ERIE, Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials women’s hockey program hoisted is third College Hockey America championship Saturday night, defeating Syracuse 1-0 at Erie Insurance Arena.
Gillian Thompson scored the only goal of the contest in the first period, and the Colonials rode a tight defensive effort and stellar goaltending from Raygan Kirk, who shut out the Orange on 28 shots.
For Kirk, it was a comeback as the sophomore had not been used for the last few weeks, including the opening two contests of the tournament.
The championship was the first for the program since the 2017 season, and every player that dressed for that win over Syracuse has since graduated and moved on. For the current senior class, the victory snapped a three-game losing streak in the title game.
Thompson’s goal came at the 7:27 mark of the first as a scramble in front put the puck behind the cage, and as Joelle Fiala came out front she found the wide-open defender on the far post, and the junior fired it in.
“I saw Maggy joining in,” Thompson said. “I thought she was going to pass it to me, and then it just bounced to me, I kicked it to my stick and I just put it in.”
“The bench just lit up,” Paul Colontino said. “Getting out there in the first period, we thought our start was just okay. We build a little bit of momentum and literally out nowhere comes [Thompson] at the back door and finds the back of the net. To get that piece of confidence spread through the team, through down the bench it really does set you up moving forward. You never know when you’re going to get your opportunities, it could be the first shift of the game that wins it. For us it was five or six in.”
THREE’S NOT A CROWD
The Colonials won the title in the strangest way possible with a quirk in the standings due to COVID-19 granting the second seed and bye to Mercyhurst. Colontino countered that extra game by starting senior Molly Singewald, who recorded her third consecutive shutout in a start. In the second game against Mercyhurst Robert Morris started junior Arielle DeSmet, and in the final it was sophomore Raygan Kirk with the nod.
“We’ve got some crazy good goaltenders,” Colontino said. “The three of them all pitched in and won a game this week. They’re just strong, they support each other so well. They support each other – that’s a first for me. The decisions themselves become extremely tough. The decision to put Raygan in was a coaching decision that the staff and everyone made. We had a plan going into the tournament and we stuck to it and it worked out for us. We know that we’re real lucky in the sense we have three outstanding goaltenders”
Maggy Burbidge won the tournament MVP trophy on the back of a three-goal performance, and an assist on the only goal of the final after scoring the game-winner in the semifinal.
“It feels amazing,” Burbidge said. “It’s hard not to talk about my teammates because I couldn’t do it without them. I was presented with some opportunities out there, not gripping the stick too tight and putting them in the back. Just getting pucks to the net, going hard in the corners, that’s my game and I think I was rewarded for that”
UP NEXT – NCAA TOURNAMENT
The Colonials have an automatic bid into their second NCAA tournament, which will be played either Monday, March 15 or Tuesday March 16 at Erie Insurance Arena. The Frozen Four and NCAA Title game will be played later that week at the facility.