Eighteen seconds into the game, and the score was already 2-0. One RIT fan said what was on everyone’s mind: “Welcome to Division I.” The Mercyhurst Lakers would make sure the Tigers would not forget their inaugural game, giving them a crash course in the intense, fast, physical play of Division I hockey.
According to an official RIT athletics count, over 1,000 RIT fans were in attendance at Ritter Arena for the game on Friday, September 28. Before the game, they witnessed the unveiling of RIT Women’s Hockey’s newest banner, announcing their stellar 2011-12 Division III championship win.
New challenges are what the RIT Women’s Hockey team was seeking when they jumped up to Division I this year. The ladies were indisputably at the top of Division III last year, with a record-breaking 28-1-1 season. New challenges were exactly what they got last weekend.
Head Coach Scott McDonald explained that this first game against Mercyhurst was about experiencing a Division I game firsthand, and his only expectation was that the ladies would see the style of play they would be adopting in the coming months. The Tigers definitely picked up the Division I intensity for the remainder of the game, and carried it into Saturday’s game.
Unfortunately, the anticipation for Friday’s game caused a lot of nerves, explained McDonald. This, combined with the new style of play, led to a goal at eight seconds, and then another at 18 seconds. Yet, the Tigers did not give a moment’s time to despair over their lackluster start. They quickly began attempting to match the intense play of their opponents. A body-check was called on RIT at 41 seconds: Thus began the penalties. The two teams had 9 minor penalties each by the end of the game.
|Second year Criminal Justice major Julie Hall, fights for possession of the puck against two Mercyhurst opponents during the second period of Friday's game.
The play was uneven in the first period, with the Lakers in possession and RIT on defense. The Lakers dominated the offensive play with 16 shots on goal to our 3 in the first quarter. The Lakers could hardly pass before an RIT player reached them, but their speed and well-polished play broke down our defense. Mercyhurst was able to capitalize on rebounds, following up on all of their shots. At 8:13, the Tigers’ goaltender Laura Chamberlain, third year Business Administration Major, lost sight of the puck, though it sat to her left between her and the pipe holding the net. She dove right, and Mercyhurst slipped the puck in easily. Chamberlain was taken off the ice for the rest of the weekend while second year Finance major Ali Binnington replaced her in net. By the end of the first, RIT was down 4-0.
The second period had another dreadful start for RIT. Another rebound for Mercyhurst, and another successful drive to our net; five
minutes into the second, the score was 6-0. Could it get any
worse for the Tigers?
“They could have very easily hung their heads, packed
it in, and let the score get out of hand,” said McDonald.
“But as the game went on, we started getting better, and we
certainly didn’t quit on the game.” Before the iconic homeice
announcer Rocky Perrotta could finish announcing the
Laker’s sixth goal, first year Psychology major Carly Payerl
scored at 4:56. Tigers fans were ecstatic. Four penalties went
by, with neither team able to do much damage with their
power play. Finally, first year University Studies major Katie
Hubert scored on a power play with less than a minute left
in the period. RIT and Mercyhurst had each scored two
goals in the second, leaving the period at 6-2 Mercyhurst.
The third period began in a frenzy, with simultaneous penalties: RIT had one in the box penalty, while Mercyhurst
had two. Disappointingly, RIT threw away the power play.
The Tigers’ passes didn’t seem to be connecting anymore.
|The RIT women's hockey team leaves the ice at Ritter Arena after a 7-0 loss to Mercyhurst University in the program's first series at the NCAA division I level Saturday, September 29.
This period, however, the Tigers didn’t have as much
trouble getting the puck out of their defensive zone. The
team held Mercyhurst to six shots on goal, while RIT took
12. Some of the shots were quite sharp, but neither team
scored in the third. The Tigers showed impressive growth
throughout the course of the game, but it ended 6-2, making
the first Division I game for Women’s Hockey a loss.
On Saturday, both teams started out with the same
intensity they left off with on Friday. The first period was
scoreless, with six penalties for the Lakers and four for the
Tigers. The game was much more physical. Unfortunately,
the Lakers started scoring midway into the second period,
and they didn’t stop. RIT lost 7-0, leaving them 0-2-0 in the
The Tigers now have the chance to change their game,
improve their skills, and rise to the challenge they set for
themselves. Coach McDonald says his team has shown that
“[they] are competitors.” The women’s hockey team won’t
have another 28-1-1 season this year. But, this season is
going to be intense.