This Week in D-I Women’s Hockey: November 13, 2009

When you head west and pull off one big upset, it may be dismissed as a fluke.
However, when you pull off a second such stunner, you begin to gain a reputation as a giant-killer … which is how the hockey world can now regard Robert Morris.

Last weekend, the Colonials motored out to Madison to face defending national champion Wisconsin, and handed the Badgers a 3-1 spanking. A night later, they came within an eyelash of repeating the result before falling 3-2 with less than two minutes to go in overtime.

This from a Robert Morris squad that has never finished higher than third in the five team CHA, a conference often regarded as the least of the four loops in women’s hockey. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the standing of the CHA – and RMU – in the women’s hockey continuum.

“There are times when you feel the other teams don’t give you respect,” said Colonials goaltender Daneca Butterfield, “which is fine. It makes you work that much harder to earn it. When you win, it makes you feel that much better. I think we’re earning it slowly.”

As has been said in this space before, the CHA is not a league to be trifled with. Mercyhurst’s ownership of the top spot in each weekly poll this season is just one example.

Another would be the way RMU has whipped up on the best of the west the past two years. Last season, it was the Colonials’ astounding upset of Minnesota in the season opener that sent eyebrows arching. This year, they had already engineered a split with mighty Minnesota-Duluth, then repeated the feat at Wisconsin.

These are the same teams that have captured all eight previous NCAA championships.

“We’ve beat good teams,” said Butterfield, a junior from Kronau, Saskatchewan (surely you’ve heard of it). “Because we’ve had the opportunity to play ranked teams and come out with victories. So any doubt in our minds is definitely not there any more.”

Having already scored such queen-sized upsets outside the division, Butterfield said that the Colonials have now set their sights on striking blows within the CHA.

Ultimately, that means toppling Mercyhurst, whom they have failed to beat in 17 previous tries.

“Mercyhurst has a great team and a great program,” Butterfield said. “However, we haven’t had the opportunity to play them yet (this year). Playing the great teams that we have already played this year has gotten us ready for them. Whatever teams shows up to play on any given night can take home the ‘W’. We’ve had quite a rivalry with them, so I don’t think it’s out of reach that on any give night, either of us can come out with a win. It’s a matter of who comes the most prepared and ready to battle.”

When doing battle with Robert Morris, you’d better keep an eye on that sling shot.

Empty Netters

While on the subject of goalies, the numbers thrown up to date by Northeastern sophomore netminder Florence Schelling are positively mind-numbing. The Pride of Oberenstringen, Switzerland (sure, you’ve heard of that one, too) has allowed just seven goals in nine starts this year, good for a teensy 0.77 GAA and a .970 save percentage. Schelling leads all the nation’s goalies in both departments, and is a huge reason why the Huskies have reeled off a fine 7-1-2 mark (3-0-2 in HEA).

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