Women's hockey splits against CHA opponent

Heading into the second half of the season, the women’s hockey team has suffered from its fair share of struggles over the first 18 games of the year. This weekend was no exception as Rensselaer split non-conference play against the Robert Morris University Colonials. After dominating in game one of the series and coming out with a 5-2 win, the Engineers could not repeat the performance, falling by a score of 3-1 the following afternoon. With the win and loss, RPI is now 5-8-4 overall, while RMU holds a similar 5-10-1 record. “It was very frustrating,” said sophomore Alisa Harrison of the split weekend. “We are better than that team, but we did not play at the way we did in Friday night’s game, and it cost us the game.”

The two games against Robert Morris marked the Engineers’ final match against CHA teams this year. Throughout the season, Rensselaer has competed against each of the five teams in the league. “It make it more fun to switch it up and travel to different places,” said sophomore defenseman Sierra Vadner. “It helps to play non-conference teams because it allows us to work on some things.”

Friday evening, senior Whitney Naslund led the charge in RPI’s 5-2 win by netting two goals and assisting on two others. Classmate Allison Wright, along with junior Kendra Dunlop, Harrison, and Vadner, all registered two points on the night as well.

Rensselaer hit the boards early on in the opening period, tallying the game’s first goal just over three minutes into the contest. After the puck deflected off the stick of one of the Colonials’ defenders, sophomore Amanda Castignetti took advantage of the situation by grabbing the puck and sending it up to Wright on the wing. Wright was able to beat junior goaltender Daneca Butterfield on her glove side to put the Engineers up 1-0.

The Colonials came back to knot the game midway through the frame with freshman Kathleen McDonald’s second of the year. In a perfect display of a classic skating and shooting drill, sophomore Brianna Delaney slid the puck cross ice to senior Jacki Gibson, who caught McDonald perched right outside of the net, and buried the biscuit to the right side of the cage.

Heading into the locker room tied up at one, the Engineers hit the ice with a drive for success. Despite being outshot 6-12 in the second period, junior netminder Sonja van der Bliek held strong in goal, keeping the Colonials limited to one mark through two periods of play.

Six minutes into the frame, Naslund netted her first of two on the night off a misplay by Butterfield. Naslund ripped a shot on net, but Butterfield mishandled the rebound as it trickled over the goal line, putting Rensselaer up 2-1. Fellow senior Laura Gersten made it a two-goal game with her third marker of the year. From the point, Gersten rifled a slap shot straight into the upper-right hand corner, with the assists going to Naslund and Vadner. The shot would be Butterfield’s last of the night, as she was pulled in favor of freshman goaltender Kristen DiCiocco.

Both goaltenders kept it a tight game through the final period of play. Neither team would place on the board until Dunlop registered her fourth goal of the year at 11:50. Leaving a juicy rebound following a shot from the point from sophomore Katie Daniels, Dunlop grabbed the puck and flipped it back toward DiCiocco for the 4-1 lead. Vadner also earned an assist—her second of the night—on the play. “It felt great to help out the team,” said Vadner of her two-point game. “I always want to support my team in any way possible.”

Although the Colonials would add one more off Delaney’s sixth of the year, it wouldn’t be enough to cut the deficit as Naslund sealed the deal with an empty net goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation.

Butterfield shouldered the loss, making 13 saves on the night, while DiCiocco registered eight saves in relief. Van der Bliek, earning her fifth win of the season, stopped an impressive 29 of 31 shots faced.

Unfortunately for RPI, the momentum from Friday night’s win didn’t carry over to the following day as Robert Morris came back to snap a six-game losing streak and earn its first home-ice win of the season. Once again, Naslund led the charge for the Engineers, registering their only goal of the night.

The Colonials earned the first goal of the game at 6:59 of the opening period. Gibson took advantage of a power play opportunity by netting her second goal of the year from a shot just inside the blue line. Junior Sara O’Malley earned the sole assist on the play. Just five minutes later, O’Malley made it a two-goal game as she and junior Maria Stoa collaborated on two-on-one rush into the Engineers’ zone, beating van der Bliek with a backhanded shot.

Van der Bliek and Butterfield each stopped six chances in the second period, keeping both teams off the boards in the frame. Despite several chances to get ahead, Rensselaer and Robert Morris each only registered one goal in the final period of play, bringing the score to 3-1. Naslund cut the deficit to one with a power play marker at 14:11, but after pulling van der Bliek in favor of the extra skater late in the period, Delaney found the back of the empty net for her second of the night and seventh of the year.

Putting up another strong game, van der Bliek posted 14 saves in the loss, while Butterfield, redeeming herself from the night before, made 21 stops. “It was pretty disappointing to not walk away with a sweep, but every game is a learning experience and that helps with coming back with a positive attitude,” said Vadner of the weekend.

RPI finishes the semester with a home-and-home series against the Union College Dutchwomen this Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm and noon, respectively. “Union is a scrappy team that never gives up,” said Harrison. “We will have to play strong and smart all 60 minutes of each game.” Saturday’s match will be played at Messa Rink in Schenectady, N.Y., while Sunday’s contest brings Rensselaer home to the Houston Field House. “Our expectations for the two games are to just play as best as we can as a team. When we do that, everything will fall into place and we will come out with a sweep,” said Vadner of the upcoming weekend. These will be the last two games for the Engineers prior to taking a month-long hiatus before more league play in mid-January.