NEVILLE TWP. — The Robert Morris women’s hockey team entered their weekend series undefeated and hosting another undefeated club in the Vermont Catamounts at 84 Lumber Arena on Friday. The Colonials wanted to set the pace of the game early on and did just that by jumping out to an early lead and finishing with a 3-2 win that pushed them to 4-0-1 on the season.
Last week, it was the dynamic line of Jaycee Gebhard, Amber Rennie and Brittany Howard scoring on their first shift, giving the Colonials the early lead. Friday it was more of the same. This time, it was Amber Rennie knocking home a rebound to give the Colonials a 1-0 lead just one minute into the game.
“Getting the first goal off of the first shift is huge. It relieves a lot of pressure for all of the girls on the bench,” said Rennie, who now has four goals in five games.
The Rennie, Howard, Gebhard line struck again in the second period on the power play to give the Colonials a 2-1 lead in which they did not relinquish. That line producing two goals per game has been the usual so far this year, as the three have 21 combined points through five games. Gebhard leads the team with four goals, and the three have combined for five power play goals. Pittsburgh Penguins fans know and love the “HBK” line from the 2016 playoff run. With the success of this local Pittsburgh line, it may soon be time to find them a nickname, and give them a Primanti’s sandwich.
“They keep doing great things. [Brittany Howard] is doing a fantastic job,” added head coach Paul Colontino. “She just keeps setting people up and they are finishing. The chemistry, you can see it. It is great and you just want them to keep playing great hockey.”
Fortunately, some of the chemistry in which these three have has been in the making for years and is now paying off on a bigger stage. Gebhard and Rennie played for the same junior club, the Notre Dame Hounds, and have been linemates for 10 years before this season. Rennie and Howard played on the same line for the Colonials last season. Colontino mentioned seeing the chemistry and the spark of these three from the second they stepped on the ice together, and it has the Colonials playing a fast and impressive style of hockey.
“I think we have a faster team for sure,” mentioned Colontino. “The pace today, we thought the game had a great pace. That line particularly, they help establish that pace. They amp up the game. The defense does a nice job moving the puck up for a great transition and to our forwards credit, they are catching passes with speed and doing well.”
“I think it’s communication,” said Rennie. “We are always talking to each other, letting each other know where we are, supporting each other. We want to make the best of every opportunity.”
So far, the Colonials have done just that. When that line is on the ice, they instantly create chances. The pressure picks up and teams clearly have not been ready for what is about to hit them. While these three are off to a record-breaking start, Colontino knows that this is a long season, and is quick to remind his young, but talented group that as well as they have played, the only thing that truly matters is what happens next.
“You have to continue to grow. The truth is everyone keeps getting into better game shape. Everybody gets faster,” said Colontino. “If this is where we are starting, I think it is a great start. We have to keep moving forward, though.”
Last week, the team failed to put the nail in the coffin of the RPI Engineers and walked away from the weekend with a 1-0-1 record. This week, the Colonials will look to show that they are moving forward by playing a complete game and finishing off a sweep of the Catamounts on Saturday at 84 Lumber Arena.
“We have to come out like we did on the first shift of this period. Make sure they know that we are not going to sit back,” added Rennie.
If that line can consistently come out like they did on that first shift, the Colonials are set to be a force as they enter conference play in the next couple of weeks.