5 UMass-Lowell (24-10-2).

The USCHO.com poll has Minnesota ranked No. 1 and Quinnipiac ranked No. 2, but the rest of the top-5 is the same.

BC coach surgery

Boston College moved on to the Hockey East semifinals over the weekend with a sweep of Vermont. Coach Jerry York was not there for the clinching win.

York suffered a detached retina in his right eye and was scheduled for surgery Monday morning, according to a statement distributed by the school.

He had surgery for the same issue in January.

Assistants Greg Brown and Mike Cavanaugh coached the remainder of the series against Vermont and could be at the helm in Friday's game against Boston University.

Women's Frozen Four

The No. 8 ranked Mercyhurst women's hockey team returns to the Frozen Four for the third time in program history this weekend when they play No. 3 Boston University at 8 p.m. March 22 in a semifinal at the women's Frozen Four in Minneapolis, Minn.

No. 1 Minnesota plays in the early game against Boston College at 5 p.m.

The winners will meet for the national championship at 3 p.m. March 24.

Mercyhurst upset second ranked Cornell University, 4-3, in overtime with the winning goal by freshman Jenna Dingledein.

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Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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