Robert Morris women's hockey finally clears big hurdle
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Since College Hockey America began sponsoring women's hockey in 2002, the league has known only one champion: Mercyhurst. The Lakers have won every regular season and conference tournament championship and have advanced to the Women's Frozen Four the past two years.
Despite playing in the same league for six seasons, Robert Morris had never beaten the Lakers. That is, until Saturday.
The Colonials posted the program's first win against Mercyhurst, ranked No. 4 in the country by USCHO.com, and set a new school record with their 13th win of the season, a 3-2 decision.
"From a program perspective, it's really awesome," senior captain Paige Pietrangelo said.
"We've had so many alumni and people that were part of the team calling and congratulating us."
Despite leading 1-0 for most of the game, the Colonials found themselves trailing, 2-1, with 13:35 to play in the third period. Jamie Joslin tied the score with a power-play goal with 2:38 to play and Thea Imbrogno scored the winner with just 53 seconds left. The win also snapped Mercyhurt's 28-game conference unbeaten streak.
"Before the game, we talked about the ups and the downs," Colonials coach Paul Colontino said. "That's hockey. That's the way it is, there's going to be highs, there's going to be lows."
The Colonials had come close to beating ranked teams earlier this season, dropping back-to-back 3-2 decisions to then-No.8 Bemidji State in late December.
"It's like, 'Robert Morris can stay in a game, but are they ever going to win against these highly-ranked teams?' " Imbrogno said. "I think it was kind of a big deal for us that we actually beat a team like Mercyhurst."
In his first year at Robert Morris, Colontino has injected some life into a young team that was picked to finish last in the four-team CHA at the beginning of the season. He spent the previous five seasons as an assistant at Mercyhurst and admitted it was nice to beat his old squad.
Leading the turnaround for the Colonials has been freshman forward Rebecca Vint with 16 goals and 15 assists. She is just one point away from tying the program's single-season record.
"Rebecca's physically and mentally capable of dominating on the ice against pretty much any opponent she wants to," Colontino said.
Goalie Kristen DiCiocco has also been a rock between the pipes, posting a 1.93 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 19 games.
While the team celebrated the win against Mercyhurst, Colontino and his players acknowledged that there was still more work to be done. The Colonials are four points behind first-place Mercyhurst in the CHA standings, but have two games in hand on the Lakers.
"I think it's important that people realize that as much as it is an accomplishment, it's just one step we needed to take," said Pietrangelo, whose father, Frank, was a goalie for the Penguins from 1987-92. "We want to keep going. We didn't win anything, technically. We want to keep making progress."
The Colonials return to the ice this weekend in a home-and-home series against conference foe Niagara.
First Published January 27, 2012 12:00 am