Women’s hockey finishes season with CHA title

By Alyssa Benson, Copy Editor

After finishing the 2010-2011 season, the Robert Morris University women’s hockey team found themselves in last place in College Hockey America (CHA) while holding a 6-21-7 overall record and a 2-9-5 conference record.

Following the season former head coach, Nate Handrahan, left RMU and former Mercyhurst associate head coach, Paul Colontino, was chosen to lead the team.

Colontino then hired former Colonial, Brianne McLaughlin and former Niagara University goaltender Allison Rutledge to round out the coaching staff.

“I could go on and on with so many positive things about this year’s coaching staff,” said junior defenseman Jamie Joslin. “They did an outstanding job with us this year and they got to know us as not only as players but as people too.”

With a new coach comes a new system, and Colontino’s system implemented at the beginning of the season helped get the team off to a six game winning streak to start the season.

“I think it was a huge step because at the beginning of the year. Different coaches do different things and we were doing some things differently than they’ve done in the past,” said Colontino. “So I think the instant reassurance of ‘hey things are paying off,’ in terms of wins and losses, were the real kinds of reinforcement that we needed to get moving in the right direction.”

The Colonials jumped out to a 13-2-1 record before starting conference play, and the team’s confidence continued to grow.

Junior goaltender, Kristen DiCiocco, stepped up to the task of becoming starting goaltender, and played a huge role in the teams success.

“She came back to a tough situation where she probably had a lot of question marks, personally, about what was going to happen,” Colontino said. “She stepped in, played well, and got more confident as time went on. Before you knew it she was doing extremely well.”

Following the annual College Hockey Showcase and a series against Providence, the Colonials got into conference play, and made history in their first CHA series of 2012. The team beat Mercyhurst for the first time in program history, and also handed the Lakers their first CHA loss of the season.

For the first time in program history, the Colonials finished conference play with a winning record, and in second place, just behind Mercyhurst.

“I think the key to our success this season was the amount of heart our team had,” said junior forward, Cobina Delaney. “We never gave up and always worked together and the amount of work we put into this season paid off.

“We were able to take care of the little things off the ice. I mean, 20 of us girls together everyday we became very close and I think the bond teams have off the ice really contributes to their success on the ice,” Joslin added. “Our team was fortunate enough to have that strong bond. We’ve got a great group of girls that hold each other accountable and that has really helped with that on-ice chemistry.”

Heading into the playoffs the Colonials knew they had home ice advantage regardless of their seed, as they were the host for this year’s tournament. They topped Niagara on day one by a score of 3-2.

Next up for the team was Colontino’s former team, and CHA rival, Mercyhurst. Colontino’s squad was able to come out strong, and defeat the Lakers to become the first team to win a CHA title, other than Mercyhurst.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we are the first team in the CHA to win the championship other then Mercyhurst,” said Delaney. “It’s a great thing to have accomplished and I am still so happy about it.”

After being picked to finish fourth in the conference at the beginning of the season, the Colonials exceeded expectations when they won it all.

“Being picked to finish last was definitely hard to swallow but after finishing 2nd in the conference this year, very close behind No.6 Mercyhurst, and winning the CHA’s couldn’t have been a better feeling,” recalled Joslin. “It always tastes extra sweet when you prove people wrong, and I think people will definitely watch out for us next season.”

The Colonials are already prepared to have a target on their backs next season, and know it comes with winning a title.

“I think any time you win it people are ready. It’s like ‘hey they’re dangerous we need to be ready both offensively and defensively,” said Colontino. “I’m certain there are going to be people that want to knock us off and there’s going to be a target there but that’s the price you pay for winning.”