Five Things That Happened in the CHA, October 7th Edition

1. RIT Opens Polisseni Center, Take 3: Following (first) a dedication ceremony and (second) an exhibition loss to Pursuit of Excellence last weekend, RIT bounced back in the only arena debut that will be remembered by anyone, by sweeping Union. The task for the Tigers now will be to turn to navigation of a sticky next couple series (they host New Hampshire and Northeastern this weekend before traveling to Vermont for a pair) without falling victim to the early-season distraction that hit Penn State’s women and men when Pegula Ice Arena opened last year.

2. Boring Old Mercyhurst: The emergences of the Tigers, Robert Morris and (to a lesser extent) Syracuse have increased the calls that someone other than the Lakers would rule the CHA. Not so fast, as Hurst responded in the same way they generally do: by winning. Their double bagel on Providence – no longer the power they were in the earlier days of women’s hockey, but generally a decent squad – over the weekend places them as the only unblemished conference team (if you count RIT’s exhibition loss that doesn’t count) at this early stage. Mike Sisti and his machine have winnable games against Maine, Northeastern and Minnesota State over the next three weeks to raise their national profile before the league schedule fires up.

3. Goaltending Issues at RMU: Last season, Jessica Dodds burst on to the scene as a freshman, gobbling up more than 80 percent of the crease minutes on a strong team, posting a national top ten-worthy goals against average (1.66) and save percentage (0.932), and being voted all-conference first team at the end of it all. This season? Not quite the same so far. She’s split each of the first two series with veteran Courtney Vinet, while allowing eight against in her two games. Vinet, meanwhile, got Bobby Mo in the win column after three straight losses to open the season with an 18-save shutout of Maine. The money here says that Dodds bounces back, but it’s certainly a situation to monitor as the season progresses.

4. Unexpected Poll Juice: In a reality that can perhaps be attributed to the rising national profile of the CHA, Robert Morris somehow hung on to three votes in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Poll despite an uninspiring 1-3-0 start. A bit more expected: Mercyhurst was seventh both there and in the USCHO poll, while RIT remained in possession of their vote remnants.

5. Penn State Looks For Context: It’s tough to answer “what does it all mean” at this point in the season, but in terms of the capital-Q Question in play for Penn State – has yet another influx of talented Minnesotans finally helped the Nittany Lions turn a corner? – the weekend wasn’t all bad news. They played typically stacked, top-ranked, national title or bust Minnesota probably a bit tougher than the score last Friday, then rebounded to take down St. Cloud State for the program’s first-ever win over a WCHA opponent. Going forward, PSU will need to finish off games where they own a lead and take more points from squads like Lindenwood, but should those two things happen (they didn’t last year), they can at least think about getting home ice in the first round of the CHA playoffs.

One of the team’s Minnesotans, Hannah Ehresmann, chipped off the CHA’s weekly goaltender of the week honor for her 29 saves against SCSU. So between her and Celine Whitlinger, Josh Brandwene’s squad should at least be in the game against almost anyone who isn’t Minnesota.

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