Colonials fall to Lakers in CHA championship



Photo credit: Katey Ladika

Adam Melluso

It was a game Robert Morris had to win. For their seniors and for their fans. Unfortunately, their dream fell just short at the end of a thrilling season as RMU (21-7-4, 14-3-3 CHA) battled Mercyhurst (17-14-4, 13-4-3 CHA) Saturday afternoon at the HARBORCENTER in Buffalo, New York.

The contest started off with plenty of physicality, with both teams trading hits in the early going with RMU escaping a hooking call against the Lakers’ Sam Isbell.

The Colonials didn’t waste any time putting their potent power play to work as Mercyhurst’s Rachel Marmen was sent to the box for tripping at the 6:14 mark of the period. It only took RMU 29 seconds on the man advantage to find the back of the net.

Jaycee Gebhard worked the puck over to Maggie Lague, who fed Emily Curlett on a one-time blast from the point that beat Kennedy Blair at 6:43 to give the Colonials a 1-0 lead.

The Lakers would then get their own chance on the power play just over five minutes later when Curlett was sent to the box for hooking at the 11:10 mark.

The Colonials were able to dominate the Lakers for the majority of the man advantage, easily clearing the puck out of their zone, but with just 6 seconds left in the penalty, Alexa Vasko dropped the puck for Emma Nuutinen, who slapped one over the pad of Elijah Milne-Price to tie the game at 1.

RMU was determined to get the game back in their favor, and did so just 1:01 later, when Brittany Howard wristed a shot past Blair off a pass from Amber Rennie, and Robert Morris was back in the lead 2-1 at the 14:05 mark on Howard’s 25th of the season. The opening period ended with RMU doubling up Mercyhurst in shots on goal, 14-7.

The 2nd period saw the wheels start to fall off for Robert Morris. Just a little over four and a half minutes into the middle period, Alexa Vasko sped down the ice with Summer-Rae Dobson and flung a wrister past Milne-Price to tie the game for the Lakers at 2, and score her first career collegiate goal.

The bad luck continued for the Colonials throughout the rest of the frame, as they were unable to get many quality shots on Blair and were sloppy with puck control, giving the puck away multiple times in their own zone. As a result, the Finnish duo of Emma Nuutinen and Vilma Taskanen were able to help put the Lakers firmly ahead by the end of the period.

At the 9:01 mark, they set up Rachel Marmen, who wristed one through traffic and up high on Price to give Mercyhurst a 3-2 lead. The Colonials looked like they may have had a chance to tie things up, as Sarah Lecavalier went down the ice on a 2-on-one, but couldn’t finish the job. Then, Nuutinen struck again. At the 17:05 mark, she took a feed from Taskanen, deked out the RMU defenders, and went top shelf on a backhand on the breakaway to put Mercyhurst up by two, 4-2.

Despite RMU still leading in shots after 40 minutes, 22-17, they were outshot by the Lakers 10-8 in the period. However, they would begin the final period of regulation on a power play after Sam Isbell was assessed a body checking penalty as the period ended.

The 3rd was even more unlucky for RMU, as they failed to score on the power play at the start of the period, and then took a string of penalties (including a double minor to Brittany Howard) throughout the rest of the regulation frame.

Jessica Gazzola gave the Colonials one last gasp of getting close when she netted her 6th of the season at the 16:23 mark assisted by Natalie Fraser. But time eventually ran out on Robert Morris’s campaign for another championship and NCAA tournament bid. Coach Paul Colontino stated that, while the outcome wasn’t what the team was looking for “we can’t let this one game define our season…we are so proud of all our players.”

Captain Amanda Pantaleo felt that her team just was unable to get anything going in the 2nd and that they “played flat.” She also felt that when it came to Mercyhurst’s outburst of offense, “we made some mistakes and they capitalized on those.”

Robert Morris outshot the Lakers in final shots on goal, 34-25.