The 2018 portion of the No. 8 Robert Morris women’s hockey schedule kicks off against Syracuse at the RMU Island Sports Center at 7:05p.m. on Friday. It will be the first matchup for the clubs since meeting in Buffalo on Mar. 4, when Robert Morris collected their second College Hockey America championship in a 2-0 victory over the Orange en-route to their first NCAA championship berth.
This year, the Colonials have an 11-3-3 record and will come out of the break in first place in the CHA. Heres a look at how Robert Morris has arrived to this point.
THE LONG ROAD BACK HOME
The season started out on a ten-game road trip that took them about as far as they could possibly go, including trips to Minnesota, Maine, Rhode Island, State College, and St. Louis.
After starting out the season with a sweep of Minnesota State, the Colonials hit their first bump of the year, splitting a series with the University of Maine. After an 11-0 win against Brown, Robert Morris needed late-game heroics from Natalie Fraser to secure a regulation victory and a sweep. The CHA-opening series with Penn State resulted in two toughly contested ties thanks to the offensive abilities of junior Kirsten Welsh, who recorded two goals during the weekend. A sweep at Lindenwood ended the odyssey and brought the Colonials home, where a test awaited them.
Two victories over RIT at home brought Robert Morris into a well deserved week off before a matchup with then No.5 Ohio State at the Island Sports Center. The Buckeyes were outplayed throughout the contest on Friday night, but followed a four goal first period en-route to a 7-4 win over the Colonials. Brittany Howard scored the game-tying and game-winning overtime goals on Saturday to lead Robert Morris to the win and the split.
Arch-rival Mercyhurst made the trip down Interstate 79 the following week, and sophomore Kennedy Blair shut the door on the Colonials on Friday before Amber Rennie evened the series with the Lakers in a 2-1 victory on Saturday.
The final test of the first half was a single-game showdown with No. 4 Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y. Robert Morris jumped out to a 2-0 lead before Colgate scored three consecutive goals to take the lead. Fraser once again proved clutch, firing a shot that earned the Colonials the tie.
In the first half, the Colonials relied on a well-rounded offensive attack led by defending CHA Player of the Year Howard. Howard is currently tied with Lindenwood sophomore Taylor Girard for the conference scoring lead. Defender Welsh shares the lead with Howard and Girard in terms of goals in the conference with five, a group that includes Orange senior Brooke Avery.
In their second year of playing together, the top line of Howard, junior Amber Rennie and sophomore Jaycee Gebhard have gone above and beyond reasonable expectations. The trio has 49.2 percent of the goals scored by the club in the 2017-18 season thus far. Howard leads the way with four game-winning goals, while Rennie has chipped in two.
First-year forward Lexi Templeman leads the secondary scoring coming into the back half of the season. Proving every bit the all purpose player, the Staffa, Ontario native starts her second semester with four of her six goals coming on the power-play. Sophomore transfer Sarah Lecavalier registered four goals in the first half, while senior captain Amanda Pantaleo has three tallies on the season.
A staple of the offensive attack on the Island has been the continued growth of a seasoned defensive core. Only graduating two defenders in two years allowed the group to meld into a more mature, cohesive unit together. Welsh passed 2017 alum Mikaela Lowater for career defensive scoring earlier in the season, balancing her offensive skill while moving into a strong leadership role. Joining Welsh on the blue line once again this year has been senior Katherine Murphy. Murphy has had a back-and-forth share of the career assists lead with sophomore Maggie LaGue. LaGue is joined this year by first-year defender Emily Curlett, who has seamlessly transitioned into the collegiate level quicker than most could have imagined. Rounding out the backline are shutdown seniors Fraser and Leah Carey, who have been relied on to provide grit and the occasional offensive spark.
FIRST YEAR PHENOMS
The crop of first-year talent under Paul Colontino had the rare opportunity to bond with their upperclassmen when the team started the season on a ten-game, six-week road trip. During the fifth game of the trip against Brown, Emilie Harley, Templeman, Lecavalier, and Curlett registered their first goals as Colonials. Curlett scored twice in the affair. Penguins Elite alum Anjelica Diffendal started chipping in later in the first half and fellow Elite product Morgan Schauer saw action in three games, including spot starts against Ohio State and Mercyhurst.
NAME YOUR PRICE
The top story from the first half of the season is the play of senior netminder Elijah Milne-Price, who stepped into the spotlight for Robert Morris after seeing minimal time as the No. 3 goaltender through the first three years of her career. After sharing the net with junior Lauren Bailey to start the season, Milne-Price has taken the crease with stellar play. With a .930 save-percentage and a 10-2-3 record through fifteen games, it’s safe to say that the crease is the senior’s to lose.
If Milne-Price does start to falter due to workload, as she played six games throughout her first three seasons, or any other reason, junior Lauren Bailey is a solid insurance policy. Bailey was the 1B to now-graduated Jessica Dodds’ 1A and led the Colonials to the CHA Tournament in 2016. Bailey’s season has been rocky thus far, with only four appearances to date, but a relief outing against Ohio State showed signs of the netminder of old.