Robert Morris upsets reigning CHA champions Mercyhurst


Photo credit: Noah Simpson

Sarah Heastings

Emotions ran high at 84 Lumber Arena on Oct. 28 as the Robert Morris University Colonials hosted conference rivals, the Mercyhurst University Lakers.

The Lakers ended the Colonials’ 2015-2016 season with a decisive victory in the Conference Hockey America tournament semifinals. Mercyhurst went on to win the final just one day later over Syracuse Univeristy.

RMU knew going into the game that winning would be no easy task.

The Colonials came out strong and set the tone of the game early on. Freshman phenomenon Aneta Ledlova stick-handled through both defensemen and beat MU goaltender Jessica Convery to put RMU on the board.

Robert Morris and Mercyhurst exchanged even play in the neutral zone for almost ten minutes. Then, disaster struck for the Colonials.

Around 13:30 of the first period, the players and referees heard a faint whistle and unofficially stopped play. After some quick communication, the referees determined that none of them had stopped play and told the players to continue play.

Mercyhurst forward Brook Hartwick jumped on the unattended puck sitting just outside of the crease and surprised Robert Morris goaltender Lauren Bailey with a hard shot. Though the coaches for RMU argued the call, the referees allowed the goal.

With the score tied 1-1, the intensity of the game picked up. There were 17 total penalties, nine of which were given to Robert Morris.

After two periods of tough battles and sacrifice, RMU was finally able to break through. On a 5-on-3 power play opportunity, Brittany Howard faked out the Lakers before throwing it back to defender Kirsten Welsh.

Putting her head down, she let a shot fly from the blue line. It landed in the top corner of the net, just over the shoulder of a stunned Convery.

As the red light went on over the net, 84 Lumber Arena erupted into cheers. The players swarmed around Welsh. With this goal, the Colonials secured a win over their longtime rival. This puts Robert Morris at 5-1-3 for the season.

RMU attributes many components of its play to this win.

The first of these components is the team’s ability to sacrifice and block shots.

“Our team is phenomenal at blocking shots,” said Welsh.

Even though they get banged and bruised up in the process, both forwards and defensemen drop to block shots. They strive to protect the net and keep the puck out at all costs.

The second of these components is a strong presence in net. All three of the Colonials’ goaltenders have been outstanding. This season, the crowd has primarily been exposed to Lauren Bailey and Jessica Dodds, both of whom have led the Colonials to victory multiple times.

With 30 saves tonight, there is no doubt that Bailey was a major part of the upset over Mercyhurst.

“Today, she was literally phenomenal,” said head coach Paul Colontino on Bailey’s performance. “She was big when she had to be, and feels like she just keeps getting stronger.”

Despite her impressive performance, Bailey will be replaced by senior Jessica Dodds for the second meeting between the two teams on Saturday.

Robert Morris and Mercyhurst face off again at 84 Lumber Arena on Oct. 29 at 2:05 p.m.