In heartbreaking fashion, the SRU men’s club hockey team’s season came to a close Sunday in an overtime loss to Robert Morris University in the College Hockey Mid-America (CHMA) championship game.
Overall, the team posted a 22-10-3 record, going 9-4-1 in league play. The team’s offense, led by captain Tommy Kimmick and winger Jamie Mauro, registered five goals or more in almost half of its 35 games. On back-to-back evenings in early October, the attack slipped ten-plus markers past goalies on three different occasions, including back-to-back efforts against Penn State Berks in early October.
Along with Antonio Esposito, Kimmick and Mauro flourished on the team’s top-line. At one point in February, Mauro, a sophomore, led the entire American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) in scoring. He broke the program’s single-season record for both goals and points. Kimmick, a senior, bettered J.T. Grahl’s program-best 92 goals in a green and white sweater. Both prolific scorers have been chosen to play in the CHMA All-Star game on March 16.
Greg Miller, the team’s general manager this past season, points out that rookie forwards Brendan Ackelson and Anthony Mancini performed well in their roles as penalty killers. He added that, if such a statistic existed in the CHMA, Luke Grossman would have led the league in blocked shots.
Once part of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite U16 team, Trevor Gilliland joined the team in time for the spring portion of the season and played beside Conner Ackerman and Christian Miller on the second line. Freshman goaltender Jon Szynalski impressed in the crease.
“Moving from where I was as a player, I didn’t see the playoffs for my first three years and it was tough,” said Miller, who played for the team up until last year. “As an organization, you want to grow and you want to produce. From the sideline, seeing these guys grow this year was extremely positive in my eyes.”
According to Miller, the team was hopeful of a postseason appearance at the season’s start. However, that goal was adjusted as the season rolled on.
In the first round of the playoffs, the fourth-seeded Rock exacted revenge on a loss that came earlier in the season to the Blue Streak of John Carroll University. The Green and White then matched up with Duquesne and, behind four goals, pulled away late for a 5-1 semifinal victory that set up a finals clash with sixth-seed RMU.
The program entered against the Colonials seeking to capture its second conference playoff crown since joining the CMHA prior to the 2006-07 campaign but found itself staring at a four-goal hole at the end of the first frame.
The camaraderie and culture built by the older skaters throughout the season showed itself, though, as the leaders encouraged the team and remained positive on the bench. The deficit was erased midway through the third period, and Slippery Rock even held a brief advantage before an unfortunate penalty helped the opponents even the score at 7-7. An overtime score later, the Colonials grabbed the CHMA’s automatic bid to the national tournament.
“It was a good learning experience for them. Knowing that sometimes can work hard and you’re going to fall short,” Miller said. “But it’s the point that you gave all of your effort and left it on the ice. No doubt that those players emptied the gas tank in that last game.”
“This organization is progressing. It’s moving up and I couldn’t be happier,” he added. “The future for this team is going to be bright.”