Robert Morris women ousted by Wisconsin in 1st round of NCAA
MADISON, Wis. — The Robert Morris women's hockey team's historic season ended Saturday as the Colonials lost their NCAA quarterfinal game to Wisconsin, 7-0, in front of a record crowd of 2,423 at LaBahn Arena.
“(It was) our first time at the tournament, and I thought we had a bit of first-time jitters,” RMU coach Paul Colontino said. “(In the third period) I thought we did a better job of just regaining more of our composure and playing more our style of game. But in the end, I thought we were outmatched, outgunned at that point of the game. They wore us out, but we'll learn from that.”
The Badgers asserted themselves early to establish a lead they would never relinquish. Wisconsin scored 1 minute, 48 seconds into the game to start their roll toward a fourth consecutive and 10th overall Frozen Four.
The teams felt each other out in a back-and-forth opening period. Wisconsin coach Mark Johnson complimented the Colonials' aggressive forecheck and credited it with preventing the Badgers from finding their footing early in the game.
The Colonials headed into the first intermission down 2-0 and trailing 14-8 in shots. The Badgers blew the game open in the second period, outshooting RMU, 25-2, and scoring four more times to put the game out of reach.
Senior Jessica Dodds started in goal for Robert Morris but was replaced by sophomore Lauren Bailey after Wisconsin's fourth goal about midway through the game. Colontino said he made the change to try to jumpstart his team.
“At 4-0 midway through the game, sometimes you just need a spark,” he said. “We just weren't giving our goaltender the help that we should have been. With the goalie change, we just needed to reset, refocus and see if we could get a fresh start to things.”
The shutout was the 16th of the season for senior goalie and two-time Patty Kazmaier finalist Ann-Renee Desbiens and the 54th of the career.
Senior Sarah Nurse led Wisconsin with a goal and two assists, giving her 14 points in five postseason games. Six players scored for the Badgers.
The Colonials were playing in the program's first NCAA Tournament game after winning their first College Hockey America regular-season title and second tournament title to earn the conference's automatic bid.
Despite Saturday's loss, Robert Morris is focused on what it achieved this season and what it has learned that it can use to improve in the future. Colontino compared the Colonials' growth to his son learning to walk.
“We took the first step. And with that, I think we have a group now that's ready to run,” he said. “We couldn't be prouder of this group. It's a tough loss, but our season doesn't hinge on one game. We're not going to forget what this team did through eight months this season, which was just raising the bar in all aspects for RMU.
“The leadership that's been instilled and passed on to them honestly leaves us feeling pretty bright on things”
Senior Mikaela Lowater said the upperclassmen were determined to make their mark on the program this season and were proud to achieve their goal. The created a standard for the program.
“I think we just did a really good job of setting the bar high this year and did an unbelievable job of showing us what we can do. Next year we just want to come out and set the bar even higher,” junior Amanda Pantaleo said. “We had an unbelievable season. We made history at RMU this year, so we're just walking out with our head held high.
“Wisconsin is a really great team, and we gave them everything we had. It's something we should all be proud of.”
Nicole Haase is a freelance writer.