Despite posting its best record in program history and boasting one of the top winning percentages in Division I, the Robert Morris University men’s hockey team did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Sunday afternoon.
The 16-team field was announced at noon on ESPNU, but the 20th-ranked Colonials (28-8-5) will not play a role as they did last year, when they earned the automatic berth that goes to the Atlantic Hockey Conference postseason champion. This year, RMU won the regular season AHC title with a 19-5-4 league record, but fell to Mercyhurst on Friday night in a semifinal heartbreaker.
The Rochester Institute of Technology claimed the AHC playoff crown Saturday with a 5-1 victory over Mercyhurst at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The Tigers will be Atlantic Hockey’s lone representative in the NCAA tournament; they will face top-seeded Minnesota State on Saturday in South Bend, Ind., on the campus of Notre Dame.
With the six Division I conferences each handing out an automatic bid to their playoff champions, the only option for the Colonials after the loss to Mercyhurst was one of 10 at-large spots. Since the tournament selection committee relies heavily on a metric called Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to award at-large bids, RMU was always going to be a long shot to make the field for the second consecutive season.
RPI factors in winning percentage, where RMU ranked fifth in the country at .716, but also opponents’ winning percentage and the strength of opponents’ schedules. Those last two metrics account for 75 percent of RPI, so the Colonials could directly influence only a quarter of what the tournament committee uses to fill out the available at-large spots.
Robert Morris’ RPI consistently stayed in the 20s throughout the season, finishing at 25th. The team with the lowest RPI to receive an at-large berth was Providence of the Hockey East conference, which ended up 15th.
Atlantic Hockey has produced one NCAA at-large team in 12 seasons of play: Niagara in 2012-13. Just like this season’s Colonials, the Purple Eagles won the regular-season title that year. However, RMU’s record this season was actually better than the ’12-’13 Purps (24-8-5 compared to 23-10-5) and their conference records were essentially identical (19-5-4 for RMU, 20-5-2 for Niagara).
The Colonials will watch the NCAA tournament from home, but their season represents further progress on the college hockey landscape for the 11-year-old program. RMU led Atlantic Hockey from start to finish, posting a pair of nine-game unbeaten runs, a program-best seven-game winning streak, a win over nationally-ranked Penn State at the Three Rivers Classic, an outdoor tie against then-No. 13 Bowling Green and rounded out a 14-3-2 home record with a two-game sweep of Niagara in an AHC quarterfinal series.
Individually, senior Cody Wydo became RMU’s first-ever Hobey Baker Award finalist, Derek Schooley was named AHC Coach of the Year and five players in all – Wydo, Zac Lynch, Chase Golightly, Dalton Izyk and Brady Ferguson – received all-league honors in some form.
-by RMU PR Staff