Women’s hockey drops OT contest to Quinnipiac

Josh Yost, Staff Reporter

Nearing midway through the second period, a faceoff win drops into the corner and goes untouched by the Colonials for the next two minutes of play.

With the inconsistencies prevalent of a struggling team, the Robert Morris women’s hockey team (6-13-3) fell to fourth-ranked Quinnipiac (18-1-3) 3-2 in an overtime struggle.

“The thing about face-offs, when you get control of it, that’s a big part of the play,” said Mackenzie Johnston. “Because then you can start by having control instead of having to chase the puck.”

The game began with steady puck control by the heavily favored Bobcats, battling in the offensive zone as the Colonials struggled to adjust in all three zones.

Swarming to the puck in the offensive zone, with shots coming high from the left corner of the blue line, the Colonials seemed to keep Chelsea Laden on her toes — literally — as many shots soared high of the net.

It wouldn’t last much past the opening half of the frame, however, as the Colonials buckled down and got a couple lucky bounces to give them the momentum and confidence to truly take over the game.

Pressing hard in the offensive zone, the puck found it’s way off a shot by Mikaela Lowater to the stick of freshman Mackenzie Johnston in the corner. Hounded by a defender, she used her full wingspan to swing the puck to the front of the net for Anissa Gamble for the first goal of the game.

“Started off, went to the point, she shot it,” said Gamble about her goal. “The goalie made a nice save. Mackenzie basically took on four girls, and I was left alone. She passed it out front and I was able to go around and put it in.”

The Colonials would carry their 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

“I think it’s really nice line chemistry,” said Gamble after accounting for four shots in the first two periods. “I think coach did a really good job of picking players together. We’re not all the same. We got Mackenzie who’s really fast, Pantale who’s a good grinder and I just kind of hang out and pick off of them. It’s really nice, really nice ice balance.”

Through the beginning of the second period, the Colonials had full control with a steady defensive effort to aid Jessica Dodds in net and great puck control including an impressive one-on-two play by Gamble going high over the net. However, seven minutes into the period, the Colonials allowed a shot off the face-off while looking to rush toward offense and seemed to lose their momentum from there.

“We usually went into the corner, we just need more pop off the face-off — anticipate where it’s going to go,” said Johnston of the face-off issues.

A series went in favor of Quinnipiac, with shot after shot from the point getting deflected near the face-off dots. As Robert Morris attempted to clear, the puck was stolen away and given up front for a breakaway opportunity that sailed wide left. The rebound was recovered by Nicole Kosta, who sent the puck sailing through the crease for an easy tap in by Shiann Darkangelo to tie the game.

Quinnipiac didn’t let up there, however, including a big mental error for Megan Eady intercepting a pass only to react like it was an envelope without a stamp — return to sender.

She recovered almost immediately, however, and broke up a tic-tac-toe play to keep things tied at one into the second intermission despite issues with communication on defense.

Entering the third period, Quinnipiac was still on the hunt for what could be their first lead of the game. Just over a minute into it, they got a huge three-on-two with a tap back to captain Morgan Fritz-Ward trailing on the play. She took it on a toe drag and fired wide right for what was their biggest opportunity yet.

Frustrations continuing to run wild just a few minutes later, Ashley Vesci used her impressive speed to get an opportunity, but her pass goes to empty ice. The play was blown dead, although Robert Morris continued with a slap shot on goal and Vesci with a shove to Kosta from behind. Kosta retaliated with a slash and took a two-minute penalty.

On the powerplay, Robert Morris took only 35 seconds to get the go-ahead goal and their second lead of the game. With a consistent cycle, the puck found it’s way to the stick of Maddie Collias, who drew defenders into the corner and surveyed to get the puck to captain Rebecca Vint to the right of the goaltender. She faked the shot and rifled a pass to Johnston for a goal and the 2-1 lead.

“I think tonight proved we can keep up with a third in the nation team,” said Gamble. “You know, it’s a new year. We didn’t have the best start. I know everyone is eager to get out there and prove themselves, so it’s nice to see that. I think we’re really going team first and putting it all on the line. I think we have eleven games left, and we’re really putting it all out there.”

Two minutes later, however, the Colonials began falling behind on the play and took a tripping penalty. Luckily, Dodds was up to the task with multiple saves to freeze the puck three times for crucial line changes.

Nearly five minutes later, the Bobcats were on the prowl again after a debatable penalty was called on Katie Fergus. Vint would block two shots on the penalty kill and get a crucial clear midway through to keep the lines fresh. With just a few seconds remaining on the powerplay, the Bobcats got the puck to the point and fired a low wrister, and with exactly one second remaining tapped it in for the game-tying goal. They would force the game to overtime.

Overtime was swift for the Colonials, with Dodd doing her best impression of Dominik Hasek to slide every which way and stop the puck on a two-on-one early.

However just over a minute into OT, a second two-on-one developed and the puck sailed in over the blocker for the game winning goal.