Could another long streak end today?
The Lakers’ nine-year stranglehold on the College Hockey America Tournament championship ended Saturday with a 3-2 title-game loss to host Robert Morris in front of 584 fans at Island Sports Center.
The top-seeded and sixth-ranked Lakers’ defeat also snapped their 11-year streak of conference titles that dated back to the 2000-01 season, when they played in the Great Lakes Women’s Hockey Association.
Now the Lakers’ hopes for an eighth straight NCAA Tournament berth rests in the hands of the Division I selection committee. The eight-team field is unveiled today at 6:30 p.m. at NCAA.com. But after Saturday’s game, the Lakers’ thoughts were on how they lost to the second-seeded Colonials (19-9-4).
Mercyhurst (23-7-3) outshot RMU 47-15 and totaled 118 overall shots. But Colonials goaltender Kristen DiCiocco made 45 saves while her teammates blocked 50 shots. Twenty-one shots missed the net.
“What are you going to do?” Lakers coach Michael Sisti said of his team’s statistical dominance.
RMU recorded seven of their 15 shots while building a 2-0 first-period lead. Katelyn Scott scored her first goal of the season 3 minutes, 41 seconds into the game. Then Thea Imbrogno scored at the 11:39 mark.
Mercyhurst sliced its deficit in half on Jess Jones’ power-play goal with 3:54 left in the second. But RMU regained a two-goal lead at 3-1 on Brianna Delaney’s goal with 28 seconds left in the period.
Bailey Bram scored 27th goal of the season with six seconds left for the Lakers. But they weren’t able to score the equalizer to force overtime. Instead, the Colonials and coach Paul Colontino, a former student, player and coach at Mercyhurst, secured the first conference title in the program’s seven-year history.
Sophomore Christine Bestland and senior Pamela Zgoda were named to the all-tournament team.
The CHA champion doesn’t receive an automatic bid to the national playoffs, because NCAA rules require a minimum of six teams in a conference. CHA has four teams, including Niagara and Syracuse.
However, Sisti said he believes his Lakers “have clearly done enough” to earn a berth. He pointed to their 23 wins, CHA regular-season championship and two-game sweeps of St. Lawrence and Providence.
No. 10 St. Lawrence (24-9-4) won the ECAC Hockey title with a 3-1 win Saturday against No. 3 Cornell (29-4-0). Providence (16-16-4) faces Boston University today for the Hockey East Association title.
Mercyhurst also split two games at fourth-ranked Boston College (23-9-3) and lost two of three against Cornell. Sisti said Wisconsin (31-4-2), which lost in the semifinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs on Friday, and Cornell will earn berths despite not winning their conference titles.
Sisti figures Saturday’s loss cost his team a top-four national seed and home-ice advantage in next weekend’s NCAA quarterfinals. Yet he said, “I’d like to think we’re going to be playing next week. I think we deserve (a berth). What’s tough now is that it’s up to the committee.”