RMU women’s hockey wins 2021 CHA Championship


Women’s hockey celebrates its championship. Photo Credit: Justin Berl

By Owen Krepps, Contributor

For the third time in program history, the Robert Morris University women’s hockey team are CHA Champions. This past weekend, the team defeated RIT, Mercyhurst, and Syracuse in a dramatic playoff run at Erie Insurance Arena to claim the CHA Championship prize.

This 2021 CHA Championship comes after three straight losses in the CHA finals in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and five straight CHA final appearances in total. The senior class of Emily Curlett, Emilie Harley, Lexi Templeman, Anjelica Diffendal, and Molly Singewald have all gotten their first rings.

“I think if any class knows the sting of defeat more it has been our class,” senior goaltender Molly Singewald said, who posted three shutouts in all three starts this season.

“Not having won it was a huge motivator. You can say you have done it once and that you want to do it again. But I think not having done it once and having been so close was the major motivator for us,” senior alternate captain Emily Curlett said.

Ever since the emergence of Brittany Howard in 2013, RMU women’s hockey has become one of the strongest programs on campus. Since then, the team has won the CHA regular-season title three straight times, produced three NWHL draftees, had a player lead the CHA in scoring five times, and has won the CHA title three times.

However, despite this success, RMU finished the 2021 season third in the CHA behind Mercyhurst and Penn State for the first time since 2016. This was a blessing in disguise as the team did not receive a first-round bye and had to play three games to claim their CHA prize instead of two. This allowed the team to get their footing under them and play all three of their goaltenders in Singewald, Arielle DeSmet, and Raygan Kirk.

“I think being on ice before going into that semifinal game was an advantage to us. I do believe it was a blessing in disguise and it was really good to get our feet under us in that opening game against RIT,” sophomore Maggy Burbidge said.

RMU defeated the one-win RIT Tigers in a commanding 4-0 victory which included a two-goal performance from Burbidge, and a 17-save shutout by Singewald. Tougher challenges were ahead for RMU though as they would have to play two of either Syracuse, Penn State, and Mercyhurst, which all were teams that defeated RMU back in the regular season.

On top of this, RMU lost to Mercyhurst in the 2018 and 2020 CHA finals and Syracuse in 2019. For the seniors on this year’s team, they had a chip on their shoulder to not come up short again and go 0-4 in the CHA finals in their NCAA careers.

“We have been so close three times. What better way would there be for us to end college hockey than for the six of us [seniors] to get a ring,” captain Lexi Templeman said in an interview back before the start of the 2021 season.

The semifinals of the CHA tournament naturally saw the best four teams compete against one another. Despite being the top team in the division all season, and being ranked by the USCHO, Penn State fell to Syracuse in a 3-2 battle and did not make the NCAA tournament.

RMU faced Mercyhurst in the semifinals. In a close game that went into overtime, it was Burbidge again who paved the way for the Colonials victory. With a quick pass in the slot from Marah Wagner on a delayed penalty play, Burbidge ripped home a wrist shot and gave RMU the win 2:37 into overtime.

“Honestly it was a blur, my teammates worked so hard to get the puck out in front of the net and once I got it on my stick all I saw was net. I knew it was my opportunity, once I got that chance and I was not missing,” Burbidge said.

RMU moved on to face Syracuse in the CHA finals. This game saw only one goal scored, coming only seven minutes into the game from defender Gillian Thompson. For the remaining 53 minutes, Kirk and the Colonials had to battle to maintain their lead and win the CHA title. Kirk joined Jessica Dodds (2017) in Colonials history as the only goalies to post a shutout in the CHA final.

When the buzzer finally hit zero the team celebrated by mauling Kirk and flooding head coach Paul Colontino with Gatorade.

RMU cleaned house with the CHA all-tournament team with Burbidge (LW), Templeman (C), Thompson (D), and Ellie Marcovsky (RW) all making the team, joining Syracuse’s Allison Small (G) and Jessica DiGirolamo (D). Burbidge was voted the all-tournament team MVP and most outstanding player.

The third CHA title in team history has clinched RMU’s ticket to the NCAA tournament. Never in program history has the team made it past the first round and advanced to the Frozen Four, but this team will look to become the first. The now ranked No. 10 Colonials will take on No. 1 Northeastern next Monday at 2:00 p.m. at Erie Insurance Arena. Coverage of the Colonials’ third trip to the dance can be found here on Colonial Sports Network.

“We are going to go in there with the same mindset that we have been having. It is going to be an amazing opportunity. Not very often do you get to play the number one team in the nation,” Burbidge said.

This season has been filled with highs and lows for Robert Morris. From being swept by Penn State, and then Syracuse on senior weekend, to the adversity faced from Chace Sperling’s injury and COVID-19. RMU women’s hockey has battled so much this season and has been rewarded as the 2021 CHA Champions.