Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Pantaleo ready to captain Colonials to new heights

RMU's Amanda Pantaleo lines up against Mercyhurst in the 2015-16 season. -- BRIAN MITCHELL

Amanda Pantaleo has pretty much done it all for the Robert Morris women’s hockey team over the past three seasons. She has played in all situations, scored big goals, blocked shots and has emerged as a leader of the squad. This year, that will be clearly evident on the ice, as she has been named team captain.

She wore an “A” on her jersey last season as a junior, and was an important leader of the Colonials team that produced the best season in team history. Pantaleo helped the team win the CHA regular-season and post-season championships and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

This year, as a senior, she’s one of the most experienced players on the team now by default, meaning the rest of the team will rely on her and her classmates for advice. As captain, that responsibility grows even more. She is the face of the team, and the coaches will rely on her input to take the pulse of the team as the season progresses.

The success of the team last season is something that this year’s team is looking to build on. Pantaleo and the other returnees know what it takes to achieve that success. This is something that she thinks will be a big advantage for this year’s Colonials.

“I think we set the bar very high,” Pantaleo said. “I know we’ve already talked about how we’re not going to settle for repeating. We want to do better than last year. Obviously our NCAA tournament appearance wasn’t the turnout we wanted.

“What’s good is I think the freshmen and the incoming girls know that we are very serious about it and how motivated we are.”

Portraying that message to the new players is something that will be especially important given the size of this year’s class. They have eight newcomers, which could pose as a challenge for any team.

As the captain, the head of the core leadership group of the team, Pantaleo knows that she is responsible for shaping this class for this season and the future. Part of that is done by re-living the experience last year and sharing the excitement of having so much success. However, an essential element of achieving that is the cohesiveness of the team, something that they are stressing from the start.

“Just kind of taking from last year into this year the stuff we were really successful with, like team chemistry and things like that,” she explained. “Really putting those values on them right now so they know how we work as a team.”

That being said, there is more to having a successful adjustment to the college ranks than just play on the ice and team chemistry.

An important part of having a successful collegiate career is enjoying it. Division I athletes spend so much time with their teammates, so it is important to have solid relationships both on and off the ice. This is something that former team leaders shared with Pantaleo as a freshman, and something she is passing along now.

“I think mostly being a friend and not just a teammate,” she reflected. “I think the biggest thing was that the four years go by fast, so they really just told me to enjoy the experience.”

Amanda Pantaleo (center) celebrates a goal with her teammates. — BRIAN MITCHELL

This idea is clearly evident in her leadership style. Admittedly, communication is one of her strong points. She is able to get her message across to her teammates, but is also a good listener.

“I would say mostly vocal,” she described. “I’m a very loud person. I like talking and having people talk to me, and not just (with) hockey, but being there for my teammates all around both off the ice and on the ice. I try to be somebody they can come to if they need anything.”

Pantaleo admires the leadership of Haley Wickenheiser, the longtime captain of the Canadian National team. Among the many noteworthy leadership characteristics, her “ability to take younger players under her wing and show them the ropes” especially stands out.

She’s definitely taken a page out of Wickenheiser’s book with the Colonials. Pantaleo displayed her leadership capabilities early on, and she was rewarded with a letter on her chest as a junior. That has further been rewarded with this year’s designation as captain.

“It’s pretty cool just to know that people look up to you, and see that (capability), and that they are following stuff that you do,” she said. “With that there is a lot of pressure because when all eyes are on you, you have to be sure that you are leading them in the proper direction.”

This pressure could become overwhelming in certain scenarios, but Pantaleo is prepared to handle it. Not only does she have experience being relied upon as a leader already, but her fellow upperclassmen offer a lot of assistance.

Pantaleo’s senior class consists of seven members, including Brittany Howard and Katherine Murphy, who will serve as alternate captains for the Colonials this year, assisting in guiding the team.

Along with the seniors, there are six juniors. All of these players have experiences from over the past few seasons they can share with the underclassmen. On top of this, they all complement each other nicely.

“We have a lot of really good upperclassmen that can all take on a leadership role,” she explained. “So what’s really good with having a big class is we have a lot of different personalities so we mix well together. If I’m not very good with one part, I know someone else in my class will be good at that.

“Having multiple people as leaders really takes the pressure off the few people that have the letters.”

This has proved to be helpful already for the 2017-18 Colonials team. Although school has only been in session for a few weeks, the captain is impressed with the progress they’ve made.

All of this has her and the rest of the team feeling good as they prepare for their first chance to prove themselves on the ice in game action. That chance will come in an exhibition this Saturday against Ryerson.

“We’ve had a lot of fun, and we’ve already shown really great team chemistry,” she answered. “So I think we are really excited to show that on the ice because we’ve clearly shown that we have it off the ice. I think everybody’s really gearing up and ready to roll. It’s been a long summer, so everyone wants to show that the hard work and training they did this summer is going to pay off. We are ready to show it.”

Amanda Pantaleo scores a goal against Mercyhurst in the 2016-17 season. — BRIAN MITCHELL

This exhibition game will not count in the standings, but it is the “unofficial” commencement of the season. With that begins the team’s quest to not just match, but surpass the success of last year’s squad. Their goals are set, and Pantaleo knows what they will have to do in order to accomplish them.

As the leader of the team, this mindset is something that she will demonstrate and ensure her team maintains throughout the course of the season. Given her leadership style, it’s a safe bet her teammates will follow her lead.

“We obviously want a regular season championship, a playoff championship and an NCAA bid,” she said. “Our goal is to host NCAA’s; we want to get top four. Basically just step up what we did last year and gun for a national championship.

“I think a lot of confidence is what we need. No matter what, we’re a small school, so we’re going to have doubters but I think our biggest thing is to show people what we’re made of and work hard. We know that if we do it together, we are going to be able to accomplish anything.”

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