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Freshman scorer does it all for RMU women's hockey team

| Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, 11:23 p.m.
Robert Morris athletics
Robert Morris' Brittany Howard leads NCAA freshmen with 14 assists and 19 points.

If there's something missing from Brittany Howard's game, Robert Morris women's hockey coach Paul Colontino hasn't seen it.

“You've got the whole package,” Colontino said of the freshman forward. “You've got kind of a little (Sidney) Crosby. I don't want to compare anyone to Sid, but sometimes you come across those players where it's like ‘What does this player not do?' ”

The 5-foot-4 Howard leads all NCAA freshmen with 15 assists and 21 points, numbers that rank tied for third and tied for ninth in the nation overall. She has helped the Colonials to a 13-3-1 record, and Robert Morris sits atop College Hockey America with a 6-1-1 mark. RMU broke into the national polls for the first time in program history this week, coming in at No. 10.

The soft-spoken Howard, though, deflects much of the credit.

“I'm just happy that the team has been successful and happy to contribute,” she said.

Senior captain Kristen Richards, one of Howard's linemates, is happy to do the talking for her.

“She's been great this year,” Richards said. “Her shot is phenomenal. Her skating is second to none. She's done everything well since she's gotten here.”

Howard arrived after a standout junior career in London, Ontario, alongside one of the Colonials' other blue-chip freshmen, goalie Jessica Dodds. Howard committed to Robert Morris at the end of her sophomore year, becoming Colontino's first recruit. She missed parts of her junior season with a knee injury and concussion problems, but by her senior season, she developed into one of the top scorers in the highly competitive Provincial Women's Hockey League.

“Once she got through (the injuries), she really shocked everybody,” Colontino said. “People started asking questions. ‘Who is this kid? Let's get her.' And then it was, ‘Well, she's already committed to Robert Morris.' ”

Richards had an early scouting report from her dad, who coached against Howard's team in juniors.

“He said we were getting a player, which was awesome to hear from him because he's one of the most critical people I know,” Richards said.

Howard immediately delivered. She recorded points in nine of her first 10 games this fall, including six multiple-point games, and was named CHA Player of the Month for October. Her pace has cooled slightly in November, but Colontino said she's continuing to find ways to improve.

“She gets hockey,” he said. “There are some people who are great skaters. There are some people who have great shots. And then there are some people who can physically do things. She can (do all those things), but when you're talking about great attributes that you really can't teach, she understands the game.

“She anticipates. She reads well. She knows where all her linemates are on the ice at all times. She just understands the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the way a shift works, when to turn it up, when to slow it down. To me, that's very hard to teach. She just gets it.”

Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jvella@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

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