To quote the great Mike Lange:”IIIIIIIIIIIT’S A HOCKEY NIGHT, IN PITTSBURGH.”
Well, okay, 84 Lumber Arena is technically in Moon Township, not Pittsburgh proper, but close enough.
But you get the point. The Gutt goes quiet for a week as the men have off and the women head out to my home state of Pennsylvania for two against the Robert Morris Colonials.
The Colonials had an average season last year, posting a 17-16-5 record and placing fourth in College Hockey America. They just barely escaped a feisty Lindenwood side in the first round of the tournament before falling in the conference semifinals to eventual champions Mercyhurst. They’ve started the 2016/17 season at a 3-0-1 clip, sweeping Providence at their place before earning a win and a draw last weekend against RPI at Houston Fieldhouse. This is a team that knows what’s up, only losing three players to graduation, only one of whom produced more than five points (Ashley Vesci).
Leading the charge up front for Robert Morris is the young duo of freshman Jaycee Gebhard and sophomore Amber Rennie, each currently sitting on six points. Rennie posted 20 points her freshman year, and seems to be taking her game up with her. Last year’s leading scorers, Brittany Howard and Mackenzie Johnston, are back as well; although Johnston has yet to produce a point thus far, it’s only a matter of time. They have solid depth and plenty of college experience, and they’ve been scoring goals efficiently, scoring on around 12% of their shots during their first four games. Efficiency or luck? The Cats can’t control luck, but they can limit scoring chances and efficiency with good defensive positioning.
Only five defenders make up the Colonials’ blueline, as they did not add anyone to replace the graduated Leah Carlson. That said, Kirsten Welsh, Mikaela Lowalter, and Maggie Lague are threats offensively (each posting around 20 points last year), while Natalie Fraser and Leah Carey keep things steady. The lack of depth is a weakness the Cats could exploit, using speed and skill to wear out their defenders.
In goal, Bobby Mo has some healthy competition with all three of last year’s keepers returning. Senior Jessica Dodds and sophomore Lauren Bailey produced roughly identical numbers (.922 v .921) last year, and this season have split the starts so far (with Dodds holding the early edge in save percentage, but small sample sizes).
And before concluding this preview, a shoutout to forward Ève-Audrey Picard, who was named Hockey East Co-Player of the Week (sharing the honor with Northeastern’s Denisa Křížová)! Picard posted 4 points in two games during her first week of NCAA action.
Games (Friday and Saturday) will be broadcast on Robert Morris’s website, buuuut you have to pay nearly $10. I’m a college student. Money is a finite object for me. So there won’t be a recap, unfortunately, since it doesn’t appear RMU has an audio-only feed either. So the next things here will probably be the previews for Omaha (men’s) and St. Lawrence (women’s) next week.