By: Michelle Crechiolo
As the clock ticked down to the final seconds of regulation in the consolation game between No. 12 Robert Morris and No. 16 Colgate in the first 'Battle at the Burgh' women's college hockey invitational tournament on Sunday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Colonials forward Kyleigh Hanzlik received a pass while heading up the ice.
Hanzlik, who made her RMU debut this weekend after recently transferring from Wisconsin, streaked into the offensive zone. She did a spin-o-rama around the last Raiders defenseman and beat goalie Liz Auby with a beautiful backhand for her first career collegiate goal with just 6.1 seconds left to give Robert Morris a 6-5 lead.
At that moment, not only did the Colonials bench explode with excitement - Hanzlik's former Badgers teammates, watching as they prepared to take on Northeastern in the championship, were also ecstatic, banging on the glass and cheering for their old friend.
"I don't really know how to explain it," a smiling Hanzlik said after the game. "It was a neat feeling to know everybody's behind you like that and so supportive and just wants the best for you. It's pretty cool."
As Colonials coach Paul Colontino said, it was a storybook type of moment.
"You just can't write it any better than that," he said. "I think on a whole bunch of different levels, it was really cool and we're happy for her. And we're obviously happy as a team we got the win."
That was the biggest highlight in a tournament filled with them. On every single level, 'Battle at the Burgh' was a big success - starting with the product on the ice.
Heading into the weekend, Wisconsin head coach Mark Johnson - the son of Badger Bob Johnson and a hero of the 1980 U.S. Olympic 'Miracle on Ice' who played for Pittsburgh from 1980-82 - said with four good teams, the games would be very entertaining. He couldn't have been more right.
"All four games were competitive," Johnson said. "Hopefully the people that came out and watched it and hadn't seen women's hockey got treated to some pretty high-intensity, competitive games."
The powerhouse field was highlighted by the defending national champions and top-ranked Badgers - who finished as the winner of the tournament after a 4-3 overtime victory over third-ranked Northeastern in the championship game.
It was a back-and-forth affair, as to be expected with two teams boasting such talent. Four players - Wisconsin's Natalie Buchbinder, Britta Curl and Abby Roque and Northeastern's Aerin Frankel - recently made their senior national team debuts with Team USA for their first two Rivalry Series games against Canada on Dec. 14 and 17.
The Badgers took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on goals from Curl and Roque, but the Huskies battled back to tie it 2-2 heading into the second intermission on goals from Brooke Hobson and Tessa Ward.
In the third period, it was the NCAA's leading scorer that stepped up with the go-ahead goal. Badgers forward Daryl Watts, who has 20 goals and 52 points in 22 games, gave Wisconsin a 3-2 lead. But just a few short minutes later, Northeastern's Skylar Fontaine tied it to send the game to overtime.
While Frankel stood on her head - facing 55 shots total in the game - Wisconsin's Caitlin Schneider scored the winner on a power play with 59.4 seconds left.
"They're No. 3 and we really needed that win," Roque said. "It was important for us to get coming towards the end of the year, so it was awesome for Caitlin to put that one in. Aerin is an incredible goalie. It's a challenge to score on her. We pelted her with pucks and tried getting people in front and did our best. Finally one went in."
Frankel was named tournament MVP and was also named to the All-Tournament Team along with Watts. Joining them were Wisconsin's Kristen Campbell and Mekenzie Steffen, RMU's Emily Curlett and Colgate's Sammy Smigliani.
Wisconsin advanced to the championship after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Robert Morris on Saturday night. Northeastern got there after defeating Colgate 2-1 in a shootout. The building was especially packed for that first evening of games, providing a phenomenal atmosphere for the teams involved.
"This was everything we hoped that it would be, for sure," said Kara Radeke, executive director of business operations at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. "Great attendance on Saturday and then another good attendance here on Sunday. The quality of the games and the excitement and the energy was amazing. We couldn't have asked for better games."
And the teams themselves couldn't have asked for better experiences.
"It's been fantastic," Colontino said. "The Penguins organization has been tremendous. I can't speak for all the teams, but in talking with the teams, when anybody has ever needed something this staff here has been so accommodating and quick to respond. It really lets the athletes play. That's what they're here to do. Behind the scenes it's been first-class in terms of being taken care of. It's been a pleasure of being part of it."
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