NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — On a day that Robert Morris honored their most tenured players, it was equal parts first year and final year that led the Colonials to a 4-0 win over Lindenwood at the Island Sports Center on Saturday, sweeping the Lions on the season over four games.
Brittany Howard opened up the scoring in the first, firing a rocket past Lions first-year starter Lauren Hennessey. Howard’s tally was her 74th career goal, passing Rebecca Vint for first all-time on the Robert Morris scoresheet.
Howard, who already owns a first-edition copy of the Colonials record book, added another chapter to her legacy, where she holds the record for points and assists. Howard had two assists on the afternoon to giver her 99 in her career.
Humble as always, Howard deterred from taking credit for her success, instead choosing to give credit to her linemates.
“Records are meant to be broken,” Howard said. “Hopefully [Gebhard] or Rennie can pass me with a couple good years.”
She also scored the game-winner in Robert Morris’ 1-0 victory over Lindenwood on Friday. It was the 18th game-winning goal of her career, tying Vint for that program record, as well.
Emily Curlett added a goal in the second period, followed 19 seconds later on a goal by senior Amanda Pantaleo. Montour graduate and Penguins Elite product Anjelica Diffendal then scored on a two-on-one with Howard, lifting the puck over Hennessey’s left pad and putting it behind the netminder. Jaycee Gebhard scored late to add on.
Elijah Milne-Price recorded 20 saves for her second consecutive shutout and her fourth of the season. She now has a goalless streak of 153:31. That’s the second-longest such streak in program history, trailing only the 172:49 mark set by Brianne McLaughlin in 2006.
“She’s worked so hard in her career to get to this point,” Paul Colontino explained. “She’s reaped some of these rewards towards the end of her senior year, and she’s had a phenomenal year already. To have a senior weekend at home, and for the rest of your life to say ‘Yeah, back-to-back shutouts at home, the last time I played there I had that rink under control’ yeah, it was nice to see her get those two.”
In past seasons the Colonials have adapted to the rigors of the late season push by rolling their top-nine or ten forwards as they prepared for the CHA tournament, sometimes only playing four defenders.
So far in 2018, Colontino hasn’t seen a reason to do so. First year players Lexi Templeman and Curlett have run rickshaw over the scoresheet, with Curlett setting the single-season record for goals by a defender with her eighth of the campaign on Saturday. Montour native and First-year forward Anjelica Diffendal made a phenomenal move on Hennessey on a two-on-one with Howard for the fourth Colonial goal.
The play of the lower six has been a positive point for the stretch run, as Diffendal joined Emilie Harley, Sarah Lecavalier, Natalie Marcuzzi, Sarah Quaranta, Caitlin Sadowy and Aneta Ledlova to create a bottom six rotation that has been capable of lightening the load for the upperclassmen.
“It is huge,” Colontino explained. “It allows you to stay fresher in games, and we’re getting phenomenal shifts from all four lines, generating good offense. Harley, [Diffendal], [Lecavalier], they come out with a couple huge shifts, draw a penalty on one, and we get the Curlett goal on another shift. Two huge plays, and you get that from all four lines. As a coach, you feel good about it. You feel like you’ve got players in many different circumstances that can bring something to the table, and it allows us to lighten everybody’s load. You have each player carrying less on her shoulders because you can distribute it evenly.”
The upperclassmen are starting to take notice.
“I think we’re getting twelve forwards that can play at this level,” Pantaleo said. “That’s good that those twelve forwards can compete, that just shows that our compete level is getting high, we’re getting good players coming into this program. It’s good that we’re getting to choose twelve instead of nine players or just six players.”
PLAN FOR TRAVEL
The Colonials travel up I-79 for the final series with the Mercyhurst Lakers, the team that they are neck and neck with for the conference title. By virtue of a weekend of ties with the Nittany Lions, the Lakers now sit two points behind the Colonials. Robert Morris can clinch a share of the CHA regular season championship and the top seed in the tournament in Erie with a sweep of the Lakers.
Puck drop from Mercyhurst Ice Arena is slated for 7:05 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, and 2:05 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11.
The men’s hockey team will join them on Saturday for a unique road double-header at the rink on Saturday after the Colonials face the Lakers men’s team at RMU Island Sports Center Friday night.