NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — With an impressive home opening night performance that saw all facets of their game produce at a high level, the No. 9 Robert Morris Colonials put away RIT on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Colonials put up a program-record 65 shots on net and wound up with six goals off the sticks of five different players in the win that also saw their record improve to 8-1-2 on the year. Leading the way were forward Brittany Howard and defender Kirsten, Welsh who managed four points each, while Elijah Milne-Price stopped 15 of 16 shots in collecting her seventh win of the season.
“We got goal scoring from a lot of different lines which was great,” head coach Paul Colontino said. “When you’re able to spread the scoring out, you’re never relying on one individual or one line. I think when you have multiple tools in the toolbox, the confidence spreads throughout your team that ‘hey, we can get the job done’ because we have a number people who can fire goals from anywhere.”
PATIENCE PAYS OFF
The Colonials looked every bit deserving of their national ranking from the drop of the puck as they put up 15 shots in the first frame and put several good scoring chances on the RIT defense and goaltender Terra Lanteigne. However, the puck stayed out of the Tiger’S net despite the hot start to the game. The Colonials’ experience and the coaching staff’s game plan kept them from getting frustrated. They seemingly played their game until the pucks started going in, and for the rest of the game thereafter.
“It was really good patience,” Colontino said. “We felt like we were doing some of the little things right throughout the game but for whatever reason we just had a tough time cashing in and putting the numbers on the board. Our forwards and our defense showed great patience but also trust and consistency with the process. The levee was going to break and we were going to get a couple here if we kept pushing. We stuck with it and got rewarded.”
A large part of the recipe for Colonial’S success that allowed for them to be patient, was a willingness to own possession of the puck. The Tigers managed few high quality scoring chances thanks to a ColonialS team that managed the puck with precision and purpose.
“We want to have as much puck possession as possible,” Colontino said. “Our players have been working pretty hard in managing the puck better, knowing when they have to dump it or hold on and carry it and I thought we did a good job of creating space and time by rolling out in the zone and by doing that, we got more puck possession. And in the third period that became a big factor in breaking open a tight game.”
OFFENSE THROUGH DEFENSE
After a scoreless first period, the Colonials took a two-goal lead in the first seven minutes of the second frame courtesy of the defense. Both Emily Curlett and Welsh sent long shots past Lanteigne and their team looked to be off and running until the Tigers answered with a quick strike from Kaelyn Johnson at 7:41 of the second. It was as close as the Tigers got to the Colonials all night thanks to a defense that not only moved the puck well, but played their positions well in front of Milne-Price who made some difficult saves when called upon despite not having consistent action in front of her.
“We’ve had some extremely tight games coming into the third like tonight where it was 2-1 and anybody’s game,” Colontino said. “And even if the shots are skewed, the saves that she is making on some of them are huge, saves on screens and tips and if one of those drops, it’s a different game. Sometimes, it’s the hardest thing to do when you’re not getting a whole lot of shots, to stay focused as a goalie. She’s been doing a good job of that and the team has been playing steady in front of her.”
The defense has been a strength for the Colonials so far this season and has come together as a family over the course of their time together, and on this night, it played as a cohesive unit both offensively and defensively.
“Our back end is doing really great right now, we support each other and we push each other to do better,” Welsh said. “It’s a great relationship, we love each other like family. Being the home opener, that’s huge for us. We obviously wanted to do well and there was definitely a lot of energy coming into tonight’s game and we followed through and were pretty successful.”
‘FLOODGATES FINALLY OPENED’
Having out-shot the Tigers by a 41-14 margin through two periods, the game was still up for grabs until three Colonials goals in the first three minutes broke it open. Two of those came off the stick of Howard, who started the rally with both a power play and even strength goal.
“I think the floodgates finally opened,” Howard said. “Obviously we just got pucks to the net. Our ‘D’ did a great job seeing lanes and forwards in front weren’t getting hit. We keep moving our feet, we don’t like to be stationary, we want to get them moving to create a little chaos and get some pucks on net. Everyone was excited, there were some nerves in the changing room but once we got on the ice and got our legs going we were good to go.”
The scoring was capped off by first-year forward Lexi Templeman who notched her ninth point in 11 games, leading all rookie scorers. The goal put the game to bed, but not the series and Colontino seemed to be realistic about what to expect going forward into Saturday afternoon’s rematch.
“We’ve got a pretty good mindset with this group that it’s one game at a time and that you’re as good as your last shift. We’re staying modest with that, every game’s a brand new game. RIT has done a very good job of bouncing back in the second game so for us we have to take it one game at a time. The score doesn’t start 6-1 tomorrow. And if we can keep that mindset we’ll continue to be successful.”