NEVILLE TWP., Pa. — Robert Morris and Mercyhurst faced off on Friday night at RMU Island Sports Center for the first time in the 2017-18 season, with the Lakers taking the game, 1-0.
Coming off of a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory the previous Saturday afternoon against Ohio State, the stage was set for a typical rivalry game. The Colonials came into the game with the confidence of not only having defeated a highly ranked opponent, but the knowledge that they took seven out of eight points from their Interstate 79 counterparts a season ago.
On Friday night, it was the team from the northern end of the route that kept the nationally ranked Colonials in check with a stingy defensive effort in their own zone.
Mercyhurst defenders and forwards continuously jumped into the shooting lanes and closed off the passing lanes, confusing and stifling RMU’s highly touted defenders, the core of the Robert Morris offense.
Uncharacteristically, the Colonials took more than ample time to decide whether or not to put the puck on net, while the Lakers took every opportunity to exploit the temporary weakness.
“Our [defenders] were incredibly slow on the blueline,” head coach Paul Colontino said. “They weren’t ready for pucks, so when they got the pucks, Mercyhurst would be in our shooting lanes. They didn’t have to move a whole lot, they just came at our D and we shot at their shins.”
As a team, the Colonials weren’t their normal selves all game, failing to put much pressure on the Lakers offensively.
“We weren’t really moving, we made their jobs easier because we didn’t want to skate.” Colontino said. “They did a really nice job keeping us to the perimeter and taking care of their house, whereas we just really didn’t want to get into it.”
Mercyhurst came into the contest at 3-9-2 overall. Through those 14 games, had a five percent powerplay efficiency (3 goals in 55 attempts) and a leading scorer with seven points. On paper, it seemed like a matchup that favored the high-octane Colonials.
A strong feeling and reason that emanated after the game came from team captain Amanda Pantaleo was complacency.
“It wasn’t our game,” Pantaleo said. “I know we got a little overconfident after beating a ranked team, they just outplayed us, outworked us. I think they were motivated because we were a ranked team, we weren’t motivated because they weren’t a ranked team, and it just showed on the ice. I think people are pretty angry with this game. No one’s really happy right now. We know what we have to do, nobody wants to end up getting swept. Everyone’s just fired up to turn this weekend around.”
The Colonials were shut out for the first time this season, and the first time since the NCAA tournament game against Wisconsin last season. The Colonials fell to 10-41-3 against the Lakers all-time, and were shut out in twelve of those contests. … Elijah Milne-Price only ceded one goal on the evening, a deflection of a Brooke Hartwick shot by Alexa Vasko in the second frame. … It was the first career shutout for first-year goaltender Kennedy Blair, who redshirted last season. Blair joins Emma Nuutinen and Robert Morris forward Sarah Lecavalier as former teammates from the now-folded North Dakota program to take part in the contest.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Robert Morris and Mercyhurst will face off on Saturday at 5:05 p.m. It will be the final home contest for the Colonials in 2017. The team will have one more showdown after this weekend before the semester break, a 3:05 p.m. matchup with No. 3 Colgate in Hamilton, N.Y., on Dec 9.