NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Robert Morris sealed up a first-round bye in the College Hockey America playoffs on Friday, but not the way the Colonials wanted to.
The Colonials lost to the Syracuse Orange by a 3-1 score at RMU Island Sports Center on Friday night, but secured a second-place finish and first-round bye in the CHA with Mercyhurst’s loss to Penn State.
Syracuse managed to make the most of its opportunities after falling behind 1-0 in the first period, putting forth a strong effort that saw them out keep the Colonials to the perimeter while cashing in on their close-range chances.
“We generated a lot of odd man rushes that we have to get better at and we were generating offensive plays that were one and done,” Colonials head coach Paul Colontino said. “There were rebounds there and we just have to get better at anticipating and then getting tougher and going after those. That was a difference maker.”
The Colonials did indeed generate a great deal of shots as they put 50 pucks to the net on Syracuse goaltender Allison Small. However, rebounds and second-chance opportunities were taken care of by a Syracuse defense that kept the front of the net in order. Colonials forward Lexi Templeman took a perfect feed from Michaela Boyle buried it past Small to give her side a 1-0 lead at 10:29 of the first period. From that point on, Small simply made one save after another with relative ease while her team mates found their own opportunities.
Orange forward Anna Leschyshyn put home a rebound past starting Colonials netminder Arielle DeSmet to tie the game less than five minutes later with a goal that served as a microcosm of how the Colonials night went.
“Where they kind of took advantage of tonight was in front of both nets,” Templeman said. “They kind of bear down more in front of our net and we didn’t do the same in front of theirs. So for tomorrow that’s definitely an area of focus and something that we want to get better at and I think we’ll be successful if we do that.”
On an Orange power play with just over five minutes remaining in the second period, Abby Moloughney finished a furious goal mouth scramble by getting the puck past DeSmet to make it a 2-1 game. Robert Morris conjured more offense in the third period during moments that saw them apply offensive zone pressure with authority as they put 25 shots on the Syracuse net. Small stood tall though and was hard to beat both down low or when using the glove.
“We’ve got to box out better and push play back,” Colontino added. “At times, we have our eyes facing our net and we’re fishing for bouncing pucks and we saw how that goes and we’ve got to get it turned around, take the body, clear the net and clear some pucks.”
Syracuse forward Hannah Johnson put an end any reasonable chance for the Colonials to make it to overtime when she placed a puck perfectly in the top left corner past DeSmet to round out the scoring late in the third period. The two teams finish their weekend series and the 2020-21 regular season on Saturday afternoon at 2:05 p.m. at RMU Island Sports Center.