Story Courtesy of Robert Morris Sports Information
Pittsburgh, Pa. - Behind a career-high 45 saves from junior Kristen DiCiocco, the Robert Morris University women's hockey team stunned No. 6 Mercyhurst in the College Hockey America (CHA) Championship Saturday afternoon, 3-2, as RMU claimed the program's first-ever league title while simultaneously ending the Lakers' run of nine consecutive CHA tournament championships.
Despite being picked to finish last in the conference in the pre-season coaches' poll, Robert Morris, under the direction of first-year head coach Paul Colontino, pulled its second upset of the season over the Lakers to claim the championship trophy for the first time ever. The Colonials also moved their school record victory total to 19,
DiCiocco, the league's Regular Season Goaltending Trophy winner, posted perhaps the best performance of her career between the pipes and was subsequently named as the Tournament's Most Valuable Player (MVP). She finished the tournament with 72 saves and a .947 save percentage. DiCiocco, who tallied the most saves in a game by a Colonial netminder since the team's opening series of the 2009-10 season, also did not allow a single even-strength goal all tournament. That continued a trend for the season as Robert Morris conceded just 34 even-strength goals in its 32 games this season.
While gaining the program's first championship was clearly the highlight of the night, senior assistant captain Brianna Delaney also added another angle with her individual performance. Delaney tallied a goal, which proved to be the game-winner, in the final minute of the second period, which allowed her to move out of a tie and into sole possession of first place in career goals scored at Robert Morris with 53. Delaney's championship-winning goal also moved her into sole possession of first place in career GWG at Robert Morris.
Delaney, who extended her RMU career points record to 121, was subsequently named to the All-Tournament Team as she tallied two goals on two shots on the weekend and posted a +3 plus/minus. As a forward, she also finished second on the team on the weekend in blocked shots with 11.
Senior assistant captain Kathryn Stack joined Delaney and DiCiocco on the All-Tournament Team as the trio became the first three Colonials ever to earn CHA All-Tournament honors. Stack earned a spot as a defenseman after leading the team with 12 blocked shots on the weekend while registering a +1 plus/minus.
Delaney's and Stack's efforts on the defensive end were part of a larger team endeavor as the Colonials blocked an amazing 49 Laker shot attempts in the game. It is the highest-recorded blocked shots figure in a single game ever for Robert Morris. Seven distinct Colonials blocked at least four shots in the game as RMU was led by junior defenseman Jamie Joslin's nine blocks.
While Joslin was busy giving up her body for the Colonials' cause, she also aided the offensive output and tied a record in the process. Joslin assisted on RMU's second goal, which moved her into a tie for the most points in a season by a defenseman at RMU (16).
Robert Morris took control from practically the outset of Saturday's affair as it scored fewer than four minutes into the contest. Freshman Katelyn Scott netted her first-collegiate goal when she drilled home a loose puck out in front after sophomore Thea Imbrogno had put the initial shot on net.
After taking the early lead, Robert Morris was then forced to kill off three power plays over the next six minutes of action, including about a half minute of a Laker 5-on-3 advantage. The three successful kills kept the Colonials energized as they soon doubled their lead.
Imbrogno played the puck ahead to Newsom who ripped a shot from inside the circle. Although Newsom's attempt didn't find the twine, Imbrogno crashed the net after her pass and found an opening at the 11:39 mark to make it 2-0.
RMU continued to protect its lead while often being shorthanded as it played the final 2:59 of the first with at least one player in the box. Nevertheless, DiCiocco made three saves and RMU blocked a trio of shots in the final half-minute of the period to maintain the two-goal edge.
Robert Morris killed off another Laker power play in the first half of the second stanza before Mercyhurst finally broke through with the man advantage at the 16:06 mark of the second to cut its deficit to one.
The Lakers were granted a great chance to tie it when they received two more power-play chances within two minutes after their first goal, but the RMU defense held firm and protected the lead.
Just when it seemed as though the Lakers might take momentum into the intermission, Delaney drilled home a rebound with just 30 ticks left in the second to reestablish RMU's multi-goal advantage heading into the third.
Freshman Rebecca Vint and sophomore defenseman Kylie St. Louis tallied assists on the play.
Mercyhurst had two more power-play chances during the opening 12 minutes of the third period, but Robert Morris proved up to the task on both occasions, killing off each chance.
RMU kept stifling the Lakers' attempts at getting back into the game, so Mercyhurst opted to pull its goaltender with just over two minutes to play. Then with 1:09 remaining, a penalty on a Colonial essentially gave the Lakers a two-man advantage.
Mercyhurst made the proceedings slightly more interesting with a goal with seven seconds left to play. However, after the ensuing faceoff the Lakers were unable to get a tying shot attempt off before the horn sounded, and the Colonials rushed onto the ice, swarming DiCiocco and one another to celebrate their signature victory.
RMU held Mercyhurst to a 2-for-12 mark overall on the power play, a notable achievement considering the Lakers have the nation's best man-advantage unit and entered the day converting on nearly 30 percent of their chances.
Imbrogno's 11th multi-point game of the season, and the 18th of her career, moved her into a tie for fourth in career goals at RMU. She also became just the second Colonial ever to post a 20-assist season.
Vint's assist pushed her single-season school record point total to 44.
Scott's score marks the second straight season in which a Colonial has notched her first-career goal in the postseason as sophomore Brandi Pollock (Virden, Manitoba / Westman Wildcats) did it one year ago. Scott also notched an assist Friday to finish with two points in the tournament.
RMU's senior class, Delaney, captain Paige Pietrangelo (Niagara Falls, Ontario / Hamilton Hawks) and Stack, also extended their own record for most overall victories by a class in RMU history.
Since College Hockey America does not currently have an automatic berth for the winner of its league tournament, the Colonials will wait to see if they are selected as an at-large squad for the NCAA Tournament when the participating teams are announced Sunday evening.