NEVILLE TWP., Pa — Emilie Harley registered her first collegiate hat-trick and Robert Morris earned the series split with Mercyhurst on Saturday afternoon at the RMU Island Sports Center with a decisive 4-1 victory. Paul Colontino opened the game by leading with his usual cards, only to toss them in right after the face-off and combined senior Sarah Quaranta with sophomores Lexi Templeman and Emily Harley to jump-start the offensive explosion.
The Colonials opened up the scoring at 10:31 of the first frame as Harley placed a pass from the corner and off the stick of Lexi Templeman that beat Kennedy Blair.
Emma Nuutinen cashed in early on a 5-minute Kirsten Welsh penalty for head contact, as the winger took a shot from the right circle and beat first-year goaltender Arielle DeSmet to tie things up. Just over a minute later Quaranta and Harley found themselves on a 2-on-1, and as Quaranta moved to the bottom of the circle she fired a shot-pass off of the skate of Harley that ended up in the back of the Lakers net.
Harley cashed in for the second time in the third period, as a Summer-Rae Dobson delayed penalty lead to a 6-on-5 opportunity. She finished up the hat-trick by scoring an empty-net goal late in the third.
HARLEY, TUNED UP AND BUZZING
Harley started the game with three career goals, and ended up doubling that number at the end. The sophomore took the line changes Colontino put in to place and ran with it.
“It was a great personal victory for me, but obviously it was a huge team effort,” Harley said after the game. “Everybody in the locker room just bought in today, we all knew what this game meant and wanted to stay on top.”
Colontino explained his reasoning for splitting up three lines, even though they have been consistently strong all season.
“I think when you’re trying to spark a little bit of offense you have to be willing to mix and match and try new things, I thought right off the hop they showed great chemistry and they continued it when they were together throughout the whole game. Sometimes change is good, and it paid off for us today.
Arielle DeSmet made her fifth start of the season, but the first-year hadn’t seen action against a conference foe to this point. The start against the biggest rival in one of the biggest games of the year was telling of the goaltender from Vermont, as she remained composed throughout the entire tilt.
“It was a big win, and we needed it to stay in first place this weekend,” DeSmet explained. “To be able to have the backing of the team and to be in the net for it was huge.”
The Colonials finish the 2019 regular season next weekend, hosting Syracuse in a crucial series for both squads. The Colonials need one point to clinch a first-round bye in the CHA tournament and two points to take their third consecutive CHA regular season championship and the first seed in the tournament. A R.I.T. win over Mercyhurst on either day next weekend also clinches the title for Robert Morris. Games are scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Friday and 3:05 p.m. on Saturday. Saturday’s game will be pre-empted by senior night festivities, as the class of 2019 will be honored on the ice prior to the game.