Local players important to program

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Zac Lynch first put on hockey skates when he was a child, all of 3 years old.

By 10 he was skating at 84 Lumber Arena on Neville Island with his youth team, and again later as a member of the prestigious Pittsburgh Hornets.

He won a Penguins Cup with Shaler Area High School, then set off to Boston for two seasons of junior hockey.

Robert Morris hockey coach Derek Schooley never lost sight of Lynch, a classic homegrown recruit. Today Lynch, a forward, splits time among multiple lines for the Colonials (12-9-2) and is one of six players from the Pittsburgh area that help anchor the team.

"If you want to move onto the next level you play [Class AAA] in the area or Pittsburgh Hornets," said Lynch, who said he understood at a young age he would need to leave in order to come back.

The Pittsburgh area has some talent to be recruited, Schooley said, but the better players split time between their high school and club teams, then go away to play junior hockey.

"Hockey is getting better and better in Pittsburgh all the time. With the [Penguins] elite program taking another step, with high school hockey getting better, these players are doing a good job here then going away to play junior hockey," said Schooley.

Lynch, along with Sewickley's Colin South, an assistant captain, and Pittsburgh natives David Rigatti, captain Brendan Jamison, Andrew Blazek and Ryan Gayso make up the locals on the team.

"I think the most [local players] we've ever had was about five or six," Schooley said. "You've got to identify the best local guys and try to keep as many of them as you can, but you've got to go outside the area, too. There's a lot of Division I talent [and] we want to make sure we identify the better local ones and get them to stay home."

For Lynch, it was a no-brainer to return to the rink he has known since he was 10.

"My dad, he was never able to play. He had club feet so he could never skate so he wanted to be sure I could play. He really pushed me to start," Lynch said. "Wasn't until I was 10 or 12 I had any thoughts about college hockey."

Mild shake-up in polls

Minnesota (18-4-4) retained a No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll and the USCHO.com poll this week after splitting a weekend series with Minnesota State.

The Golden Gophers were followed by Quinnipiac, Miami of Ohio and New Hampshire in the USA Today poll.

Boston College, however, which was ranked No. 3 last week, fell to No. 5 after a sweep by unranked Maine over the weekend. That allowed Miami to sneak into the top four with a 15-6-5 record.

The current rankings in the USCHO.com poll are aligned similarly: Minnesota, Quinnipiac, New Hampshire, Miami.

Frozen Four tickets available

Single game tickets for the Frozen Four sold out Friday. The two-day NCAA hockey semifinals and final will be played April 11 and 13 at Consol Energy Center.

Fans wishing to get into the games can still buy hospitality packages which include tickets. A package to the entire two-day session begins at $337.50 and tops out at $1,125. Packages for access to the semifinal or the final costs from $202.50 to $405.

Another notable win

Division I newcomer Penn State picked up another notable win: a 3-2 victory Saturday at Michigan State after a loss a night earlier to the Spartans to climb to 10-13-0.

The Nittany Lions had beaten Vermont, 4-2, Jan. 19, with the help of a 34-save performance by goalie Matthew Skoff of McKees Rocks.

Neither the Catamounts (4-9-4) nor the Spartans (7-16-3) are having great seasons, but both have a history of being contenders.

Fix on Twitter?

Schooley seems to have the social media thing down. Schooley is quite active sharing his thoughts before and after games on Twitter (@derekschooley), once even soliciting input from fans for what his starting lineup should look like.

On Jan. 12 he tweeted this: "Playing all healthy bodies. Training room is full but we will be determined & ready tonight. If you can play-we may need you! #eligibility?"

Some other follows: @RMUhockey for the RMU team's official feed, or @Atlantic_Hockey, which is the official Atlantic Hockey Association Twitter account.

RMU homestand

The Colonials open a two-game weekend series at 7:05 p.m. Friday against winless Sacred Heart. The stretch marks a five-game homestand over the course of nine days for the Colonials -- who play also Mercyhurst (Feb. 5) and RIT (Feb. 8-9) before hitting the road Feb. 15 at Niagara.

All home games are played at the RMU Island Sports Center and scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m.

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


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