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PSU Closes Regular Season with Senior Night, Three-Day Weekend




No. 8 Penn State (12-6-0/7-4-0 ECWHL) vs.
Navy (7-15-0/0-12-0 ECWHL)
When
Friday, January 30th at 10:15 p.m.
Where
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
The Lead
Penn State's drive to the ACHA National Tournament resumes after a week off against the visiting Midshipmen.
Live Video

No. 8 Penn State (10-6-0/7-4-0 ECWHL) vs.
Northeastern (4-12-0/2-9-0 ECWHL)
When
Saturday, January 31st at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 1st at 11:00 a.m.
Where
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions honor an extraordinary senior class and play their final home games of the season.
Live Video

Game Notes

Senior Citizens: Prior to the middle game of the weekend - the 7:00 p.m. Saturday start against Northeastern - the Lady Ice Lions will conduct the annual Senior Night ceremony to celebrate the careers of assistant coach Jess Desorcie and players Kim Badorrek, Taylor Nyman, Cara Mendelson, Ashton Schaffer, Madison Smiddy, Katie Murphy and Mary Kate Tonetti. Collectively, the group is responsible for two league championships and two ACHA Division 2 National Tournament appearances (each ending with a second-place finishes), with both league and national honors still remaining on the table for this season, of course. It also deserves a gigantic amount of credit for its role in re-establishing ACHA hockey at Penn State in the aftermath of the previous program's move to NCAA Division I and for the team's successful transition to ACHA Division 1 and the ECWHL this season.

For more on this year's special class, click here.

Endurance Test: This weekend is the preliminary step in what should be an interesting challenge to close the 2014-15 season. For starters, outside of the 2013 and 2014 ACHA National Tournaments, this is the first time in Lady Ice Lions history that the team has faced games on three consecutive days (and only the second time other than nationals and the 2014 College Hockey East playoffs that Penn State has played more than one team over a weekend). That test folds nicely into the next one, the ECWHL playoffs on the third weekend in February, where PSU may have to win games against different opponents on three consecutive days to win the title. Finally, of course and hopefully, are the ACHA championships, where the team standing at the end will have survived five games over five days against at least four different teams.

ECWH-Hello: The ECWHL conference race is approaching its dying days, with Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Penn State the teams remaining in contention for the regular season title (which is decided by points percentage in league games). The Lady Ice Lions, 7-4-0 in ECWHL games and in third place, will need to sweep this weekend and finish 10-4-0 to keep a chance at the crown, but will still need lots of help. League leader Massachusetts is 13-2-0 in the league and must do no better than one point over its final four games (Friday and Saturday against Rhode Island, February 14th and 15th at Northeastern) for PSU to finish ahead of the Minutewomen. URI is 9-2-0 in the ECWHL and needs at least five points from its remaining games (tonight against Northeastern, the aforementioned UMass series, February 7th and 8th against Vermont) to beat out the Lady Ice Lions. All in all, it's a pretty tight window for PSU - particularly when granting that the Rams would need to gain three points from the games against the Minutewomen to keep the leaders in range.

The good news: If that doesn't work out, Penn State will still have a shot at the ECWHL playoff title (and the ACHA National Tournament autobid that goes with it) over the weekend of February 20th through 22nd in Kingston, RI. The first day of the playoffs will see the sixth-place team (Navy is locked into that spot) battle the third-place team, while the fourth-place squad takes on the fifth seed. The winners of those games advance to the semifinals on day two, where the first and second seeds will await.

Poll-y Sci 101: The other way to make it to nationals, of course, is through the rankings. Thanks largely to the January 18th upset at then-unbeaten and still top-ranked Miami, the Lady Ice Lions jumped from 11th to 8th in the penultimate ranking of the regular season, released last week. While the top eight teams in late February's final ranking make it to York in theory, the autobids awarded to each of ACHA Division 1's three conferences complicates the picture for teams near the bottom of the list, particularly since one conference (the WWCHL) does not presently have a team in the top eight. Penn State, then, will look to gain a couple more spots by then through strong performances this weekend and in the ECWHL playoffs.

Beyond that, the Great Scoreboard Watch is now in full force and will include primarily...

4. Adrian: The Bulldogs traded shutouts with No. 5 Michigan last weekend and close with No. 12 Robert Morris, No. 13 Davenport and Ohio State for two games each before the CCWHA playoffs.

5. Michigan: After splitting with Adrian, the Wolverines end their regular season with series against Davenport, Robert Morris and No. 6 Grand Valley State.

6. Grand Valley State: The Lakers played Miami tough last weekend with a pair of two-goal losses at home and will continue with a single game against No. 9 Michigan State and the series at Michigan.

7. Rhode Island: A sweep of RMU last weekend (one win by forfeit) kicked off the Rams' ranking period. Other than the already-mentioned ECWHL games, Rhody has a February 6th meeting with No. 10 Colorado State remaining. The possibility of a PSU-URI meeting at the ECWHL playoffs also offers a layer of intrigue.

The (First) Opponent

Name: United States Naval Academy
Nickname: Midshipmen
Location: Annapolis, MD

Series History: Penn State leads, 2-0-0. The Lady Ice Lions have skated off with decisive wins both times they have met Navy, first winning 9-1 on January 13, 2013 behind a six point outing by Mandy Mortach (four goals, two assists) as well as a goal and two assists by Nyman in her debut with the team. Earlier this season, on November 2nd, Mendelson scored 1:51 into the game to kick off a 9-0 barrage at Pegula Ice Arena. Murphy, Devon Fisk and Darby Kern skated on a line together that afternoon and combined for six goals and seven assists.

About Navy: Since that first visit to PSU, the Middies have continued their dual reality of playing in both the ECWHL and the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference. Navy has continued to fare well in the DVCHC, carrying a 7-1-0 record in the league and 6-0-0 within their division to occupy the driver's seat for a top seed in the playoffs. The ECWHL has been an entirely different story, however, as the squad has only managed to stay within five goals three times in 12 conference games, all losses. Hannah Pereira (15 goals, 10 assists), Claire Clark (15 goals, 5 assists), Allyson Strachan (12 goals, 11 assists) and Emily Buzzard (11 goals, 8 assists) headline Navy's attack, while Sarah Hutchinson has taken most of the team's toughest contests between the pipes.

Trivia: While Navy does not have NCAA Division I hockey, it has flirted with the prospect repeatedly, particularly since its home McMullen Hockey Arena was constructed in 2007. Most recently, the academy was floated as an expansion candidate by Bob DeGregorio, the commissioner of the men's Atlantic Hockey Association and the women's College Hockey America before withdrawing from consideration last January.

Head Coaches: Kimberly Himmer and Keith Himmer
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.50
Goals Allowed Per Game: 5.64

Team Website:
http://www.usna.edu/NWHOCKEY/

The (Second) Opponent

Name: Northeastern University
Nickname: Huskies
Location: Boston, MA

Series History: Penn State leads, 2-0-0. In November, the Lady Ice Lions took a pair of one-goal decisions in Boston, by 2-1 and 3-2 counts. The first required overtime, where a Smiddy drive 40 seconds in settled things, while the second saw a pair of Claire Gauthier assists and another winner from a defenseman - this time Tara Soukup in regulation.

About Northeastern: Like Navy, NU has struggled in the ECWHL this year, defeating only the Middies on the way to a 2-9-0 league mark (part of a 4-12-0 overall record). That said, underrated goalie Anne-Marie Dion (2.40 goals against average, 0.915 save percentage) has kept the Huskies in many games against the ACHA's best - including the two games with PSU, as well as two-goal losses to both third-ranked Massachusetts and number seven Rhode Island. Michelle Macchione and Pittsburgh native Kelsey Hickey each scored on the Lady Ice Lions in November and pace the 2011-12 ACHA national champs' offense with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Trivia: Prior to the Lady Ice Lions' upset of Miami on January 18th, Penn State's last win against the top-ranked team in ACHA Division 1 was on January 21, 2012, when the Lady Icers triumphed 3-2 at Northeastern. Desorcie opened the game's scoring, while Mendelson assisted on a Taylor Gross shorthanded goal to make it 2-0 in the second period, although Macchione and Meredith Harclerode struck quickly for the Huskies to tie things up. The decider went to Tess Weaver, who buried a 2-on-1 with Gross in the final 20 minutes.

Head Coach: Jeff Postera
Goals Scored Per Game: 2.31
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.69

Team Website:
http://nuwomensicehockey.weebly.com/

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Exceptional Lady Ice Lions Seniors to be Recognized Saturday Night

2014-15 Lady Ice Lions seniors Ashton Schaffer, Madison Smiddy, Taylor Nyman, Mary Kate Tonetti, Katie Murphy, Kim Badorrek and Cara Mendelson



Quite simply, the Lady Ice Lions' 2014-15 senior class will forever be among the most notable in team history as, along with last year's graduates, the group was responsible for keeping ACHA women's hockey at Penn State alive and thriving after the previous Lady Icers program was moved to NCAA status in 2012.

Consider the following:
  • Despite a lightly-scheduled inaugural Lady Ice Lions season in 2012-13 and games remaining this year, PSU's ACHA teams have won 53 times from 2011-12 through 2014-15, the best four-year total since 2001-02 through 2004-05.
  • Penn State qualified for the ACHA Division 2 National Tournament in 2013 and 2014, the school's first consecutive trips to an ACHA tourney since a run of four straight from 2001 through 2004. The Lady Ice Lions are presently in strong contention to qualify for Division 1 nationals this year for only PSU's third time at that level since 2004.
  • In both 2013 and 2014, the Lady Ice Lions finished as ACHA runners-up, the highest-ever national finish by any Penn State women's hockey team.
  • Six of the current seniors were freshmen on the Lady Icers team that won the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League regular season championship in 2011-12, PSU's only ECWHL regular season or playoff championship in ten seasons as a league member (2003-2012, 2014-present).
  • That title and the 2013-14 College Hockey East regular season crown are two of the seven conference championships in Penn State's ACHA history.
All of that on-ice success has come in addition to the grueling behind-the-scenes work associated with starting a new team and developing off-ice structures, work recognized by Penn State's club sports program through awards like Most Improved Club in 2012-13 and Outstanding Women's Club for Organizational Excellence last year.

In other words, in three short years, this senior class has played a central role in building a program arguably better than the one that departed, and any success the team experiences going forward will largely be as a result of its efforts.

Here is a bit more on each of the group - seven players and one coach - individually, including comments by head coach Patrick Fung.

The seniors will be honored on Saturday night at 7:00 in Pegula Ice Arena, prior to Penn State's game against Northeastern.


Kim Badorrek was a massive recruiting success for the 2013-14 season, entering the program not as an untested freshman, but as an instant team leader with Tier 1 credentials. She’s been a standout defenseman on a standout defense, playing in all situations and keeping the Lady Ice Lions among the nation’s stingiest teams over the last two years. Badorrek’s shot from the point is among the roster’s best and often leads to deflection and rebound goals – including one by Carly Szyszko on last year’s senior night that clinched a win over California (PA) and the College Hockey East regular season championship. Three weeks later, she scored the opening tally in a CHE playoff win over Delaware to go along with a score in the first intercollegiate game in Pegula Ice Arena history against Liberty on September 27, 2013 and another this season versus Slippery Rock.

Coach Fung: “Although her contributions as a member of a very experienced and talented D group have been notable, that is overshadowed perhaps by her presence in the locker room. On a large team where personalities, backgrounds and talent level have varied greatly from day one, it takes a special person to be able to steady the boat, bring people together, yet remain focused on success as a team.”

Career Statistics

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2013-14
23
2
2
4
0
0
6
0
2014-15
18
1
5
6
0
0
4
0
Career
41
3
7
10
0
0
10
0




2012-13 Academic All-Big Ten

A mid-season transfer from NCAA Division III Connecticut College as a freshman, Jess Desorcie electrified the Lady Icers with 19 goals in just 14 games over the back half of 2011-12 – including three in a pair of late-season takedowns of eventual ACHA national champion Northeastern. Desorcie then joined Penn State’s varsity team for its first two campaigns, serving as the Nittany Lions’ top-line center for most of 2012-13 and finishing as the squad’s third-leading scorer. Her point total that year included a pair of assists on October 6, 2012 as Penn State won its first-ever NCAA game, 5-3 at Vermont.

Coach Fung: “Jess is an extremely high hockey IQ player who came to PSU with a significant hockey pedigree and was instrumental in the early years of our NCAA program. Due to scholarship restrictions, she was unable to play this season, but instead of hanging up the skates, she wanted to remain on a team and contribute, so coaching became her path. She has been invaluable at practice day in and day out, and her willingness to share her background has been critical to the team's rise after jumping up to the ACHA Division 1 level.”

Career Statistics
(2012-13 and 2013-14 with Penn State's NCAA team)

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2011-12 (CC)
7
2
4
6
0
0
6
0
2011-12 (PSU)
16
19
5
24
3
0
10
3
2012-13
34
5
13
18
0
0
12
0
2013-14
34
1
1
2
0
0
6
0
ACHA Career
16
19
5
24
3
0
10
3
NCAA Career
75
8
18
26
0
0
24
0




2012-13 Academic All-Big Ten
2013-14 Academic All-College Hockey America

Cara Mendelson has made a highly-successful return to the ACHA this year after spending the previous two with Penn State’s varsity team. A defenseman by trade, Mendelson began playing forward as the season has progressed, where her skill and athleticism have balanced the Lady Ice Lions’ attack. The transition paid off immediately, as she went on a run of seven goals in nine outings beginning in November. She spent her rookie season as a lynchpin of a Lady Icers defense that repeatedly showed well against top teams. Despite playing 11 times against NCAA competition, Penn State only allowed 2.43 goals per game.

Coach Fung: “Cara is a great locker room presence – she has an upbeat and infectious personality that just makes you believe great things can happen, and it'll be a great time getting there. She's played both forward and defense this season, showing her versatility and has made us most dangerous as a team up front, seemingly only scoring goals at big moments in games.”

Career Statistics
(2012-13 and 2013-14 with Penn State's NCAA team)

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2011-12
26
1
3
4
0
0
2
0
2012-13
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2013-14
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2014-15
18
8
6
14
0
1
2
2
ACHA Career
44
9
9
18
0
1
4
2
NCAA Career
2
0
0
0
0
0
0
0




After a freshman year with the Lady Icers and two seasons with Penn State’s varsity team (including suiting up for the first NCAA women’s hockey game ever played in University Park), Katie Murphy joined the Lady Ice Lions this season to close her collegiate career. The fleet-footed Honeybaked product has added no-nonsense leadership and a spotless all-around game to the squad, and her seven goals are tied for PSU’s third best so far in 2014-15. Two of those stood as game winners, including in Murphy’s first career hat trick on November 14, 2014 against Slippery Rock.

Coach Fung: “Murph is a fiery, relentless competitor who often doesn't get credit for performing the intangibles of the game at an extremely high level. Whether it be winning faceoffs, checking an opponent's top line, or outstanding work on the penalty kill, a win for us usually involves a lot of work by Murph that doesn't go on a scoresheet, but are my mind, of utmost value to any coach who expects to win games. Easily one of the fastest players in the country, odd man rushes are a rarity when she's on the ice due to her tireless backcheck.”

Career Statistics
(2012-13 and 2013-14 with Penn State's NCAA team)

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2011-12
26
1
4
5
1
0
16
0
2012-13
13
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2013-14
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2014-15
18
7
4
11
0
0
6
2
ACHA Career
44
8
8
16
1
0
22
2
NCAA Career
13
0
0
0
0
0
0
0




Tough to play against, with a penchant for getting under opponents’ skin, Taylor Nyman has been an integral part of the Lady Ice Lions’ checking lines since joining the team in January 2013 and a chief reason why Penn State enjoyed luxurious depth in Division 2 and remains well balanced in this first Division 1 season. She’s been known to chip in timely offense as well, including an assist on the winner in an upset of defending national champion Wisconsin-Stout at the ACHA National Tournament on March 8, 2013 and a snipe moments after stepping on to the ice for the first time on December 8, 2013 that would hold up as the decider against Delaware.

Coach Fung: “Taylor is a player who came back to playing hockey after some time off while attending a branch campus. She contributed immediately at the Division 2 level in 2012-13 and last season. After the move up to Division 1 was announced, Taylor worked very hard to prepare herself physically for the jump and has continued to develop her game throughout the season. She's playing her best hockey now at the twilight of her career and her line's contributions over the last month have been a major factor in the team's climb up the rankings.”

Career Statistics

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2012-13
8
1
3
4
0
0
8
0
2013-14
25
2
6
8
0
0
4
1
2014-15
18
1
2
3
0
0
2
0
Career
51
4
11
15
0
0
14
1




Long after she graduates, Ashton Schaffer will be remembered as one of the most dependable players to suit up at Penn State. A founding member of the Women’s Ice Hockey Club in 2012-13, Schaffer became the only person to suit up for each of the team’s first 49 games and has missed a mere two contests over the last three seasons. The November 2014 winner of the ACHA’s Great Skate Sportsmanship Award has been a centerpiece blueliner playing big minutes as the Lady Ice Lions have posted stellar team season goals against averages of 1.42, 1.19 and 1.98 so far this year.

Coach Fung: “The only returning captain from last season, Ashton has been a staple in my defensive group since day one. She is a great example of a stay at home defenseman who plays a steady, quiet game; and only gets noticed when she comes up with a shot block or great defensive play. Ashton is another big piece of our strong defensive core this year and has also been a huge contributor to our outstanding penalty kill. Of note also is her ability to play against every team's top line and power plays and perform her duties with minimal penalty minutes.”

Career Statistics

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2011-12
14
0
2
2
0
0
0
0
2012-13
14
0
4
4
0
0
12
0
2013-14
25
2
4
6
0
0
14
0
2014-15
16
1
2
3
0
0
8
1
Career
69
3
12
15
0
0
34
1




2011-12 Lady Icers Rookie of the Year
2013-14 Academic All-College Hockey America
2015 U.S. National University Team Selection

Madison Smiddy’s value as a Penn State blueliner has now been demonstrated on three different teams. She was one of the Lady Icers’ best at the position as a freshman, then played on the Nittany Lions’ NCAA team for two seasons and carried a points per game average 58 percent better than any other defenseman on the squad during that period. This year, Smiddy’s two bombs were crucial to the Lady Ice Lions’ upset of defending national champion Miami on January 18th.

Coach Fung: “Smiddy brings a skill set on both sides of the puck that is hard to come by in defensemen and a commodity at any level of the game. A stout defender with outstanding skating ability and offensive upside, she has been a major reason for our success this year on both the power play and penalty kill. She will contribute greatly to the U.S. National University Team's success at the World University Games and be a huge contributor the rest of the way for us.”

Career Statistics
(2012-13 and 2013-14 with Penn State's NCAA team)

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2011-12
26
5
5
10
4
0
28
1
2012-13
15
1
6
7
1
0
10
0
2013-14
5
0
1
1
0
0
2
0
2014-15
18
4
4
8
1
0
14
2
ACHA Career
44
9
9
18
5
0
42
3
NCAA Career
20
1
7
8
1
0
12
0




2012-13 ACHA Off-Ice MVP

Lifelong goalie Mary Kate Tonetti performed well in two seasons at forward to selflessly balance out a thin roster – 18 points in 37 games during 2012-13 and 2013-14 – but has dominated in her full-time crease return this year. The ACHA’s September 2014 Warrior Goaltender of the Month rates among Division 1’s stats leaders and will finish among PSU’s career best in most categories (her save percentage is already tops) despite only half of a career’s work at the position.

Coach Fung: “Before any on-ice accolades, Mary Kate deserves full credit for keeping the program alive three years ago after the former team was elevated to NCAA status. After being told she would not be on that team, she managed to assemble a team and rope me into coaching in three months’ time. She made a huge sacrifice for two seasons by playing forward for the first time because the team needed the bodies. MK is an athletic, explosive goaltender who has taken ACHA Division 1 by storm this year with her play. Her strongest attribute is her desire to compete and no-quit attitude, which I believe as a coach is the single quality you want in your goalie before anything else.”

Career Goaltending Statistics

Season
GPMin.Rec.GAASOSASVSV%
2011-12
3
153:08
1-1-0
3.13
1
70
62
0.886
2013-14
2
102:00
2-0-0
0.00
2
38
38
1.000
2014-15
16
967:50
11-5-0
1.80
4
526
497
0.945
Career
21
1222:58
14-6-0
1.81
7
634
597
0.941

Career Scoring Statistics

Season
GPGAPts.PPSHPIMGW
2012-13
14
2
5
7
0
0
6
0
2013-14
23
4
7
11
0
0
12
2
Career
44
6
12
18
0
0
18
2

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Elite Eighth? Despite Big Wins, PSU Makes Modest Rankings Gain




Despite defeating two of the newly-minted top three during the period for the third ACHA ranking of the season, issued Wednesday and including games played through January 18th, the Lady Ice Lions gained just three spots, to eighth.

Penn State's resume since being tagged 11th in late November was impressive, and included five games (of six total) against top-ranked Miami, number two Liberty and third place ECWHL rival Massachusetts, which jumped up from fifth. Those five matches included two wins, 4-3 against Miami this past Sunday and 2-1 against UMass on January 10th.

The victory over the RedHawks snapped MU's 31-game unbeaten streak spanning an entire calendar year, and was also the first time the defending national champs lost at their home Goggin Ice Center in 26 contests.

On the other side of the ledger were three one-goal losses, two of which came in overtime on the road to Liberty and in the back half of the home series with the Minutewomen. The Lady Ice Lions defeated unranked Ohio State in their other game during the ranking period.

Long story short, Penn State proved it belongs with the best in the nation, but the rankings are slow to reflect that demonstrated reality.

A primary culprit for PSU's relative stagnation was the computer poll, introduced this season as one third of the final ranking, along with the averaged vote of all division coaches and a list developed by a committee consisting of seven coaches. The latest iteration of the computer survey places the Lady Ice Lions 12th - exactly where they were prior to the big win over Miami.

After the RedHawks, Flames and Minutewomen, Adrian (up from eighth) and Michigan (up from tenth) rounded out the top five. The Wolverines have played two games against the other members of the current top five this season, losing 5-2 and 4-0 to Miami back in October. Adrian's only contests against the top five were also against MU, where the Bulldogs lost 5-2 and managed a 1-1 tie despite being outshot 39-8.

Grand Valley State held their sixth spot, while the ECWHL's Rhode Island tumbled from third to seventh. Number 15 Vermont, which held steady, was the only other ECWHL team and PSU opponent represented.

Overall record, strength of schedule, record versus ranked teams, games against common opponents, record versus the division and head to head performance are the primary considerations when determining how squads are slotted in the human elements. The computer looks at average goal differential as well as strength of schedule.

The next ranking carries a cutoff date of February 22nd and will be released the following week. Generally speaking, the top eight teams in that poll will qualify for the ACHA National Tournament, held March 4th through 8th in York, PA. However each of D1's three conferences - the ECWHL, CCWHA and WWCHL - are guaranteed an automatic bid to the tournament for their playoff champions and presently, there are no WWCHL teams within the top eight (Colorado State and Minnesota are the best teams from the league at tenth and 11th), so autobids could cost teams near the bottom of the top eight their at-large bids.

Following a week off, Penn State will return to Pegula Ice Arena on January 30th against Navy before a series on January 31st and February 1st versus Northeastern closes the regular season schedule. Puck drops are set for 10:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. respectively, with the middle game of the three serving as the Lady Ice Lions' annual senior night.

Here is the complete ranking:

..
1
Miami
9
Michigan State
2
Liberty
10
Colorado State
3
Massachusetts
11
Minnesota
4
Adrian
12
Robert Morris
5
Michigan
13
Davenport
6
Grand Valley State
14
LU-Belleville
7
Rhode Island
15
Vermont
8
Penn State

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Number One Stunner: Smiddy's Two Goals Fire PSU Past Defending Champs

Senior defenseman Madison Smiddy's brace fueled the monumental upset



On January 18, 2015, the Penn State Lady Ice Lions were the best team in the ACHA.

While that statement might seem brash, maybe even over the top, it's well supported thanks to PSU's 4-3 win over Miami in Oxford, OH's Goggin Ice Center to climb to 12-6-0 overall.

Consider the evidence: The RedHawks are the defending ACHA Division 1 national champions and have been its top-ranked team since the beginning of 2013-14. MU's last loss was nearly one year ago - on January 24, 2014 at Liberty - giving the hosts a 31-game unbeaten streak, part of which came from an 18-0-1 mark this season entering the game. They also boasted a 25-game unbeaten streak at home, dating from October 18, 2013. Individually, Miami's roster includes last season's national tournament MVP in Kaley Mooney and last season's Zoe M. Harris player of the year award winner, Hayley Williams. Next month, Williams, Mooney, three of their teammates and head coach Scott Hicks (who, by the way, was the 2013-14 D1 coach of the year) will travel to Spain to play for Team USA at the World University Games.

So yeah, the RedHawks are pretty good. The best, in fact. But on Sunday afternoon, Penn State was better.

One reason why? Madison Smiddy, herself a World University Games selection, as the senior's left-point bomb during a 5-on-3 advantage with 3:16 left in the game was the decider, helped by a Catie Karpinski holding penalty and a Jessica Gould interference call in quick succession. The marker snapped a 3-3 tie that had resulted from a Nicole Matthews goal with 9:44 left, an innocent-looking transitional floater that eluded Mary Kate Tonetti and became the first career goal for the Miami defenseman.

The score was Smiddy's second in bookending the day's offense, as she also put Penn State up 1-0 exactly four minutes into the game on a nearly identical looking play off of a draw created by Claire Gauthier's dump-in covered by MU goalie Carly Vanorden.

Darby Kern, a World University Games snub despite ranking among the division's top scorers all season, was another reason. She collected three assists in the contest, two of which set up Smiddy's goals. The triple-A placed the Venetia, PA native on 32 points this season, topping Devon Fisk's 2013-14 total of 30 for a new team record.

Jackie Saideh doubled the Lady Ice Lions' advantage to 2-0 with a power play goal 1:43 into the second period, a sequence that saw Fisk help the puck to the front of the blue paint, followed by a pileup of six players, chaos, and then a stick on the puck by a player who always seems to get a stick on the puck at the right moment. Anna Marcus was given the sole helper on the bury.

Miami, true to their pedigree, can strike quickly. In their previous games over the weekend, both wins against third-ranked Rhode Island, they posted two goals within 62, 53, 16, 56 and 23 seconds of each other. They managed the same trick against Penn State, as the early lead evaporated entirely in 72 seconds, thanks to scores from Cassidy Guthrie's wraparound and Williams' laser backhand.

Unlike the Rams, Penn State bounced back, as freshman Riley O'Connor put PSU back ahead with 1:17 left in the middle period on a centering feed to the slot from Kern, who was stationed behind the goal line. O'Connor had temporarily left the game late in the first period after a collision exiting the zone, but returned in time for the vital tally.

PSU's penalty kill finished spotless in five tries, while the power play offered the latter Smiddy goal and the Saideh effort in six advantages. Tonetti closed with 33 saves on 36 RedHawks shots, and Vanorden had 20 on 24 at the other end.

Penn State will have next weekend off before welcoming both Navy (January 30th) and Northeastern (January 31st and Feburary 1st) to Pegula Ice Arena for the final games of the regular season. After that, the ECWHL playoffs from February 20th through 22nd and the ACHA National Tournament from March 4th through 9th loom.

The team should have a good idea where it stands relative to the latter soon, as the third ACHA ranking of the season is expected this week, with a move from number 11 into the top eight seeming likely on the back of Sunday's result.

The best deserve at least that much, after all.

Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (Darby Kern), 16:00.
Penalties
1. Miami, Alyssa Visalli (2:00 slashing), 15:11; 2. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 holding), 14:38; 3. Penn State, Bench (2:00 too many players on the ice, served by Tarika Embar), 3:15; 4. Miami, Alyssa Visalli (2:00 slashing), 0:06.
Second Period
Scoring
2. Penn State, Jackie Saideh (Anna Marcus), 18:17 (power play); 3. Miami, Cassidy Guthrie (Alyssa Visalli), 5:12; 4. Miami, Hayley Williams (Kaley Mooney, Nicole Matthews), 4:00; 5. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Darby Kern, Cara Mendelson), 1:17.
Penalties
5. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 tripping), 9:39; 6. Penn State, Devon Fisk (2:00 high sticking), 0:46.
Third Period
Scoring
6. Miami, Nicole Matthews (unassisted), 9:44; 7. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (Darby Kern), 3:16 (power play).
Penalties
7. Miami, Nicole Matthews (2:00 interference), 15:09; 8. Miami, Kaley Mooney (2:00 holding), 8:53; 9. Miami, Catie Karpinski (2:00 holding), 4:49; 10. Miami, Jessica Gould (2:00 interference), 4:32; 11. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 cross checking), 0:04.
Goaltending
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: W, 33 saves/36 shots. Miami: Carly Vanorden: L, 20 saves/24 shots.

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