NCAA Matchup of the Week: Mercyhurst at Robert Morris

The two leaders in the CHA go for each other with the regular season trophy on the line

These two teams sit atop of College Hockey America for now, but both have to be itching for a couple of wins and some breathing room here. It looked like Robert Morris may take full control of the first seed last weekend, then dropped three of four points to Lindenwood. Mercyhurst, meanwhile, is winless in four straight. The Colonials hold a 12-12-6 record and sit atop the CHA standings with 23 points. The Lakers are 12-12-5 and are holding down the second spot with 20 points, just two points ahead of the third-place team.

With two weeks left in the regular season for the CHA, this is an important matchup for playoff seeding, as the top two teams in the conference get a bye into the semifinals. A sweep for Robert Morris would lock in top seed; a sweep for Mercyhurst, combined with good weekends for RIT against Penn State and Syracuse against Lindenwood, would leave everything up in the air.

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William Whyte: Both of these teams are having a down year compared to recent history. Last year Robert Morris were third in goals per game in all of D1; this year they’re down from 3.7 to 2.36 goals per game, which puts them in seventeenth. Mercyhurst have been sticking to coach Mike Sisti’s tradition of loading up the schedule with tough out of conference opposition with the goal of strengthening the team for a playoff run. Their out of conference schedule this year is ridiculous — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Cornell, Colgate, Ohio State — but the strengthening hasn’t happened yet; Mercyhurst’s last two weekends have been two disappointing losses to Syracuse and two disappointing ties with Penn State. Robert Morris, on the other hand, are 1-2-1 in the last two weekends, and their last game featured an alarming goalie meltdown as they lost 6-1 on 15 shots from Lindenwood.

So these are both teams looking for a morale boost, and Robert Morris is struggling slightly less this month. I’m going to go 3-1 Mercyhurst in the first, and then a big second game by the hosts for a 4-1 Robert Morris win in the second.

Gabriella Fundaro: Neither team has been able to get anything to stick in terms of goaltending this year, and that’s been a huge contributor to their inconsistencies. I think the Colonials have a definite edge on their blue line, though. Maggie LaGue, Emily Curlett, and Kirsten Welsh are all mobile defenders who can drive play at both ends. RMU forward Jaycee Gebhard is having an MVP performance up front with 44 points, which leads the conference, and Lexie Templeman is having a really nice sophomore year.

Mercyhurst has a good mix of pieces up front between Emma Nuutinen, Maggie Knott, Summer-Rae Dobson, Sam Isbell, Vilma Tanskanen, and Alexa Vasko. Overall, though, the Colonials do a better job of generating offense and limiting what goes the other way, outshooting opponents by an average of nine per game. The Lakers have the best penalty kill in the conference, which should help out this weekend, but I’ll go with a 4-3 win for Robert Morris and then a 3-3 tie in game two.

Eleni Demestihas: These teams are pretty evenly matched. RMU has a slightly better in-conference record, and I think they probably have a slight edge here this weekend. RMU is outshooting their opponents by a fairly significant margin, and Mercyhurst has taken a lot of penalties. Those two things don’t exactly combine for a fun weekend for ‘Hurst, especially given that the two goalies they have splitting time this season have a 2.25 and 3.22 GAA. I do think RMU will sweep, but I also think it’s going to be close. Emma Nuutinen has 25 points in 25 games this year for Mercyhurst, and teammate Maggie Knott isn’t far behind. They certainly can generate offense, but unless they can stay out of the box, RMU will find a way to beat them, with Jaycee Gebhard (44 points in 30 games) likely leading the way.

Nathan Vaughan: This matchup like the CHA is a bit of a guessing game. The Colonials will clinch the regular season title with three points but could still take the title if they got swept with how crazy things are. Before last weekend I would’ve said easily that RMU would take care of business, then they got blown out by Lindenwood... I still think Robert Morris gets the job done.

Katy Mannion: Since they split the season series and their records are virtually identical in and out of conference, I think it’s just gonna be about who comes out and makes a stronger start and rattles the armor a little bit. RMU obviously has that home ice advantage but Mercyhurst is a very solid team so I think it could go either way