Here’s the preview for Robert Morris-St. Anslem today, as well as the history. It may be winded, as we have two-plus years to cover.
WHERE DO THEY STAND?
College Hockey America released its 2023-24 preseason poll in September with the Robert Morris Colonials women’s hockey program ranked third. Yes, those Colonials. The Colonials that won the College Hockey America Championship in 2021 after a COVID-19 shortened season that saw the limitations and restrictions of fans, media, and even the athletes involved. Postgame interviews were held remotely, via zoom from one area of the Erie Insurance Arena.
Robert Morris’ victory was the 3rd CHA championship for the program (2012, 2017, 2021) and came during a stretch in which they qualified for the CHA Championship Game six consecutive years. A team that went on to give top seeded (and eventual NCAA runner-up) Northeastern a run for their money in the NCAA Tournament. A team that consistently touted about how “raising the bar” was the standard. A team that in a short period of time made national women’s collegiate hockey waves.
Cue May 26th, 2021. A day that many will never forget.
The board of directors, at the behest of (former) President Christopher Howard at Robert Morris eliminated the college hockey programs, effective immediately. The backlash was quicker than imagined. Resignations of board members, lawsuits, petitions, and even the formation of the Pittsburgh College Hockey Foundation (now known as the Colonial Hockey Foundation) placed pressure on the University to return the team to the ice for the 2021-22 season. To no avail, the damage was already done.
The damage: the timing was not ideal. Most NCAA teams had already filled their commitments for the upcoming season, and the transfer portal was not quite a thing yet for women’s hockey. While the university offered to honor the scholarships for the athletes, there was a major level of uncertainty. Seniors that had a chance to contemplate (and possibly had already decided on) a return to the squad for the shutdown related extra year of eligibility had to adjust to possibility of not playing again. Younger players had a tougher time. Commits had to reassess a situation, hoping that other offers were available.
The hockey community, spearheaded by the CHF, Robert Morris Women’s Head Coach Logan Bittle and Men’s coach Derek Schooley, continued to find unique ways of raising the funds to create an opportunity to bring the programs back. Celebrity games, golf outings, multiple online auctions as well as in-kind donations were had. The community, the media, all showed out for the program, and the University reinstated the program on December 17th of the same year. Because of the fallout from the initial decision (and the legality of the NCAA regulations & transfer portal) the teams needed time to reset.
SO, WHERE DID THEY ALL GO?
On the women’s side, Seniors Lexi Templeman and Emily Curlett moved on to Ohio State for their fifth year of eligibility with standout net minder Raygan Kirk. The trio found success, helping the Buckeyes to the 2022 National Championship. Templeman added her name to another trophy in 2023 with the PHF Toronto Six, placing her name on the Isobel Cup. Arielle DeSmet, one of the only Colonials to stay in-conference, found major success with Syracuse. The netminder went on to win back-to-back CHA Championships and was named the CHA Goaltender of the Year in 2022 before completing her collegiate career this past spring.
Michaela Boyle transferred to her native Boston, joining Boston College before signing with Buffalo of the PHF. Marah Wagner joined RPI, Kyliegh Hanzlik finished her career in Minnesota. Highly touted first-year Ellie Marcovsky went Ivy, joining Princeton. Anna Fairman joined Team China and finishes up her career with LIU this upcoming season. Molly Pedone is suiting up for Division-III Utica college.
In Canada, Maggy Burbidge had 47 points for St. Francis Xavier. Mackenzie Krasowski scored six for Ontario Tech. Joelle Fiala played for the University of British Columbia.
Three Colonials headed straight for the pros – Seniors Emily Harley, Anjelica Diffendal and Junior Leah Marino.
2021 stretch-run and record setting Senior goaltender Molly Singewald called it a career after graduation.
Head Coach Paul Colontino joined Bishop Kearney Selects, becoming the VP of Hockey Administration as well as the head coach of the Girls 19U program.
Missing are four names off of the list – Defenders Gillian Thompson, Wasyn Rice & Ally Hebert decided to ride out their academic careers at Robert Morris and will be anchoring a Robert Morris blue line that will be ripe with experience. Chase Sperling returns from a stint at St. Cloud State.
The rest of the team can be explained and understood here.
Long time Robert Morris associate head coach Logan Bittle returns to the fold as the full-time head coach for the upcoming season.
Personally, I am so excited to write that phrase again after so long.
The 1-1 Colonials clash with the St. Anslem Hawks today at 2:00pm at the RMU Island Sports Center. Face-off is scheduled for 12:00pm at Clearview Arena at the Robert Morris Island Sports Center. The series concludes tomorrow at noon at Clearview Arena.
Today marks a new day for collegiate women’s hockey in the Pittsburgh region. Robert Morris takes the ice today, again, after what seems to be forever. I have been covering this squad since November 2015, and have seen all the ups and downs imaginable.
This is a bittersweet day for me. While this series opens a new era of Robert Morris Women’s hockey, we can close the volume on a successful chapter one. I assume we can take solace in that. After all, the community that supported the squads for their first itineration is more congealed than ever, and with a stronger supporting cast than previous.
After the final whistle, this all becomes archived history, and that’s not necessarily bad. We build on, and learn from, the past; our mistakes, our trials and tribulations, our growth. I look forward to embracing the new age and bringing everyone game coverage that they can be excited about.
I personally would like to thank every individual, especially our former colleague (and a very good friend of mine) Andrew Wisneski, coaches Derek Schooley and Logan Bittle for bringing this back for a new generation. The perseverance in the face of futility was the reason we are all able to enjoy the game we love today.