March 8, 2014

RIT Defeats Robert Morris to Advance to CHA Championship

RIT 4, Robert Morris 1

ERIE, PA – The RIT women's hockey team (19-15-3) advanced to the College Hockey America Championship game for the first time, after defeating No. 10 Robert Morris (24-8-3), 4-1 in the league semifinal from Mercyhurst Ice Center on Friday evening. The Tigers will face top-seed and host, Mercyhurst University, who is ranked No. 8 in the nation on Saturday in the CHA Championship at 3 p.m.

Kourtney Kunichika (Fullerton, CA/LA Selects) led the third-seeded Tigers with a goal and an assist, while Melissa Bromley (Aurora, Ontario/Aurora Panthers), Carly Payerl (Kitchener, Ontario/Waterloo K-W Rangers), and Cassie Clayton(Pickering, Ontario/PEAC School) also scored for the Tigers, who have now won a Division I team record best six straight games. In net, Ali Binnington (Oakville, Ontario/Mississauga Chiefs), the CHA Goaltender of the Year, was brilliant, making 25 saves to pick up her 15th win of the season. Binnington has allowed just five goals over the last six games, stopping 172-of-177 shots during that stretch.

"I was really impressed how hard we played as a team tonight," said RIT head coach Scott McDonald. "We played tough, really smart defense, created a lot of good chances and capitalized at key times. Ali (Binnington) was there to make some big saves when we needed them, she's been so good all season for us."

Rebecca Vint scored Robert Morris' lone goal midway through the third period to cut the RIT lead to 2-1. In net, Jessica Dodds took the loss, stopping 24 shots.

Overall, RIT out-shot Robert Morris, 28-26. RIT was 0-for-2 with the man-advantage, while Robert Morris was 0-for-3. The Tigers defense blocked 28 shots in the contest.

RIT is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to being in a two-year NCAA probationary period after moving up from Division III last season. RIT is eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2014-15.

"Our goal at the start of the season was to play for and win the CHA Championship and we get a chance to do that tomorrow," said McDonald. "We have a team who is played in many big postseason games in the past and we will draw off that past experience tomorrow."

Both teams had great chances, but could not find the back of the net in a up and down first period of play that saw RIT hold a 12-8 edge in shots.

Robert Morris came out flying with three golden chances in the first seven minutes, but RIT was able to weather the storm.

Binnington made an excellent sliding save just moments into the game on Brittany Howard, who came in all alone on a breakaway. Minutes later, Binnington and the Tigers were recipients of some luck, as Maddie Collas rang a shot off the right post on a 3-on-1 rush and Kristen Richards fired a shot from the slot off the left post and out.

RIT would regroup from there and generate some good chances of its own. Marissa Maugeri (Ajax, Ontario/Durham West Lightning) fired a shot from the slot that Dodds deflected away. Late in the period, Caitlin Wallace (Brantford, Ontario/Assumption Collegiate) had two golden chances from the slot denied by Dodds.

Binnington made a dazzling save late in the period, sliding to poke wide what looked like a sure goal off the stick of Colonials' leading goal scorer Rebecca Vint. Vint cut across the crease and looked to have the RIT goaltender beat, but somehow, Binnington kept the puck out of the net.

The Tigers scored a pair of goals just over five minutes apart in the second period to take a 2-0 edge into the dressing room after 40 minutes of play.

Bromley, who scored just two goals over the first 33 games of the season, netted her third goal over the last four contests to open the scoring 2:34 into the frame, converting a feed from Celeste Brown (Great Falls, MT/National Sports Academy)in the slot and ripping a shot just over the pad of Dodds for her fifth of the season. Kunichika cycled the puck down low to Brown, who made a great pass to Bromley in the slot.

Payerl jammed in a rebound off a hard shot from Katie Hubert (Burlington, Ontario/Burlington Barracudas) for her second goal of the season at the 7:53 mark to make it 2-0 Tigers. Much like the first goal, Dakota Waites (Whitby, Ontario/Sinclair)cycled the puck down low and found Hubert in the slot. Hubert's original shot was stopped, but Payerl cut across the crease and nothing but a wide open net for the goal.

Binnington was called upon to make two big saves in the middle of the period, robbing Howard from the slot, and made a big save on Mikela Lowater from the high slot.

Waites almost made it 3-0 late in the period, as she had Dodds skidding out of position on a backhander from the left faceoff circle, but the shot went just wide.

RIT ran into penalty problems early in the third period, but were able to emerge unscathed. Vint would cut the RIT lead to 2-1 with 11:55 left, getting the puck at her own blue-line, zooming into the RIT zone, firing a shot off the glove of Binnington for her 24th goal of the year.

The Tigers would withstand more Robert Morris pressure after the goal and get a big tally of its own with 6:56 left, as Kunichika got a pass from Jess Paton (Woodstock, Ontario/Waterloo K-W Rangers) in the neutral zone, cut in over the Colonials line, deked the defenseman and then Dodds with a perfect backhander from the edge of the crease for her 10th goal of the year, making it 3-1. Emilee Bulleid (Waterdown, Ontario/Stoney Creek Sabres) would also assist on the goal.

With 2:55 left, Clayton took a feed from Marissa Maugeri (Ajax, Ontario/Durham West Lightning) on a 2-on-1 and beat Dodds top shelf for her fourth goal of the season to put the game away.

Host Mercyhurst defeated fourth-seeded Syracuse in the first CHA Semifinal, 2-1 on Friday afternoon.

Today's game was the fifth and final regular meeting between the two schools this season, with the Colonials winning the season series, 3-2-0. Earlier in the season, Robert Morris won a pair of home games against RIT, winning 2-1 on Dec. 6 and 4-2 on Dec. 7. On Feb. 14, Vint scored a third period shorthanded goal to lift Robert Morris to a 2-1 win. The next day, RIT's defense blocked 38 shots, Brown scored a first period power-play goal and Binnington stopped all 22 shots she faced in a 1-0 RIT win.

RIT is 20-12 all-time in postseason contests at the Division I and III levels, since women's hockey was recognized as a NCAA Championship sport in 2001. Since Scott McDonald took over as head coach in 2006, RIT is 16-7 in the postseason, including a 15-3 mark at Ritter Arena. The Tigers are 14-1 at home in the postseason over the last four seasons, including a 5-0 mark en route to winning the 2012 NCAA Division III National Championship.

Last season, the Tigers advanced to the CHA Semifinals, defeating Penn State in a two-game sweep in the first round, both by one-goal outcomes, before falling to Syracuse in overtime of the semifinals.

The Tigers swept Penn State last weekend for the second straight season in the CHA First Round, winning 3-2 on an overtime goal by Brown in game one, and receiving 31 saves from Binnington in a 3-0 shutout in game two.

RIT was 1-3-0 this season against tomorrow's opponent, Mercyhurst, having won 2-1 behind 42 saves from Binnington on Nov. 22.

Courtesy RIT Athletic Communications

Erie, Pa. – Despite a third-period goal from junior forward Rebecca Vint (Caledon, Ontario / Brampton Junior Thunder), the Robert Morris University women's hockey team couldn't erase a two-goal deficit as the Colonials fell to RIT, 4-1, in the College Hockey America (CHA) Semifinals this evening.

No. 10/9 Robert Morris (24-8-3, 13-5-2 CHA) falls in the CHA Semifinals for the second-straight season, while RIT (19-15-3, 11-7-2 CHA) advances to its first CHA Championship Game.

The first period seemed to fly by as neither team committed a penalty. The Colonials had their chances early in the frame, but shots from junior forward Maddie Collias (Roseville, Mich. / Belle Tire) and senior captain Kristen Richards (Toronto, Ontario / Niagara University) found pipe, while freshman forward Brittany Howard (St. Thomas, Ontario / Burlington Jr. Barracudas) was turned away by Tigers goaltender Ali Binnington on a back-handed attempt.

RIT struck first less than three minutes into the second stanza as Melissa Bromley snapped a shot from the slot.

RMU almost knotted it up two minutes later as junior forward Katie Fergus (Oakville, Ontario / Burlington Jr. Barracudas) found Howard open in the slot. The rookie forward gathered the puck cleanly and rifled a shot, but Binnington made the save with her right shoulder to keep the Colonials off the board.

The Tigers added a second goal in the second 20 minutes as Carly Payerl gathered a rebound and snuck it past freshman goaltender Jessica Dodds (London, Ontario / London Jr. Devilettes) from the right side of the crease.

After nearly two full periods without a penalty, RMU gained the first power play opportunity of the contest when Cassie Clayton was booked for tripping with 1:32 remaining in the frame. The Colonials fired three shots on net during the man advantage, but none would the light the lamp.

Vint pulled RMU within one with 11:55 remaining. After the puck was dumped in the Colonial defensive zone, Dodds gathered the biscuit and passed it to junior defenseman Kelsey Gunn (Smith Falls, Ontario / Niagara University). Gunn found the junior forward streaking down the left side of the ice, and Vint snapped a shot from the face-off circle that trickled off Binnington's padding and into the back of the net.

RIT responded with 6:56 remaining. Kourtney Kunichika corralled the puck and went front-hand to back-hand, beating Dodds to regain the two-goal advantage.

With 2:55 remaining, the Tigers set the final as Cassie Clayton beat the Colonial defense on a two-on-one.

Dodds suffered the fifth loss of her career after stopping 24 of 28 shots.

Vint's goal was her 24th of the season, padding her single-season record.

Robert Morris will see if its season is extended on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. during the NCAA Tournament Selection Show. The Colonials were seventh in the PairWise Rankings coming into this contest.

Courtesy Robert Morris Athletic Communications