Role reversal

The last time the Robert Morris Colonials dropped the puck at 84 Lumber Arena resulted in a heartbreaking 5-1 loss at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions. RMU has bounced back, however, claiming a 5-1 victory of their own over the Maine Blackbears.

The stands at 84 Lumber Arena were packed as the puck dropped, and there was a tangible buzz of energy. Young girls’ eyes were glued to the ice as they envisioned themselves out on the ice playing for a prominent team like RMU one day.

The contest seemed even for the first few minutes of play. Puck possession and scoring opportunities were about even, and play was kept mostly in the neutral zone.

At 7:46, Audra Richards of the Blackbears was sent to the box on a slashing call. The Colonials went on the power play strong with the extra attacker.

Unfortunately, Maine was able to go up 1-0 shorthanded with an unassisted goal by Morgan Sakundiak at 8:24.

RMU freshman Victoria Harshman was aggressive on the puck, creating multiple plays in front of the net and along the boards. To the dismay of the crowd, though, she was sent to the penalty box at 10:55 for checking.

Captain senior Ashley Vesci brought the spectators back to life with a little one-on-one action, stealing the puck right off the stick of the Blackbears’ captain and schooling two defenders before taking a shot on net.

The rest of the first, and part of the second, period turned into a contest between Maine’s Alyson Matteau and Robert Morris’ Sarah Quaranta as to who could rack up the most penalty minutes, as the two exchanged turns in the penalty box throughout the night.

The fans enjoyed a special treat during intermission, as the young contestant of the puck shot competition made the center ice $100 shot, a feat most people twice her age can’t accomplish!

Trailing by only one going into the second period, the Colonials came out hard right off the opening faceoff, going for every loose puck and battle.

In an attempt to maintain the lead, Maine stepped up its physicality. RMU sophomore and fan favorite Brittany Howard was taken out at center ice. No penalty was called much to the dissatisfaction of the fans.

Both teams changed lines, and the Colonials went full speed for the net. Forward Caitlyn Sadowy let one fly, and buzzer sounded as the puck collided with the inside of the cage. The stands went wild as the Colonials celebrated the freshman’s first goal in a RMU uniform and a tie game.

The commentator had barely gotten Sadowy’s name out when the buzzer sounded again, this time signaling a RMU goal by freshman Amber Rennie, her eighth of the season.

“We know the other team is going to come out harder after we score a goal, so we have to come out harder,” said Rennie, “Everybody was pretty excited about the first goal and being able to get back in the game, so I think everyone on the ice helped me to get that second goal. It was fun.”

Only minutes later, on a delayed penalty to the Blackbears, Vesci added to the lead with a shot that sailed over the glove of Maine goalie Mariah Fujimagari. The Colonials had gained three goals in three minutes.

Heading into third period, the confidence was evident in the Colonials’ every move. Maine found a spark of life, and for ten minutes it seemed like the Blackbears were going to be able to keep Robert Morris at bay.

Maine clearly underestimated the Colonials’ fire power, though, and Amber Rennie, the number one star of the night, found the back of the net again, with an assist from Mikaela Lowater at 12:50. The Blackbears’ spark was visibly extinguished after that.

To seal the deal, sophomore Amanda Pantaleo snuck one in at 17:05 on the power play, as the Blackbears’ Natalie Hutchinson sat in the box on an interference call.

The clock wound down, and the Colonials celebrated a victory that was not only well deserved, but a much needed confidence boost. After losing to the NIttany Lions 5-1, it would be an understatement to say that it was good to see the hard work and practice pay off as Robert Morris got a 5-1 victory of their own.

When the crowd had finally dispersed and only family, friends, and teammates remained, the girls returned to the ice for free skate. Getting a little bit of play time, the players laughed, joked, and even made a train of people, making giant loops around the rink.

RMU hopes to keep this momentum — and fun — going into their next game against Maine. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m. at 84 Lumber Arena at the RMU Island Sport Complex.