Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Rooney next Berkshire School ice hockey star making it big on pro level

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The postseason for winter sports is upon us, so this is as good a chance as any to clean out the notebook and get ready for the show.

Kevan Miller is still plugging away on the blue line for the Boston Bruins, Kendall Coyne Schofield showed off her wheels at the NHL All-Star Game, and along with Kacey Bellamy, are playing women's professional hockey. All three are graduates of Berkshire School in Sheffield.

A fourth former Bear is now starting to make his mark in the NHL. That's Kevin Rooney of the New Jersey Devils.

Rooney has scored two goals in what is turning out to be his first full NHL season.

He played his first full season as a pro with the now-defunct Albany Devils in 2016-17, and last year was in Binghamton with the Devils' new American Hockey League team.

"I think when you look at Kevin, it was just a situation of a player developing, and he wasn't quite ready for the NHL in his previous call-ups," New Jersey head coach John Hynes said. "I think now you're looking at him as a more mature guy that's been developed throughout the organization. We're seeing a guy that looks like he's an NHL player."

Rooney was recalled on Jan. 10 from the AHL, and has pretty much been a regular since then. He's had between 15 and 20 shifts per game, with a maximum of 22 shifts against Ottawa last Thursday.

"Kevin's really come in and done a very good job," Hynes said to reporters in a post-game press conference after the Devils lost to Pittsburgh last week. "When you see him play, his size is a factor, his speed is a factor. I think he can push the pace of play. He's a strong forecheck guy."

Rooney played two seasons for Dan Driscoll at Berkshire School, back in 2010-11 and 11-12. Rooney then went on to play collegiately at Providence, before signing a deal with New Jersey.

Hynes told reporters that Rooney has diligently worked on what the Devils coaches said he needed to do in order to stick in the NHL.

"One of the things we've asked him to work on, what we've tried to work on him with — whether it's here or in Binghamton — is to get stronger on the puck and heavier on the puck in the offensive zone and I think he's done that," Hynes said. "His faceoffs have improved.

"He was a guy, we knew was an excellent penalty killer, and now he's getting a real good opportunity on the kill, and he's doing a very good job."

There are three framed hockey jerseys in the Stewart Athletic Center. They belong to Miller, Coyne Schofield and Bellamy. If Kevin Rooney continues to make strides for the Devils, Berkshire School staff will have to make room for a fourth.

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A news item from Georgia did not surprise me. Al Skinner has stepped down at Kennesaw State.

Skinner, who had been out of basketball for several seasons, did not return after the Owls finished 5-23

"We certainly appreciate the time coach Skinner has spent at Kennesaw State," athletic director Milton Overton said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. "He has invested in the lives of countless student-athletes over the years, and we wish him the best in the future."

The mistake wasn't that Skinner went to the Atlanta suburbs to coach. The mistake was that Boston College let him go after the 2009-10 season.

In 13 years at BC, Skinner won 247 games and lost 165. He took the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament four times while in the Big East and three more times in the ACC.

The Skinner coaching tree yielded some fruit as well. Pat Duquette is at UMass Lowell, Ed Cooley is at Providence and Bill Coen is at Northeastern.

Al Skinner's tenure at BC was marked by finding diamonds in the rough like Craig Smith, Jared Dudley and Troy Bell. Two other former Skinner players, Biko Paris and Louis Hinnant, are now on Duquette's staff at Lowell.

Ever since Skinner was let go, BC has struggled mightily. Two coaches have not been able to right the ship.

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I used to think that the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires rink was the rink that was the closest to the clouds in the country. I found out last week that I was wrong.

The TRIA Rink in St. Paul, Minn., actually is closer to the clouds than Mooney's Pond.

We all know the rink at the club on Melville Street is on the third floor, which is a highly unusual place to put a rink. But the TRIA Rink, built inside an old Macy's store in St. Paul is on the fifth floor.

The rink in Minnesota is where the NHL's Wild practices. It is also the home rink for the Minnesota Whitecaps of the National Women's Hockey League, and for Division III teams from Hamline University.

According to an archived story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the rink is on the top floor of the building. Believe it or not, the St. Paul Police Headquarters is a couple of floors below.

Which kind of trumps the Boys and Girls Club.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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