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Rochester, NY–The RIT women’s hockey team raised its 2011-12 Division III National Championship banner on Friday (9/28) evening in front of a packed crowd at Ritter Arena. The women made history by playing its first Division I game against College Hockey America opponent, No. 10 Mercyhurst a few minutes later. Unfortunately for the women, its Division I debut was derailed by Mercyhurst, as the visiting Lakers handed RIT a 6-2 loss in front of 1,055 fans.

The Lakers scored twice in the first 18 seconds, eventually building a 4-0 lead after one period and 6-0 just 4:42 into the second period. RIT regrouped tremendously, scoring two second period goals, and out-shooting the Lakers, 18-14 over the final 35:18 of play, including 12-6 in the third.

Overall, Mercyhurst held a 35-23 edge in shots. RIT was 1-for-8 with the man-advantage, while Mercyhurst was 0-for-8. Freshman Carly Payerl (Kitchener, Ontario/Resurrection Catholic) and Katie Hubert (Burlington, Ontario/Burlington Nelson) scored their first collegiate goals for the Tigers.

Mercyhurst goaltender Amanda Makela made 21 saves in victory. RIT goaltender Laura Chamberlain (Norco, CA/Norco)took the loss, allowing three goals on eight shots in the first 8:32. Ali Binnington (Oakville, Ontario) played the final 51 minutes, stopping 24-of-27 shots.

RIT Head Coach Scott McDonald gave full credit to Mercyhurst, but liked how his team played over the last half of the game.

“Mercyhurst is a top-10 team (in the nation) and showed why right away,” said McDonald. “They are very quick, tremendously skilled, and did a great job getting on right off the bat. This is a great measuring stick for our team and lets us know what we need to improve on to compete at this level. I thought we definitely played better as the game wore on.”

Christine Bestland scored a goal and added a pair of assists for the Lakers, who are picked to finish first in the College Hockey America pre-season poll for the 11th straight season. Jenna Hendrikx scored a pair of goals, while Christie Cicero added a goal and an assist. Molly Byrne and Shelby Bram also scored for the Lakers.

Payerl scored RIT’s first goal at the Division I level 4:56 into the second period, redirecting a point shot from senior Ellesha Fortuna (Burlington, Ontario/Notre Dame Secondary) past Mercyhurst goaltender Amanda Makela.

In the final minute of the second period, freshman Hubert stole a Mercyhurst clearing attempt along the boards, took a few steps in and with Ariane Yokoyama (Van Nuys, CA/Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies ) screening the goaltender, Hubert fired a shot off the crossbar and in on the power-play for her first collegiate goal.

Mertcyhurst showed why they have made eight straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, as the squad silenced the loud Ritter Arena faithful just eight seconds in, as right off the opening draw, Bestland and Cicero walked in on a 2-on-1 and converted it to perfection for the quick 1-0 lead. Just 10 seconds later, Bestland struck from Cicero, as Kathy Donohue created a quick turnover behind the RIT net and the duo worked their magic for the quick 2-0 lead.

Hendrikx made it 3-0 at the 8:13 mark, converting a rebound after a shot by Lauren Jones that bounced off Kristin Grenier and landed in the crease. Chamberlain could not find the puck and Hendrikx was there to stuff it in.

McDonald pulled Chamberlain for Binnington soon after, but at the 14:42 mark, Byrne fired a shot from the left circle that caromed off a Tiger defenseman and past the RIT goaltender.

Mercyhurst scored twice in a 58 second span early in the second period to put the game away. Bram took advantage of a turnover caused by Emily Janiga to make it 5-0, while Hendrikx tallied her second of the game after great work from her line caused a turnover.

RIT finished 28-1-1 and won the Division III title just seven months ago. The Tigers lost for the first time in just over eight months and snapped a 14-game winning streak dating back to last season.

Before the game, Dr. Mary Beth Cooper, Senior Vice President of Student Affairs at RIT and 2012 senior Ali Hills(Honeoye Falls, NY) unveiled the 2012 NCAA Championship Banner. Right after, RIT President Dr. Bill Destler, CHA commisioner Bob DeGregorio, former RIT standouts Sarah Dagg (St. George, Ontario/Hamilton Hawks), the 2011 Laura Hurd National Player of the Year Award winner and Kristine Pierce Brassie, winner of the 1999 Hockey Humanitarian Award dropped the cermonial first puck to current RIT captain Kim Schlattman (Stratford, Ontario/St. Michael’s Catholic)and Mercyhurst captain Christine Bestland.

The two teams conclude the weekend series Saturday (9/29) at Ritter Arena at 2 p.m. RIT ends the regular season at Mercyhurst in late February.