NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Three intrepid young women who, over the past four years, skated together, scored together and roared together in the uniform of the Robert Morris women’s hockey team got their side on the board together, and won together on Colonials Arena ice for one last time.
Jaycee Gebhard’s two goals and assist, along with an early marker from Natalie Marcuzzi and clutch play at the point from Sarah “Crash” Lecavalier, helped RMU (18-10-4, 12-4-2 CHA) triumph, 5-2, over RIT (11-8-3, 4-13-1 CHA) on the trio’s Senior Day at the RMU Island Sports Center Saturday afternoon.
Gebhard, with at least three more games left as a collegian, now needs six points to reach 200 for her NCAA career.
The Colonials shook off a tough outing last week at arch-nemesis Mercyhurst with a home sweep of the Tigers. This marked the fourth season in a row Robert Morris took both home contests with RIT, as its seniors put up six points as a group.
“Every year, as a coach, you ask yourself, how does the next group manage to raise the bar? Amazingly, they all find a way. It’s absolutely incredible,” said head coach Paul Colontino. “This group is a smaller group in numbers, but a huge group in stature. Their presence, in the locker room, on the bench, on the ice, is massive.
“We’re incredibly happy for them with today’s game, and we’re obviously very happy for them for their careers here.”
Marcuzzi got the party started with her fifth goal of the season just 35 seconds into the Colonials’ home curtain-dropper. Before Terra Lanteigne could notice, she flipped a loose puck right on her doorstep underneath the bar.
Gebhard earned the primary assist from behind the Tigers’ cage, while Lecavalier got the second apple. RIT head coach Chad Davis, in an unconventional move, though perhaps not a surprising one coming off Friday’s lopsided result, used his timeout right away.
The Mississauga Jr. Chiefs product nearly netted two in a row, forcing a bad-angle backhander from in tight off the post to the left of Lanteigne with 13:53 to play in the first period.
RIT, however, did settle down after the timeout, and, after a somewhat lengthy video review, Madison Farrand was credited with the equalizer with 8:38 left, just her second of the season. Raising her stick, she redirected a shot from distance that caught Raygan Kirk leaning the wrong way.
It took Gebhard just 1:43 to restore the lead for Robert Morris. With the lion’s share of her native Plenty, Saskatchewan in attendance, the program’s all-time scoring queen finished a backdoor play from Lexi Templeman in the blink of an eye that, also, withstood review.
Sophomore defender Gillian Thompson earned the secondary helper on the go-ahead tally by her captain.
Following Gebhard’s 17th goal as a senior, Kirk made a loud kick save in the period’s final minute, steering a potentially juicy rebound aside. The Colonials counterattacked in earnest, and Courtney Kollman got her fifth of the campaign on a play similar-looking to Gebhard’s from the edge of the left circle with 26 seconds to spare for a 3-1 RMU edge. Robinson Township’s Anjelica Diffendal was credited with the secondary assist.
A scary moment occurred just over four minutes into the second period when Jaymee Nolan got the worst of a collision with Kirk. After receiving medical attention from both teams, Nolan was helped up and off the ice by her teammates, also being assessed a goalie interference minor in the process. Robert Morris, however, was unable to capitalize with Maddie Dunham serving the penalty.
RIT was also unable to take advantage of a power play, and an extended one, at that, when Michaela Boyle received five-and-a-game for a hit from behind later in the middle frame, but it did generate some momentum afterward. Abby Davies cut the Colonials’ lead to 3-2 with 3:59 until the intermission.
Still, after taking the Tigers’ best punch, Robert Morris, led by one of the most prolific seniors in school history on her big day, counter-punched effectively.
Gebhard, with help from Joelle Fiala, forced a turnover at the RIT blue line at the end of another Colonials penalty kill, and the former Notre Dame Hounds standout beat Lanteigne with a snap shot from within the right circle for her second of the afternoon, making it 4-2 with 11:40 left in regulation.
With 7:17 remaining, Janey Sandoval provided the final margin for Robert Morris with her first goal of the year–oddly enough, the second consecutive Senior Day on which she opened her regular-season account. She locked up the win by scooping the puck away from a prone RIT defender and burying point-blank.
Kirk finished with 17 saves, and Gebhard also paced the Colonials with 12 faceoff wins and a plus-3 rating. Thompson ended her day with two assists.
Given front-runner Mercyhurst’s concurrent 1-0 victory over visiting Syracuse, the RMU women will need help from Penn State, which hosts the Lakers next weekend, to bring their hopes of a fourth consecutive College Hockey America regular-season title to fruition.
Minimally, the Colonials can clinch the other first-round bye in the CHA Tournament with a single point against the Orange, who welcome RMU to Tennity Ice Pavilion for the final series of the regular season.
The series opener gets underway next Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with the puck dropping on the finale next Saturday at 3 pm.