NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Goals by Maggie LaGue and Natalie Marcuzzi helped Robert Morris erase a 2-0 deficit in the second, but a late Mercyhurst rally lead the Lakers to a 5-2 win in the next chapter of the ‘Battle of I-79’ at the RMU Island Sports Center on Friday.
The Lakers opened up scoring at 4:45 of the first as a scramble in front allowed Alexa Vasko to toss a puck over a sprawling Lauren Bailey.
Things began to open up offensively in the second, as a break by Summer-Rae Dobson and Michele Robillard netted the Lakers a two-goal lead at 1:32 of the frame. The Colonials began an assault on sophomore starter Kennedy Blair, and LaGue capitalized with a shot from the point that beat the net-minder at 6:03. Just over eight minutes later Marcuzzi lined up in the slot as Emily Curlett fired a shot that grazed the shaft of her stick to tie things up for Robert Morris. Jaycee Gebhard and Marcuzzi took a pair of minors late in the frame that led to a Lakers 5-on-3 opportunity, and Vilma Tanskanen lifted a shot over a diving Bailey to restore a 1-goal lead heading in to the break.
The two teams played even to start the third, but a contested goal by Hine extended the Mercyhurst lead to two once again. Vasko fired an innocent shot on net that missed the attempted block by Curlett and slid past Bailey for her second goal of the game at 16:06.
The loss moved Mercyhurst within a point of the Colonials in the race for the regular season title, and when coupled with the Syracuse win against Lindenwood creates a win-now scenario where three points separate the squads vying for the first-round bye in the postseason.
“We’re at the end of the season, where every game matters and every point matters.” head coach Paul Colontino explained. “Obviously it’s not the outcome we’re looking for. We’ll feel that and find ways to get better and transition that into tomorrows game.”
The second period rollercoaster wasn’t lost on the coach, either.
“It’s a tough break because you’re doing well in the second period, you’ve got great momentum, you go down short-handed for one and then unfortunately you go down short-handed for two. Thats a tough kind of adversity to get over.”
Being close in proximity and in the standings lead to a physical battle between the top-two programs in College Hockey America conference, and although only seven penalties were called on the night, it was a tough affair between the intra-state rivals.
“They’re always physical, and we try and respond the same way.” Maggie LaGue said. “We feel like we play a lot better when it’s fast-paced and physical. I thought we responded well with that.”
The Colonials welcomed back tri-captain Kirsten Welsh to the line-up on Friday night. The senior defender has been out of action with a lower-body injury since Nov. 23 in a game against Cornell… Robert Morris outshot Mercyhurst 28-to-22…
The Colonials and Lakers close out their season series on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at the RMU Island Sports Center.