Record-tying shutout leads Colonials over Orange

Josh Yost, Assistant Sports Editor

The zombies remained in their graves, the mummies in their tombs, the vampires in their coffins for the first period of play between the Robert Morris women’s hockey team (5-4-1) and the Syracuse Orange (4-5-0). With the massive absence of excitement to open the game, the only noted events to be had were penalties, which would become an indicator of the remainder of the game.

“There are some calls, refereeing, where it’s under your control or not under your control,” said goaltender Jessica Dodds. “So I think the best thing when it comes to bounces is just, you know, paying attention to the things you can control. What’s out of your control, you can’t do anything about that. So, last night, refereeing wasn’t overly great, we had some bad ones go the wrong way. We couldn’t really control them in a sense, so I think today, focusing mostly on what we can control made the difference for us.”

Eleven penalties were called in total, five on the Colonials and two in the final two and a half minutes to give the air a little breath of excitement during this dull and dreary day of the dead. Despite this, Dodds stood tall and effective to earn a 2-0 victory over the Orange. This shutout tied Dodds for the record with Brianne McLaughlin, currently playing professionally for the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL, for career shutouts at Robert Morris.

“It’s an extreme honor, that’s for sure,” said Dodds. “Bri comes out and works with us every week, so I have to give her a lot of credit for helping me get better each and every week and putting in an effort. It’s extremely just an honor, because she’s a phenomenal goalie and someone I look up to.”

Within the first period, the only true moment of intrigue came from a bad accident that mirrored a car crash. Syracuse player Heather Schawrz struggled to get up, and was helped to the bench by a trainer, but returned later in the game. Otherwise, three penalties were called and the game was tied at nothing going into the second period.

“It was a great game by our whole team, like, there were no single efforts,” said Brittany Howard. “Our whole team stepped up today for sure after that tough loss in OT last night, so it was nice to see.”

The second featured some more intrigue. Heading into the period, the Colonials had a powerplay to begin. To make use of it, they lined Howard up at a defensive spot on the face-off. With Sarah Quaranta tying up at the dot, Howard broke through and took the puck.

If not for some remarkably quick reactions from the defense, she may have had a chance. Instead, the Orange seemed prepared and stopped her dead in her tracks about halfway through the zone.

Syracuse held possession throughout much of the period, garnering powerplay opportunities in which they held the puck for upwards of 50 seconds. They were consistent in their cycle, swinging the puck from side to side. Robert Morris was consistent in it’s defense, however, and the chances failed to materialize.

“I do think they tried to use the cycle more in our end,” said Dodds. “I think the purpose of that was to get our forwards and defensemen tired, so that when they did try to bring it to the net, our players were a bit tired going towards the net. So I think kind of just realizing what they were trying to do and trying to outsmart them in a sense, and knowing what their gameplan was and just every time the puck came to me trying to control every rebound, trying to control every shot that I possibly could.”

It’s possible the best excitement came with the Colonials possessions. A little over halfway the period, they were on the penalty kill. Brittany Howard, with play like a third baseman, reacted quickly to the puck flying toward her cranium and gloved it down. She would do this consistently throughout the evening. This led to an odd-man rush for her and Quaranta, in which Quaranta pushed the puck ahead and drew a hooking penalty while Howard garnered an opportunity which would yield no success.

“You just have to know your role, try and like, on the last one, win the face-off and then block as many shots as you can so they don’t get to Dodds so she can save her shutout,” said Howard on the penalty kills.

It was just one of those days for the Colonials, and for Howard especially. She only had two shots in the game, but a multitude of opportunities created by swinging the puck from the side. Including one near the end of the period where she drew the entire defense away from the net, swung it to the opposing side and found Ashley Vesci awaiting the pass. Vesci would miss, and the game would remained tied into the third.

The third featured a few opportunities in which the fans very obviously disagreed with the referees, and let them know. However, the right calls were made to disallow a couple potential goals for the Colonials due to the net being dislodged.

Instead, it was Howard, the one who seemed to be dominant in this evening’s affair, who broke the tie with seven minutes left in the game. She received the puck on the cycle from Maggie Lague, took a few steps out from the corner to the face-off dot where she spun and shot by the blocker of Jenn Gilligan.

Into the final two minutes, the shutout on the line, and the Colonials take a couple penalties. Dodds was unphased. She stood tall for a scrum in front of her net, battling for the rebound and covering with exactly a minute to go despite three Syracuse players whacking at her glove.

“Honestly, you don’t really think about it,” said Howard. “You’re just more worried about the game and in the moment, but yeah, it was definitely nice to get the win today.”

With time winding down, Howard once again made the third base play to grab a line drive and with a good step, swung for a line drive of her own through the Orange defenders and to Ashley Vesci in the neutral zone. Vesci swung at the puck herself, and with exactly a second remaining scored her third goal of the weekend on an empty net from center ice.

The Colonials will be travelling to Rochester, New York, next weekend to take on RIT.