By Matt Gajtka
Moon Township, PA – Former Robert Morris University women’s hockey star and two-time Olympic medalist Brianne McLaughlin-Bittle ’09 has joined the men’s hockey staff as a volunteer coach.
McLaughlin-Bittle, who has previously served in assistant roles on the RMU women’s team for several seasons, will coach Colonials goaltenders Justin Kapelmaster, Dyllan Lubbesmeyer and Reid Cooper for the duration of the 2019-20 season.
“Her track record as a player is off the charts, and she’s taken strides that speak very highly of what she’s doing as a goalie coach,” said RMU men’s head coach Derek Schooley. “It was a very easy decision and we’re extremely excited to have her. It was a natural fit.”
A native of Cleveland, the 32-year-old McLaughlin-Bittle runs her own eponymous goalie school and camp out of the RMU Island Sports Center, but she’s been exploring broader team-oriented duties with USA Hockey.
She lent her expertise to the organization’s top goalie camp the past two years, plus the girls’ Under-18 camp and the boys’ Under-17 camp earlier this summer. In August, she got her most advanced position yet, as assistant goalie coach for the U.S. national team at the Women’s National Festival.
“It’s taking all these pieces that I’ve picked up from different programs and bringing them together and seeing what we can come up with here,” McLaughlin-Bittle said. “I don’t teach the boys or the girls any differently. It’s about stopping the puck.”
McLaughlin-Bittle is believed to be the first female assistant coach in the history of NCAA men’s hockey, Division I or otherwise. Schooley said the process of bringing her aboard was organic, as former associate head coach Kody Van Rentergem was unable to continue on as a volunteer goalie coach due to other work duties.
“I don’t care if the person is male or female, I wanted the most qualified person,” Schooley said. “Can’t say enough about her as a player, but her accomplishments as a coach are on the rise.”
McLaughlin-Bittle’s name is synonymous with both RMU hockey and USA Hockey. For the Stars & Stripes, she won two Olympic silver medals (2010 in Vancouver and 2014 in Sochi) in addition to a pair of IIHF World Championships.
Prior to her international debut, she played four spectacular seasons for RMU from 2005-09, leaving school with a .910 save percentage in 120 games played for the fledgling women’s program, plus NCAA Division I’s all-time record for saves in a career. She is married to RMU women’s associate head coach Logan Bittle ’08, who himself played for the men’s team.
Following her time with the U.S. Women’s National Team, McLaughlin-Bittle played two seasons as the No. 1 goalie for the Buffalo Beauts of the National Women’s Hockey League, leading the team to the Isobel Cup league championship in 2016-17. She delivered 58 saves in the contest and was awarded the Isobel Cup Finals MVP for the game.
McLaughlin-Bittle began her coaching duties Monday, Oct. 14th, 2019, with the RMU men’s team. The Colonials (3-3-0, 3-1-0 Atlantic Hockey) are starting their 16th season of D-I hockey on Neville Island.
Matt Gajtka is the Media Relations Specialist for Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Men’s and Women’s Hockey, and Women’s Lacrosse at Robert Morris University.