Preview: Colonials look to gain revenge, sink Lakers in first meeting of the season

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Preview: Colonials look to gain revenge, sink Lakers in first meeting of the season

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Photo credit: David Auth

Adam Melluso, Contributor

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The Robert Morris Colonials women’s hockey team (2-4, 0-0 CHA) will look to start off conference play on a winning note against a familiar foe from just up I-79. It was just last year that the Mercyhurst Lakers (2-4, 2-0 CHA) ended the Colonials’ dream to capture a third straight College Hockey America title in the championship game of the CHA Tournament last year in Buffalo, winning 5-3. Despite the loss of star scorer Brittany Howard, RMU capped off their nonconference play with a split against the Engineers of RPI last weekend. Now, as the context shifts to must-win games for the standings, let’s take a look at what awaits the Colonials heading into Friday’s first matchup in Erie.

Players to watch for Robert Morris:

#17 Jaycee Gebhard (Asst. Captain, F, Junior): Despite the added pressure that comes with wearing an A on your jersey, Gebhard has come out of the gate in nonconference play flying, leading the team in goals, assists, and points (4G, 3A, 7P). She will be a key offensive asset who must get shots on the net in order to handle the potency of Mercyhurst’s offensive outbursts that can come from several key players.

#35 Arielle DeSmet (G, Freshman): DeSmet has easily been one of the most talked about members in RMU women’s hockey. DeSmet has posted an overall save percentage of .899 and has been the starter in several key nonconference matchups despite starting the year as a third-string netminder behind Lauren Bailey and Molly Singewald. DeSmet will be a promising player to look out for if she is able to control Mercyhurst’s shots and not give up too many rebounds that the Lakers can capitalize on in a heartbeat.

Scouting the Lakers:

Mercyhurst, despite losing all of their nonconference matchups, started out strong in their first two conference games of the season, topping the Syracuse Orange 4-2 in the first game, and 1-0 in the second, both on the road in central New York. The Lakers return several key players from last season’s championship team, including forward Alexa Vasko and goalie Kennedy Blair, and will be looking to defend the title for a second straight year.

Players to watch for Mercyhurst:

Emma Nuutinen and Vilma Tanskanen

Of note to watch for the Lakers are the two generational talents for the team, Finnish superstars Emma Nuutinen and Vilma Tanskanen. Both of these ladies, who have played on the Finnish national development team, contributed key goals in the Lakers’ championship win last year over the Colonials. One of these was a highlight reel goal where Nuutinen took a slick feed from Tanskanen, decked out the RMU defenders and went top-shelf to score. As much as Robert Morris will want to get shots on net and challenge the Mercyhurst netminder, Tanskanen and Nuutinen will be the main players that they will have to limit in both matchups this weekend, as they can make opponents pay with amazing puck handling and shooting skills.

Predictions:

It may sound odd of me to say this considering Tanskanen and Nuutinen are still on the Lakers’ side, but I say that RMU splits the weekend with Mercyhurst, winning game one 4-2, before the Lakers get one back 4-1 in game two. I also say Jaycee Gebhard will record a point in one of the two matchups and DeSmet will get the start for both games.

The first matchup of the weekend is set for this Friday night at 6:00 p.m. in Erie at the Mercyhurst Ice Center, before the second game on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. As always, RMU Sentry Media will have coverage of all women’s hockey games this season, both at home and on the road. Be sure to visit rmusentrymedia.com for all the latest Colonials sports news and follow us on Twitter at @RMUSentryMedia.

 

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