When hockey teams play with an aggressive back line that likes to join, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Sometimes, the added offense can overwhelm an opponent and lead to a scoring strike. Other times, the offensive-minded defenders can be less the completely reliable in their own end while looking for a chance to get forward.
That played out both ways in the third period of Robert Morris’ 3-3 tie with Colgate on Saturday. The Colonials entered the final frame with a 2-1 lead over the No. 4 team in the country and threatened to be the first team to defeat the Raiders on home ice this season.
Instead, a pair of miscues allowed the Raiders to flip the script.
At the 2:20 mark of the period, a careless Robert Morris clearing attempt ended up on the stick of Raiders defender Livia Altmann, who had drifted into a scoring position in anticipation of a pass from Annika Zalewski. Altmann’s top-shelf wrister beat Elijah-Milne Price to tie the game at 2-2.
Almost three minutes later, the Colonials back line got caught a bit too far up ice — perhaps looking to create an offensive play — and Colgate made them pay. Malia Schneider split Robert Morris defenders Leah Carey and Natalie Fraser, corralled a pass from Jessie Eldridge before converting on a breakaway chance against Milne-Price to give the Raiders their first lead of the game.
But the Robert Morris defense redeemed itself. Specifically, it was Fraser, who collected a pass, drifted down from her blue-line perch and rifled a slap shot past the blocker side of Colgate goaltender Julia Vandyk to knot the game back up at two.
— RMU Hockey (@RMUWHockey) December 9, 2017
Robert Morris is no stranger to a high-powered blue line attack. Four of the Colonials’ top nine scorers are defenders. But Fraser isn’t a likely source of offense. The senior’s goal was just her second goal and fifth point of the season. In her four-year career, she’s found the back of the net just nine times.
Her goal against the Colonials will have some longstanding repercussions. The Raiders came into the game ranked No. 2 in PairWise, currently the highest-ranked team the Colonials will play this season. The road draw will go a long way to establishing an NCAA Tournament resume for the Colonials, who came into the game rated No. 10. Eight teams make the NCAA Tournament: the four conference champions and four at-large bids.
Though the late-game drama all came at 5-on-5, the Colonials built a 2-1 lead by winning the special teams battle. Lexi Templeman started the scoring with a power play tally at 16:21 of the first period. In the second period, Jaycee Gebhard added a shorthanded goal before Colgate’s Olivia Zafuto potted a power-play tally on the same 5-on-4 situation.
Each team finished 1 for 6 on the power play, with Gebhard’s shorthanded tally tilting the special teams battle into the Colonials’ favor. It was Gebhard’s first career shorthanded goal and fourth goal of the season overall.
The draw with the Raiders concludes the first half of the 2017-18 season for the Colonials. Their next game at back at RMU Island Sports Center on Jan. 5-6, when they host the third-place Syracuse Orange for a two-game set. Friday’s game will face off at 7:05 p.m. Puck drop on Saturday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.