Colonials tie series 1-1 with a victory over Lindenwood

Sarah Heastings, Sports Writer

The Robert Morris University Colonials (16-15-5) tied their opening playoff series 1-1 with a 3-1 victory over the Lindenwood University Lions (9-23-4) on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 84 Lumber Arena.

In the best-of-three series, the stakes were high for the Colonials. They were down 1-0 in the series to the Lions, and one more loss meant instant elimination from the CHA playoff tournament. RMU rose to the challenge though, building off of the momentum they created in the third period of Friday night’s game.

Robert Morris was poised and ready for action, with intensity on each of the players’ faces. The power surging through the bench was electric.

The first period saw even play, with both teams exchanging good plays, as well as turnovers, in the neutral zone. Robert Morris dictated the pace of the game, but Lindenwood rose to catch them.

Colonial defender Kirsten Welsh was sent to the penalty box at 18:40 on an interference call that didn’t sit right with Colonial fans. Lindenwood was unable to cash in on the extra man advantage.

Both teams headed to the locker room after a scoreless period. The crowd new a scoring spree was coming, the only question was when.

As fate would have it, at 3:44, Brittany Howard finagled her into the paint and lifted a shot past Lion goaltender Nicole Hensley. Fans and players alike cheered and celebrated, knowing they were not playing from behind.

“It’s definitely a lot more comfortable,” said senior captain Ashley Vesci (on playing with the lead). “It felt good today, we had the momentum…. It’s hard to get fired up whenever you’re playing from behind, but today we had the momentum the whole time and it made a huge difference.”

The Colonials kept grinding away, and at 13:00, Vesci found the back of the net, redirecting a hard shot by Welsh.

Freshman goaltender Lauren Bailey got the nod for the game, and stood tall in net. Coming up big, she made key saves that kept RMU in front.

“It was pretty big,” said Bailey on her first career playoff start. “It was nice to get the win. I just go out there and try my hardest.”

The second period saw three penalties. Lions Sarah Bobrowski and Ally Larson did time for holding (1:00) and checking (18:27) respectively. Colonial forward Jessica Gazzola also did two minutes for checking at 15:15.

At the second intermission, the score was 2-0 in favor of the Colonials.

Though they had a comfortable lead, RMU was not finished. At 7:14 in the third, forward Mackenzie Johnston found the net on a power play opportunity, off of an interference call to LU’s Britannia Gillanders at 5:32. Johnston was assisted by teammates Mikaela Lowater and Maeve Garvey.

It seemed as if the crowd was going to witness Bailey’s first playoff shutout, but Lion forward Shara Jasper drove one home to finally put Lindenwood up on the board at 7:56. The goal came at even strength, off assists from Carrie Atkinson and Sarah Bobrowski.

After Lindenwood’s goal, the game became increasingly physical. The spectators witnessed a roughing call on Lion Shara Jasper at 9:12, a tripping call on Welsh at 11:45, and a slashing call to Jasper at 19:33. The Colonials remained tough, however, and kept the Lions away from Bailey.

The game ended with a score of 3-1 in favor the Robert Morris University Colonials. RMU faces off against LU again on Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 3 p.m. at 84 Lumber Arena. It is the last game of the best-of-three series, and determines which team will travel to Buffalo for the tournament semi-finals.