WEEKEND PREVIEW: Penn State and Robert Morris Kickoff CHA Conference Play

The 2013-14 College Hockey America conference schedule opens this weekend with the 6-2-0 Robert Morris Colonials travelling to Hockey Valley to take on Penn State.

Robert Morris, picked third in the preseason coaches poll, has been the hottest team in the league out of the gate, jumping out to a 6-2 record. Only five teams in the nation have reached six wins or better so far, and only three have better records through eight games.

The Nittany Lions enter their second season of CHA play with a 2-5-1 record so far in non-conference competition. They are 1-3 at home this season in the new Pegula Arena. Penn State is looking to build upon last year, their first as a full D-I school, with another strong freshman class. Four rookies have contributed 15 of the team's 44 points, and sophomores account for another 20 of those. With the continued emergence of sophomore goaltender Celine Whitlinger, who has already tied her win total from a season ago while posting a .935 save percentage and 2.52 GAA, and the leadership of senior captain Taylor Gross (3G, 4A), head coach Josh Brandwene's side is well on its way to surpassing their seven wins from a season ago.

Robert Morris boasts talented rookies of its own. Freshman Brittany Howard and Jessica Dodds have each had an immediate impact. Dodds is 5-0-0 in five starts in goal, with a 1.78 GAA and .919 save percentage. Howard is first in the nation in rookie scoring with 12 points (3G, 9A), which is also good for second overall in the league. Each has nabbed two CHA weekly awards in the first five weeks of the season.

Last season the Colonials swept all four games against Penn State. After this series, the teams won't see each other again until the final weekend of the regular season, February 21st and 22nd in Pittsburgh.

 

TEAM NOTES

Lindenwood (0-9-1) – The Lindenwood women's ice hockey team is off this week ... the Lady Lions start conference play on Nov. 8-9 at the Lindenwood Ice Arena against RIT ... Lindenwood played the No. 2 team in the country, Wisconsin, twice last weekend ... in the first game of the series, the two teams were tied late in the first period, but the Badgers scored the final four goals of the game for a 5-1 win ... Lindenwood was down just one goal with eight minutes remaining in game two of the series before Wisconsin scored twice in a 4-1 decision ... the four goals allowed in that game was the fewest that Lindenwood has allowed to a nationally-ranked team ... Lyndsay Kirkham had a goal and an assist in the series, and Caitlyn Post had a goal ... Jocelyn Slattery had a positive plus/minus for the series and she tied for the team-high with seven shots ... Nicole Hensley had a .906 save percentage and a 4.51 GAA for the series, and she made 97 saves ... Kendra Broad had a team-high five blocks against the Badgers ... through ten non-conference games, Kendra Broad leads the team with two goals, three assists, and five points ... Jocelyn Slattery and Alyssa West have also scored twice on the season ... Carrie Atkinson leads the newcomers with two assists and two points.

 

Mercyhurst (5-3-1) – The eighth-ranked Mercyhurst University women's hockey team captured their first weekend sweep against the University of Maine at the Mercyhurst Ice Center last weekend. The Lakers improved to 5-3-1 after winning 2-1 on Friday and captured the team's third shutout on Saturday (5-0). On Friday, sophomore Emily Janiga scored just two minutes into the contest to give her team the 1-0 edge. Senior Christine Bestland scored her first game-winning goal of the season at the 15:20 mark of the middle period. In Saturday's contest, both teams skated through a scoreless first period with Mercyhurst, outshooting Maine 14 to nine. Sophomore Jenna Dingeldein scored the game-winning goal in the second. The Lakers ignited their offense in the third period with four goals. Kathy Donohue tallied a career-high three points in the contest after she picked up two assists and a goal. Dingledein and Janiga are both approaching 50 points for their careers. Dingeldein needs two and Janiga is three away. Senior Christine Bestland needs 14 more points to reach 200 career points. Goaltender Amanda Makela was again phenomenal, allowing just one goal between the two games, earning her third shutout of the season Saturday, and her third-straight CHA Goalie of the Week nod. The Lakers have the weekend off before starting their CHA slate at Robert Morris on Friday, November 8 and Saturday November 9.

 

Penn State (2-5-1) – The Nittany Lions hosted an exciting series with New Hampshire last weekend, dropping an 8-5 barnburner and a 3-1 Sunday afternoon tilt...In the 8-5 game, the lead changed six times and had five ties that ultimately wasn't decided until the final 3:39 of regulation when UNH put in three goals including an empty netter...Five different Nittany Lions scored in the contest including Sarah Nielsen, who scored her first collegiate goal, and Jess Desorcie, who tallied her first marker of the year...Three Nittany Lions recorded two points apiece—Taylor Gross (goal and an assist), Shannon Yoxheimer (two assists) and Hannah Hoenshell (two assists) ...The Nittany Lions tallied three goals within the first 40 seconds of each period... ...Celine Whitlinger was solid in net Saturday, saving 32 of 35 Wildcat attempts... Whitlinger has posted three games of 30 or more saves and has a team-high 144 this season, averaging 36 saves per game... The Nittany Lions host Robert Morris this weekend when they kick off the CHA conference schedule Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena.

 

Robert Morris (6-2-0) – With a sweep against Vermont, the Colonials are now 6-2-0 on the season and are off to their second best start in school history. The mark also gives RMU a winning record through eight games for the third straight year, and earned them votes in both national polls this week. The 2011-12 Colonials started 6-1-1, and last year's team began the year with a record of 5-2-1 ... Behind a five-point weekend, freshman forward Brittany Howard is now second in the CHA in points with 12, and assists with nine. Her performance earned her a second CHA Rookie of the Week award. Those marks also tie her for the national lead in assists, and put her in a tie for sixth place in goals ... A week after sophomore forward Ashley Vesci scored her first career goal in a win against No. 7/8 Boston University, fellow classmate and linemate Anissa Gamble picked up the first two goals of her career in Saturday's 6-4 victory over the Catamounts. RMU currently holds the top five spots for plus/minus in the CHA. Freshman forward Maeve Garvey leads the conference with a mark of +7... The Colonials go on the road to start CHA play this weekend as they travel to Penn State for a rare Thursday/Friday series. RMU won all four contests against the Nittany Lions last year. Junior Rebecca Vint tallied eight goals in those four games.

 

RIT (4-5-0) – The Tigers split a weekend series for the fourth straight weekend, this time against Brown. On Friday, Celeste Brown scored two goals as RIT skated to a 2-1 victory. Ali Binnington made 18 saves for her fourth win of the year. On Saturday, goaltender Brooke Stoddart made her collegiate debut, stopping 17 shots, but RIT squandered a late lead and ran into penalty problems in overtime for the second straight Saturday, allowing a power-play goal with 1:47 left in a 2-1 loss to the Bears. RIT wrapped up its six-game October homestand with a 3-3-0 mark. RIT is 4-0-0 on Friday this season and 0-5-0 on Saturday. The Tigers are 20-8-5 when allowing two or less goals, and 0-13-0 when allowing at least three tallies in its brief Division I history. RIT is off this weekend, but returns to action on Nov. 8-9, opening up league play with a two-game series at Lindenwood. The Tigers are Lions split the season series in 2012-13 with a 1-1-2 mark.

Syracuse (4-4-0) – The Orange continued to roll last weekend with victories over nationally-ranked Boston College, 4-1, on Friday and 5-2 against Union on Saturday, earning them votes in both national polls. Syracuse now has two wins over top-10 opponents. On Friday, Syracuse jumped out to a three-goal lead with strikes from Jessica Sibley, Allie Lacombe and Margot Scharfe. Sadie St. Germain added an insurance goal in the third, but the star of the show was senior goaltender Kallie Billadeau. Billadeau shut down the Eagles offense, stopping 44 of 45 shots, including 25 in the first two periods, earning her co-CHA Goalie of the Week honors. On Saturday, Scharfe led the way offensively with two goals and an assist in the win over Union. Her four-point weekend earned her CHA Player of the Week laurels. Jenesica Drinkwater earned the win in goal. Syracuse is off this weekend before beginning their conference schedule on the road at Penn State on November 9th and 10th.