Make it two for RMU

Sarah Heastings, Staff Reporter

Robert Morris University (2-3-1) gained their second win of the season with a home victory over the Merrimack College Warriors (0-4) at 84 Lumber Arena. The final score was 4-2.

Unlike the previous contest between the two, Merrimack came out faster and more aggressive off the opening face off.

“They have nothing to lose,” said Sarah Quaranta, “They are going to come out stronger this time and we knew that we had to come out even harder. It’s a team effort so when we’re all on we’re pretty good as a team.”

Rising to the challenge, RMU had numerous scoring opportunities. Senior captain Ashley Vesci had six shots alone in the first period.

The Colonials were given two powerplay chances, with a Warrior tripping penalty to Paige Sorensen for hooking (1:40) followed closely by a cross checking penalty to Felila Manu (3:41). Neither campaign resulted in a goal.

RMU’s powerplay unit looked solid, connecting pass after pass through heavy traffic and maintaining a steady stream of shots-on-net.

Back at even strength, Robert Morris crashed the net. Freshman Sarah Quaranta found sophomore Brittany Howard through the traffic, and Howard connected with junior Mikaela Lowater in front of the net for a brilliant goal that caught Merrimack off-guard.

“Brittany (Howard) actually saw me perfectly in slot,” Lowater said, “It was just a great pass, actually. I didn’t think it was that great of a shot, it was kind of cool just having it go in.” “We’ve been having a tough time getting that first goal of the game, so it was really nice to get that first one to set the tone and get everyone going.”

Robert Morris kept strong, consistent play through the entire first period, but an unfortunate Merrimack breakaway by Maddie Morey lead to a tying goal (19:06).

Stunned by the late goal, the Colonials came out in the second period looking to swing the momentum back in their favor. The Warriors, however, held RMU’s energy at bay. The frustration was evident on the Robert Morris bench.

Early in the period, freshman defender Kirsten Welsh suffered a penalty for tripping (4:52). The penalty kill unit was able to keep the puck out of the net. The unit was back by a stellar performance by junior netminder Jessica Dodds.

The Warriors controlled the pace, and play started to drag for the fast-paced Colonials until a high sticking penalty was called on Merrimack’s Jessica Kulhman (11:12). While the Colonials stuck to passing around the perimeter of the offensive zone for much of the power play, a lucky rebound landed on the tape of Quaranta, who buried the puck deep behind Merrimack goaltender Samantha Ridgewell.

With the score now 2-1, the Colonials began to come back to life. Momentum started to swing in favor of Bobby Mo.

Immediately after, Vesci found an opening through the Warrior defense on a breakaway. She was hauled down from behind in front of the net, causing an uproar from the stands. Though the Merrimack coaching staff tried to argue it, the referees award Vesci a penalty shot.

The crowd’s and the Colonials’ hope was short lived though, as Merrimack goalie Samantha Ridgewell easily gathered in the shot.

With a sense of urgency, the Warriors stormed back down the ice. Crashing the net, a shot by Merrimack’s Marie Delarbre smashed off the pipe behind Dodds, and was cleared to neutral ice.

As the third period started, the Colonials gained control of the speed of play. Team play and communication were key. RMU raced into the offensive zone, and with brilliant pass work, split the defense for a beautiful tap in for Howard (1:26).

While RMU seemed to find their rhythm with each pass, Merrimack seemed to get more frustrated. Their frustration led to a tripping penalty to Jessica Kulhman (9:53).

Pressuring their penalty kill unit even further, Robert Morris was able to draw another penalty, this time a slashing call on Warrior Felila Manu (10:42).

The Colonials were not able to capitalize on the 5-on-3 opportunity, but Welsh cashed in big in the last remaining seconds of the penalty to Manu, burying the puck in the back of the net.

The score now 4-1, Merrimack’s frustration turned into desperation. They got a lucky break when the officials called a hooking penalty on RMU’s Maggie LaGue (15:51). The Warriors crashed the net hard, and Emily Volpe scored only seconds after the penalty had expired.

With their lead cut in half, the Colonials finished out the game safe, keeping the puck out the defensive zone, and ending with a final score of 4-2 in favor of Robert Morris. Dodds saved 13-of-15 shots, and RMU extended their season record to 2-3-1 overall.

The Colonials plan to pick up two more wins on the road as they travel to Troy, N.Y., to play Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute on Oct. 16 and 17.

“We’re going to take the positives from both these games this weekend, and go into RPI and do the same thing. Hopefully we’ll continue this streak that we have going,” said Quaranta.