Penn State Falls to Division Foe Robert Morris in Series Opener

Story posted February 8, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Noah

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Penn State Women’s Hockey fell 3-1 Friday night, in a hard fought performance against Robert Morris, who remains atop the College Hockey America (CHA) division.

Penn State had 13 conference points entering play Friday, only trailing Mercyhurst by five points for second place. This was the 33rd meeting between Penn State and Robert Morris. The Colonials lead the all time series, 22-4-6.

With the win, Robert Morris improved to 16-9-2 on the season, while Penn State dropped below .500, to 10-11-6.

Penn State had not played since Jan. 25 against Syracuse, when it lost 3-1. The Nittany Lions had to shake off some rust trading off power plays in the first ten minutes. Penn State was initially the aggressor outshooting Robert Morris eight to three through the first 10 minutes.

Two quality opportunities for both teams were close calls but it was not until 5:51 left in the first on another power play when junior Emily Curlett broke the scoreless tie. This was the second-consecutive game the defender had scored in.

Penalties killed Penn State, giving up three in the first period. This factored into the Colonials taking momentum and finishing the period with an advantage in shots.

“We took too many penalties and did not work smart,” said coach Jeff Kempersal. “We can’t take those, [Robert Morris] has a lethal power play.

The Nittany Lions started the second period with a chip on their shoulder, trying to tie the game. Both Julie Gough and Katie Rankin had quality opportunities for Penn State but could not capitalize, as freshman goalie Raygan Kirk continued to make significant saves.

Penalties continued to be the theme of the game, resulting in a goalie battle. Both teams had successful penalty kills with the netminders, both Chantal Burke of Penn State and the Kirk of Robert Morris, playing sparingly.

Burke ranks fourth in the nation in goals-against-average with 1.45. She won CHA goalie of the month each of the past two months. Burke continued to be a major catalyst for the Nittany Lions, shutting down the majority of the Colonials’ attacks.

With 6:31 left in the second period, forward Maggy Burbridge scored a wrist shot past Burke as the Colonials jumped to a 2-0 lead. The second period was lopsided, with Robert Morris taking 13 shots compared to four for Penn State.

Robert Morris sophomore Leah Marino received a two minute minor penalty after an intense body check on Gough by the team's bench. Penn State used this momentum to score their first goal 15 seconds into the power play. Scoring the goal was defender Izzy Heminger, her fourth of the season. It was assisted by junior forward Natalie Heising and sophomore defender Rene Gangarosa.

Penn State continued to push the pace, knowing one more opportunity could tie the game. Kampersal elected to pull his goalie with 2:30 remaining in the third period and with 1:56 left, Burbidge scored the empty net goal, her second tally of the evening, to put the game out-of-reach for the Nittany Lions.

Burke finished with 29 saves and Kirk had 22, great performance by both of the goaltenders. Kampersal has helped Penn State to become arguably the best defensive team in the CHA, with a conference-leading 2.25 goals allowed per game. It was the offense who had an underwhelming performance.

“I challenged them to finish the game with pride and if they are going to make a mistake, make an aggressive one” Kampersal said. “We are getting our battle scars and it shows we are competing.”

The Nittany Lions will be back in action Saturday looking to even the series against the Colonials starting at 2 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

Matt Noah is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email matthewnoah29@gmail.com.