Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Robert Morris

Preview: Robert Morris’ 15th go-around

-- JARED TODHUNTER

Robert Morris opens their 15th season of NCAA play this coming weekend, welcoming Union to the Island Sports Center. Before the team takes the ice, here’s what you need to know heading into the campaign.

TALKING… FORWARDS

When the puck drops on the milestone year for the Colonials, it does so with one of the more prolific scorers in the Collegiate Hockey America conference and NCAA heading into her senior season.

Jaycee Gebhard leads the squad with a 1.31 points-per-game average, identical to the current Robert Morris career leader, Brittany Howard. The Plenty, Saskatchewan natives 51-point campaign in 2018-19 is a club record, besting Howard’s mark by one and sits a mere 46 points from tying her career record. Career goals are not out of the range of the latest Colonials captain, as her 54 goals are 25 shy of Brittany’s record. To surpass the mark this year, she will need to at least match the current professionals season mark.

Fellow senior Natalie Marcuzzi is every bit the playmaker of her classmate, and is poised for a breakout year after her first-year in a fourth line role and two years of a support role.

Juniors Lexi Templeman and Penguins Elite product Anjelica Diffendal saw a steady increase in their ice times the past two seasons, and with Harley moving to defense additional time could be available for lightly-used center Janey Sandoval. Alison Rodgers, a 2019 transfer rounds out the juniors as another option for Colontino on the wing.

Leah Marino, Courtney Kollman and Mackenzie Krasowski are the sophomores joining Boyle in the class of 2022 up front. Marino increased her production and workload as the season progressed. Kollman started the season on the top line last year, and Krasowski was inactive due to injuries throughout her first year, but in the early part of the season both showed offensive upside.

The crop of first-years on the attack include Maggie Burbidge, Marah Wagner and Joelle Fiala. All three are expected to see plenty of playing time early in the upcoming season.

TALKING… TRANSFERS

For the third straight year the Colonials add a player in their sophomore year via the transfer portal, this time it’s forward Michaela Boyle. The Reading, Massachusetts native comes into the season a year after a lower-body injury that led to a transfer to Neville Township, and the recovery encompassed the NCAA’s required year sabbatical from athletics that accompany it. Four years of USA Hockey’s National Development Camp, multiple All-Star nods with the Boston Shamrocks and an NCAA National Championship with Clarkson round out the resume for Boyle.

TALKING… BACKSTOPS

Returning to the crease are junior Molly Singewald and sophomore Arielle DeSmet. Singewald saw limited action behind graduates Lauren Bailey and Elijah Milne-Price in 2017-18 and Bailey and DeSmet last year.

DeSmet earned a number of starts in 2018-19, including both CHA postseason starts. The Charlotte, Vermont native earned conference rookie-of-the-week honors twice during the campaign.

Joining the mix is Raygan Kirk, a highly touted net-minder from St. Anne, Manitoba and former starter for the Canadian U18 squad. She will be competing for starting time with DeSmet early on in what could be a very tight race.

TALKING… DEFENSE

One of the biggest shoes to fill in the upcoming season is on the blue-line. Graduating two of the top defenders in Kirsten Welsh and Maggie LaGue in 2019, as well as the transfer of former Penguins Elite and depth defender Morgan Schauer left a void that was an issue.

In comes two first-years. Alyson Hebert, whose name Colonials and Tomahawks fans should recognize due to the connection with her brothers, joins the team from the Ottawa Lady Senators with Anna Fairman, who comes from Belle Tire. They join senior Sarah Lecavalier, the dynamic junior Emily Curlett and sophomores Gillian Thompson and Wasyn Rice.

The Colonials may be starting the season without Rice (undisclosed), so they’re turning to a common occurrence – conversion of a forward. Emilie Harley had a strong first two seasons as the third-line center for Paul Colontino and had a regular shift on the defensive side during the exhibition on Saturday.

TALKING… COACHING

Colontino heads into his ninth season as the head coach of the squad, with two CHA titles, four finals and an NCAA appearance on his resume. Joining him is associate head coach Logan Bittle, entering his tenth season behind the Colonials bench, and fourteenth overall at the University. Jennifer Kindret joins the staff after time at King’s University. Kindret takes over the assistant coach role vacated with Chelsea Walkland’s departure to Colgate. Josh Funk, formerly of Miami (OH) comes on as a volunteer assistant.

TALKING… IS OVER

The Colonials open their 15th season against the Union Dutchmen on Friday and Saturday at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center. Face-off is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Friday and 3:05 p.m. on Saturday.

It’s the first of two “Skate with the Colonials” nights on Friday night, with a free skate ($3 to rent skates) after the conclusion of the contest.

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