A shutout for RMU caps off stellar weekend

After a night’s worth of rest and preparation, the Robert Morris Colonials and the Maine Blackbears met at 84 Lumber Arena for a rematch. This time, RMU kept their opponent out of the back of the net and off the scoreboard with a 3-0 shut out.

Yet another large crowd assembled for the contest. The majority of the fans were young female hockey players, visiting the Robert Morris Island Sport Complex for a tournament. The girls’ eyes grew wide as the teams skated onto the ice, picturing that that would be them one day.

Maine started their backup goalie, Meghann Treacy, in net after the difficult 5-1 loss to the Robert Morris on Nov. 27.

Right off the opening faceoff, RMU controlled the tempo of the game. It was visible to all in attendance that the Blackbears had to step up their game to keep up with the speedy Colonials.

“We’re really proud of that,” said Vesci of the Colonial’s ability to set the pace. “It’s a great thing to be able to do. It’s easy to just sort of see that a team’s slower and say ‘Alright, we can stay slow and go down to their level,’ but instead we were like ‘Hey, they’ve got a couple of slow kids, let’s speed it up and see how fast they’re willing to go, how far we can push them.”

The two teams exchanged even scoring opportunities. Both goalies, Maine’s Treacy and Robert Morris’ Jessica Dodds, stood strong and kept the game scoreless through the first.

“I think the biggest thing is realizing that if we were in their situation, and it we were the team that was down losing 5-1, we wouldn’t come back the next day and just roll over,” said Dodds of keeping her opponent out of the net. “We knew they were going to come out twice as hard, we had to come out and know that they were going to push forward and we had to push even further with our team.”

Coming back after intermission time, Colonials’ senior defender Leah Carlson took a hooking penalty at 2:05. Moving onto the defensive, senior captain Ashley Vesci was aggressive on the puck, going after every rebound and pressuring Maine’s forwards hard in the defensive zone.

The crowd sighed as a pass went through the skates of sophomore Brittany Howard on a scoring odd man rush. The puck was thrown back in, however, and fell on Vesci’s tape. The captain wound up, and launched one right past Treacy. 1-0 Colonials.

The crowd went wild.

“It was huge,” said Vesci of her goal. “We really needed it. At the end of a shift like that, too, just so many opportunities. We were starting to get tired, and it was looking like we couldn’t buy a goal. And then a little fluttery shot like that goes in and it changes the whole momentum of the game.”

Freshman Amber Rennie and sophomore Jessica Gazzola also had brilliant scoring opportunities, but were unfortunately shut down by Treacy.

Howard was sent to the box on a slashing call at 19:57 along with Maine’s Alyson Matteau for checking.

The third period started on this 4v4 play, in which Vesci and the Blackbear’s Morgan Sakundiak exchanging scoring opportunities for their team. Both goaltenders were up for the challenge, though, robbing shooters left and right.

“I have to keep focused on every shot that comes towards me,” explained Dodds, “As a goalie, if you realize the score is 0-0, you can get it in your head that there’s a possibility that you could get a shutout, but you honestly can’t think that far ahead.”

It wasn’t until 8:25 that the Colonials were finally able to beat Treacy, with junior Mackenzie Johnston cashing in on a rebound. Make that 2-0 for Robert Morris. Again, the arena was filled with the impressed cheers of aspiring hockey players.

RMU went down two men in a 5-on-3 penalty kill, with Howard in the box for hooking at 11:31, followed closely by freshman Maggie Lague on a body checking call at 11:59.

Maine took a timeout to regroup before the contest, but the Colonials were able to kill of the penalty and return both skaters to the ice.

Play was stopped due to a collision between two Blackbears. Both players were able to resume play on their own.

As the final minutes ticked away, the crowd saw the Blackbears’ play start to get sloppy and aggressive. Cheap shots were thrown at Johnston, sophomore Amanda Pantaleo, and junior Maeve Garvey.

Blackbears Mikayla Rogers and Brooklyn Langlois were sent to the box on respective hooking and cross checking penalties. Robert Morris moved on the attack with a two man advantage.

RMU broke through Maine’s defense one last time, and junior defender Mikaela Lowater lifted one over the glove of Treacy on the power play to seal the deal, 3-0 Colonials.

With this win, the Colonials move to an overall record of 9-5-2. Robert Morris faces Mercyhurst University in Erie on Friday, Dec. 5-6, where they hope to extend their winning streak.