After a disappointing loss to league rival Mercyhurst University in the semifinals of the CHA playoffs last season, the Robert Morris women’s hockey team is ready to come back stronger than ever.
Under the guidance of the senior class that includes captain Rikki Meilleur, forward Brittany Howard and goaltender Jessica Dodds, the team shows incredible unity and skill — even in the preseason. While Meilleur was named captain earlier this year, the assistant captains have yet to be announced.
Meanwhile, RMU is set to take the ice against the Toronto Aeros on Friday night in an exhibition home opener that should carry some added meaning.
Three former Colonials played their junior hockey with the Aeros organization: juniors Amanda Pantaleo and Jessica Gazzola, and incoming freshman Emma Low-A-Chee.
When asked if the players had any influence on the match up, head coach Paul Colontino said, “Players don’t have control of the schedule, it just ended up that way. It should be a fun match though.”
While Pantaleo and Gazzola are familiar faces to the RMU athletic community, Low-A-Chee and the three other incoming freshman — Aneta Ledlova, Jaycee Gebhard and Natalie Marcuzzi — will make their Colonials debut Friday night.
All four have extremely impressive backgrounds. Ledlova and Gebhard have competed for the national U-18 teams for the Czech Republic and Canada, respectively, and Low-A-Chee and Marcuzzi earned medals in the PWHL finals last season.
Colontino hopes all four will improve on their prior success during their time here at RMU and noted that they are “practicing and sitting in well with the rest of the team.”
These four will look give the Colonials the extra boost they need to defeat a highly skilled team such as the Junior Toronto Aeros. While this will be Robert Morris’ first game of the season, the Toronto Aeros have already been playing for an estimated 15 games.
Colontino is optimistic, though. “As the first game of the season, it’s up in the air,” he said. “First games are tough because of all of the ‘unknowns’. We take the season one game at a time. We focus on playing our best, then improving on it.”
This mindset will not only prove beneficial to RMU as that game progresses, but also as the Colonials move through the season. As they face familiar teams such as Syracuse and Penn State, Robert Morris looks to improve their already impressive season record from last year and get deep into the CHA playoffs.
The Colonials are predicted to finish third in the standings, but if they stick to their plan, play their game and own the ice with physicality, they can finish on top.
For this exhibition contest, the puck drops at 7 p.m. at 84 Lumber Arena.