The Mercyhurst women’s hockey team has enjoyed a successful season to date.
However, lately the Lakers have hit a stretch of uninspired play.
Following a weekend series with Robert Morris, two streaks were snapped: 29-0 all-time versus Robert Morris and their 28-game unbeaten streak in conference.
Every team, even the best, is allowed an off night during the season. Thankfully, the Lakers have been able to pull out most of those games to this point in the year.
The problem is their recent stretch of play will not get them anywhere when the NCAA tournament rolls around.
When the Lakers came within 2 minutes and 30 seconds of sweeping No. 3 Cornell earlier in the season, they played clean and passionate hockey. They followed Cornell series with a hard-fought split with No. 4 Boston College.
Both teams are solidly in the NCAA tournament discussion. They were good indicators of just how talented the 2011-12 Lakers can be.
But when they hit their College Hockey America (CHA) portion of the schedule and seem to lull through two periods only to pull it out in the third, it’s troubling.
The Lakers beat up on a bad Lindenwood club to start the stretch, but this was expected. They did the same in game one against Syracuse.
Syracuse then came out and tied the second game of the series 1-1. This was a game one could pass off as an off night.
This was only the beginning.
Next up was a home-and-home series with Niagara.
Niagara always plays Mercyhurst well, and they did manage a sweep, but it wasn’t pretty.
If it weren’t for Jill Szandzik’s overtime goal, that very easily could have gone either way.
After the Syracuse tie and an overtime win over Niagara, the Lakers had to have been awake going into the Robert Morris series.
Robert Morris is an extremely improved team from previous years with former Laker Assistant Paul Colontonio now their head coach.
On the surface, game one was all Mercyhurst with a 4-2 victory. But when one player scores all four goals, it begs the question of how did everyone else play?
Game two the Lakers came out quickly, flying up and down the ice with what seemed like inspired play. That style tailed towards the end of the first period and didn’t reappear until late in the second.
Mercyhurst received a breakaway goal by sophomore Christie Cicero to tie the game heading into the third.
Coming out with some fire, Senior Kelley Steadman netted a beautiful goal to take the lead. But two goals scored in the final 2 minutes and 38 seconds of regulation by Robert Morris brought an end to the comeback. The Lakers lost 3-2.
The star of the weekend is Steadman, who scored five goals and was named CHA player of the week. Since the Syracuse series, Steadman has scored 10 goals and dished out two assists. She is now second nationally in goals.
She has covered up some of the Lakers deficiencies over the last few games.
Senior Bailey Bram has not been as effective since she returned from playing for Team Canada. Also, senior goaltender Hillary Pattenden only has an .863 save percentage in conference, compared to her .92 overall save percentage.
This Lakers team has the talent to challenge nationally, but they need to play at a more consistent level to be successful.
They have the weekend off to get their legs back, before heading to Niagara Feb. 3.