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Kern Joins Century Club, But Penn State Can't Finish Comeback vs. URI

Darby Kern scored her 100th career point on Sunday



A brutal first period, a great second period, and a flat third period.

When you're building, the only consistency is inconsistency.

The Lady Ice Lions showed glimpses of potential in rallying from a 4-1 first-intermission hole to 4-3 after two, but couldn't finish the comeback on Sunday, falling 6-4 to new ECWHL regular season champion Rhode Island.

The situation, of course, bears some similarity to Saturday's 7-4 loss, where Penn State was down 3-0 early and 5-1 a bit later, before creeping within 5-3 early in the third period. At the very least, a message of PSU resilience, it is hoped, has been delivered to a URI team that stands a good chance of facing the University Parkers in the ECWHL semifinals in two weeks.

One player who certainly doesn't need much building: Darby Kern. The senior put up a three-point contest to earn the 98th, 99th and 100th of her legendary career.

Her 98th came on an assist just 55 seconds into the game. On the play, Rhode Island won a faceoff in the Penn State zone, but bobbled the puck at the line. That opening created a 3-on-1 rush, with Riley O'Connor finishing behind URI goalie Katelyn Bucior, from Claire Gauthier. It was the lone bright spot in a disastrous opening 20 minutes.

Rams forwards Monica Darby and Lexie Stefekos - a pair of sophomores on URI's senior day - took over from there. From behind the goalline, Stefekos fed Darby for two fantastic looks just outside of the blue paint, both off of Penn State turnovers, and both before the five-minute mark.

Even after that, thorough Rhody domination was the order. By the end of the opening frame, Kiki Levesque and Brenna Callahan had added tallies, just two of the home team's 24 shots on Allyssa Long, compared to only three the other way.

After a locker room gut check with several players airing their thoughts, the story took a drastic turn.

Penn State started to build up chances - Rachel Cole and Kern had notable ones - and O'Connor finally found the payoff, scoring her second in front off of an assist from her team-scoring-record-holding right wing with 11:41 remaining. Kern's 100th point, appropriately, came on her 57th goal - a power play blast from the right circle late in the second. PSU finished with that tally in four tries on the advantage.

In a stark reversal, the team flew into the second intermission break. Then, frustratingly, nothing.

Stefekos and Darby quickly got back to work to stem the rally 2:55 into the third period, this time with center Darby hitting Stefekos on a similar setup to the first two goals the pair generated. Alisha DiFilippo, who scored three times on Saturday, added a 6-3 marker six minutes later, halfway through a Cassie Dunne interference call.

PSU had one more replay in the barrel 1:21 later, as Gauthier finished in front for her fourth point of the series, from O'Connor's fifth, a deft helper that got Bucior down and out. It was enough to get her side at least in position to give pulling the goalie a stab, but not enough to go any further. If nothing else, it meant that the blue and white has scored four or more goals in seven of 11 games this semester (and three in two others), a far cry from the team of two months ago that went nearly four full games without denting twine.

Long finished with career-best 48 saves on 54 URI shots, including a late-second-period denial of a DiFilippo shorthanded breakaway that kept the score at 4-3 and would've proven a pivotal moment, had Penn State finished the game well.

The Lady Ice Lions, now 4-16-2, return home for their final Pegula Ice Arena games this season next weekend, against No. 1 Liberty. Puck drops are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13th and 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, February 14th. After that, the team will head to the ECWHL playoffs in Amherst, MA, with a first-round game against Northeastern set for Friday, February 19th and, with a win, another collision with Rhode Island the next day.

Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Claire Gauthier, Darby Kern), 19:05; 2. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (Lexie Stefekos, Michelle Monet), 18:01; 3. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (Lexie Stefekos), 16:11; 4. Rhode Island, Kiki Levesque (Sydney Collins), 8:53; 5. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (Kiki Levesque, Alisha DiFilippo), 1:03.
Penalties
1. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 hooking), 0:53.
Second Period
Scoring
6. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Darby Kern), 11:41; 7. Penn State, Darby Kern (Anna Marcus), 3:08 (power play).
Penalties
2. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (2:00 body checking), 3:17; 3. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 cross checking), 2:20.
Third Period
Scoring
8. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (Monica Darby, Casey McCormick), 17:05; 9. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Brenna Callahan, Monica Darby), 10:54 (power play); 10. Penn State, Claire Gauthier (Riley O'Connor), 9:23.
Penalties
4. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 interference), 11:49; 5. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (2:00 slashing), 5:08.
Goaltending
Penn State: Allyssa Long: L, 48 saves/54 shots. Rhode Island: Katelyn Bucior: W, 12 saves/16 shots.

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Lady Ice Lions Buried Early by DiFilippo and Rhode Island, Fall 7-4

Darby Kern's latest beasting was not enough for Penn State



For all of Penn State's late-game struggles in the spring semester, this weekend has been a pretty sharp departure, with the Lady Ice Lions winning two third periods by a combined 5-3 count. That number includes a 3-3 barnburner of a 20 minutes against Rhode Island on Saturday evening in Kingston, RI.

The problem, for once, was the first part of the game, as the Rams jumped all over the Lady Ice Lions in the opening period to put PSU in a 3-0 hole en route to a 7-4 defeat.

Alisha DiFilippo, who scored three times at Pegula Ice Arena back on November 13th, did so again against Penn State on Saturday, as the dynamic number 7 dominated the ice for long stretches throughout. Her first came nine minutes into the game on a shot through traffic from up high, and the senior buried again in the final minute of play, with Lexie Stefekos gaining an assist.

Twenty-eight seconds before that second goal, Kiki Levesque cashed in the only power play goal of the game by either side, (with both teams getting two tries at it) as she ripped one home from high in the left circle, set up by Brenna Callahan.

The Lady Ice Lions, despite the handicap, managed to hold URI to a stalemate the rest of the way - and even put a moment of fear into the hosts, thanks largely to Darby Kern.

Kern put up her own hat trick, beginning with an early-second-period setup from Riley O'Connor stationed behind the goal line. The winger then fired from the slot and pinged the bar behind goalie Abbey Torres to ricochet the puck in. Although DiFilippo answered that tally with her third just over a minute later (for a 4-1 score that held through two periods), Penn State's top gun still had more to offer.

After Sydney Collins, the ACHA's second-leading scorer, pushed the Rhode Island lead to 5-1, Kern scored twice in less than a minute to make it a two-goal affair. Both goals were similar-looking plays, a low turnover generated by Kern's reach, then an unassisted bury to place her on 97 career points.

The wild final frame - the first Collins marker and the last two from Kern all happened in the first five minutes - continuted from there, but not in a way conducive to Penn State completing a comeback. Collins took another turn next, stealing the puck in her own end, wheeling down the right side, and firing through Allyssa Long. MaryKate Stimpson sniped the score to 7-3 by creeping into the top of the right circle and blasting home a Monica Darby feed.

With 2:01 remaining, Claire Gauthier closed the scoring to continue her spring resurgence. She found herself in a 2-on-1 with O'Connor, and while Torres saved O'Connor's initial shot, the native of nearby Sandwich, MA was able to pot the rebound. Gauthier now has ten points in ten games this semester (she also assisted on Kern's first goal) after just two in ten during the fall.

Long wound up with 29 saves on 36 Rams shots, while Torres stopped 20 of 24 PSU tries. The two teams will close the series on Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. before the Lady Ice Lions return home to face Liberty next weekend.

Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (MaryKate Stimpson), 12:54; 2. Rhode Island, Kiki Levesque (Brenna Callahan), 1:09 (power play); 3. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Lexie Stefekos, Casey McCormick), 0:42.
Penalties
1. Rhode Island, Kiki Levesque (2:00 body checking), 4:02; 2. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 interference), 1:44.
Second Period
Scoring
4. Penn State, Darby Kern (Riley O'Connor, Claire Gauthier), 18:36; 5. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Casey McCormick, Lexie Stefekos), 17:12.
Penalties
None.
Third Period
Scoring
6. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (Kiki Levesque, Brenna Callahan), 18:38; 7. Penn State, Darby Kern (unassisted), 16:08; 8. Darby Kern (unassisted), 15:12; 9. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (unassisted), 10:56; 10. Rhode Island, MaryKate Stimpson (Monica Darby), 5:38; 11. Penn State, Claire Gauthier (Riley O'Connor, Lucy Yeatman), 2:01. 
Penalties
3. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 interference), 10:20; 4. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (2:00 tripping), 9:19.
Goaltending
Penn State: Allyssa Long: L, 29 saves/36 shots. Rhode Island: Abbey Torres: W, 20 saves/24 shots.

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Northeastbound and Down: PSU Opens Weekend Trip with Win

Jackie Saideh rifled home three goals on Friday night



Jackie Saideh scored her second career hat trick in support of Allyssa Long's first career shutout, as the Lady Ice Lions defeated Northeastern 5-0 on Friday night in Boston.

It was the sort of coldly efficient effort the Lady Ice Lions have sought all season. And while Northeastern, now 1-14-3 overall (against PSU's 4-14-2), certainly isn't headed for a national title, it's certainly worth noting that the last time Penn State visited Matthews Arena, in October, the Huskies jumped out to a 3-0 lead en route to a 6-6 tie.

Long certainly wasn't tested nearly as aggressively as she has been in previous starts - a list that includes top-five teams Massachusetts and Liberty - but still made 15 saves in clocking in a well-deserved milestone in her second-ever win.

Her backing goals (notably, the biggest number she's ever received) began early, six minutes from the opening faceoff, with Darby Kern hitting Saideh in front with a beautiful feed and a subsequent bury past Northeastern standout Anne Marie Dion. Kern added a goal early in the third period on the steal and swoop that has become something of a trademark to position her at 94 career points.

Saideh tends to score in bunches. Her first collegiate goals, in fact, came via hat trick, against Liberty's ACHA Division 2 team on September 28, 2013. Four of her seven goals last season came in PSU's last five regular-season games, and both of her scores in 2015-16 entering Friday night have come within the last four weekends.

So it probably shouldn't have been all that surprising when, despite a career line of 15 total snipes over four years, Saideh blew up.

Her second gave PSU a 2-0 lead with 11:20 left in the middle period. Off of a sustained pressure sequence, Claire Gauthier intercepted an outlet pass behind the goalline. The Massachusetts native then fought through the take-back effort of the passer before centering for fellow Bay Stater Saideh in the slot.

The senior captain completed her hat trick with five minutes left in the contest, on a jam play more typical of her output. Gauthier and Riley O'Connor were also involved in the rugby scrum in front of Dion and gained assists on the play. Eighty-four seconds against Saideh's middle goal, Cassie Dunne potted her second of the year on a harmless-looking wrister from the right side.

Although Penn State's top six - dubbed the Red Line and Blue Line, for the color of their practice jerseys - provided that stats, the Purple and Green Lines, including Tarika Embar, Rachel Cole, Nina Elia, Sophie Paolizzi and Lucy Yeatman, all clocked in with strong efforts, allowing the visitors to flex their depth muscle as the match proceeded.

There were just three total penalties called in the contest, with PSU killing calls to Dunne and Liz Tuorinsky. The power play came up empty on Sarah Deslandes' trip of Kern.

The team will look to continue a successful weekend at No. 7 Rhode Island, with two games at URI's Bradford R. Boss Arena to close things out. Puck drop on Saturday is scheduled for 4:00 p.m., with Sunday's game following at 11:00 a.m.

Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Jackie Saideh (Darby Kern), 13:59.
Penalties
1. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 body checking), 16:17.
Second Period
Scoring
2. Penn State, Jackie Saideh (Claire Gauthier), 11:20; 3. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (Anna Marcus), 9:56.
Penalties
None.
Third Period
Scoring
4. Penn State, Darby Kern (unassisted), 16:00; 5. Penn State, Jackie Saideh (Riley O'Connor, Claire Gauthier).
Penalties
2. Northeastern, Sarah Deslandes (2:00 tripping), 15:50; 3. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 tripping), 13:18.
Goaltending
Penn State: Allyssa Long: W. Northeastern: Anne Marie Dion: L.

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PSU Closes ECWHL Regular Season Schedule with Northeastern, URI

Allyssa Long has taken over as the Lady Ice Lions' primary goaltender



No. 15 Penn State (3-14-2/3-6-2 ECWHL) vs.
Northeastern (1-13-3/0-11-2 ECWHL)
When
Friday, February 5th at 7:00 p.m.
Where
Matthews Arena
Boston, MA
The Lead
As a tough season hits the home stretch, the Lady Ice Lions seek a win against the opponent for two of their three this season (and three of their five non-losses), Northeastern.
Live Video
None

No. 15 Penn State (3-14-2/3-6-2 ECWHL) vs.
No. 7 Rhode Island (13-10-3/10-2-2 ECWHL)
When
Saturday, February 6th at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 7th at 11:00 a.m.
Where
Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena
Kingston, RI
The Lead
Penn State closes the weekend with a series at Rhode Island, seeking to upset the nine-time ECWHL champions for a fourth consecutive ECWHL season with PSU participation (including Lady Icers campaigns of 2010-11 and 2011-12).
Live Video
None

Game Notes

ECWH-Oh Well: When a team is 3-14-2, it's hard to identify any single loss as crippling. The 14th though, this past Sunday to Vermont, holds a spot slightly more damaging than others. With it, the Lady Ice Lions became locked into fourth place in the league standings, behind third-place Vermont, as well as Rhode Island and Massachusetts in first and second. While the best possible scenario (PSU winning its three remaining league games this weekend while UVM loses its two, both at UMass) would result in Penn State and Vermont each having 0.500 marks in the ECWHL, the Catamounts now own the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means that PSU will face fifth-place Northeastern in a play-in game at the conference playoffs in Amherst, MA on February 19th. A win there would draw the ECWHL top seed the next day for the semifinals (URI leads that race, but UMass and UVM are both still in the running), while second and third place play on the other side of the bracket. The championship game, as well as a third-place match, will be played on Sunday, February 21st.

O'C and the Bear: One of the bright spots for the team this semester has been the play of Riley O'Connor and Claire Gauthier, united as regular linemates after generally playing on different units as freshman and during the first half of this year. The small but quick and talented duo has unbelievable chemistry while also developing the confidence to be, for example, more aggressive in transition. It's starting to become rewarding offensively as well: O'Connor played arguably her best game of the season on Sunday in posting a pair of goals with an assist (an output that pulled her equal on points with her 2014-15 total), while Gauthier has six points in her last eight games after just two during a fall that closed on an eight-game drought.

Rachel Cole, Merry Old Soul: Last Saturday evening, Pittsburgh-native freshman Rachel Cole recorded her first collegiate point, a second-period assist of Darby Kern. It was a nice numerical reward for an underappreciated player whose role and ice time has grown through the season, as she presently centers PSU's Purple Line, generally in between Tarika Embar and Nina Elia.

Others who have recorded their first point and goal this year include Meghan Miller, Darian Dempsey and Liz Tuorinsky, while Kelly Watson scored her first goal after three assists a year ago. Sophie Paolizzi, Madison Dwyer and Jordan Chiavacci are the only presently-rostered players still waiting to get on the scoresheet.

14th Century: One player closer to lasts than firsts is senior forward Kern, who registered her 50th career goal last Thursday to set a new program record. While she's unlikely to finish with every PSU scoring record (both season and career game-winning and power play goal marks remain in the hands of Carly Szyszko, Madison Smiddy, Devon Fisk and Geneva Wagoner, for example), Kern does have one major milestone left well within reach: 100 points. Her four last weekend pushed her to 92 for her career, with at least six games remaining in her run.

PSU's struggles this season have deflated individual stats in many cases, but the next player up for a major milestone may be one who, as mentioned, hasn't deflated: O'Connor. She now sits on a 15-19-34 career line, and with a strong close to the season can be well on to the final countdown to 50 points when 2016-17 opens. In just two years, the former Princeton Tiger Lily is already fifth on the team scoring charts, trailing only Kern, Fisk (84 points), Szyszko (43) and Cara Mendelson (37). O'Connor also rates sixth in goals and seventh in assists.

The (First) Opponent

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

Series History: Penn State leads, 6-0-1. This season, the Lady Ice Lions have gone 2-0-1 against the Huskies, all within a five-game stretch in October and November. The latter two of those games produced consecutive 5-0 shutouts by Hanna Scanlon, as well as two goals from Caitlin Costello and two assists from Ashton Schaffer in the first of those bagels. Kern took over in the series capper with four goals, and Cassie Dunne had the other score to go with an assist. A 6-6 tie at Matthews Arena on October 11th involved PSU overcoming deficits of 0-3, 3-5 and 5-6 behind three more tallies from Kern.

Since Last Time: There's really no way around it: the Huskies have struggled this season. Their one win in 17 games came against non-ACHA team Boston University, although their most recent action on the road against Vermont produced a pair of tight losses (1-2 and 0-2) that showed NU as more than capable of playing competitive hockey with tough teams. Like Penn State, they've been hit with in-season departures of good players - Katherine Walsh, Kim Pfeifle and Sarah Wilczynski to name three - but will rely on Hong Kong national teamer Estelle Ip and Clara Karastury (a combined 10 of the team's 16 ACHA goals this year) for offense, and talented but often-besieged goalie Anne Marie Dion to keep opponents at bay.

Trivia: Northeastern has a bit of an ACHA-to-the-show story in former coach Nick Carpenito. Carpenito - while simultaneously playing for NU's men's ACHA team - led the Huskies to the ACHA Division 2 national title in 2009-10, as well as the ECWHL title and a D1 runners-up finish in 2010-11 (NU would go on to win the D1 championship in 2011-12, obviously thanks in large part to his foundation). After graduation, Carpenito then jumped to NCAA Division III power Elmira as an assistant coach for two years before moving to NCAA DI and Union College in 2013-14. For the last two seasons, he's been back at his alma mater as an assistant with Northeastern's varsity women's team.

Head Coach: Jeffrey Postera
Goals Scored Per Game: 1.47
Goals Allowed Per Game: 4.88

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

The (Second) Opponent

Name: University of Rhode Island
Nickname: Rams
Location: Kingston, RI

Series History: Rhode Island leads, 4-1-0. Even with the founding of a new ACHA team in 2012 and the successes that followed, Penn State hasn't been able to shake its historic struggles with URI. At Pegula Ice Arena in November, the Rams took 5-2 and 3-0 wins, with Alisha DiFilippo notching a hat trick in the first game and Sydney Collins following suit the next day. Abbey Torres also starred in the second matchup, thanks to a 35-save shutout.

Since Last Time: Unbelievably, there was a point where URI seemed a possibility to miss the ACHA National Tournament for a second year in a row as, following their sweep of PSU, the Rams suffered a loss to Vermont, followed by four- and six-goal defeats to No. 3 Miami to drop to a precarious seventh in the rankings. Rhody battled back though, taking an overtime win and a tie from a series at archrival UMass last weekend (both in come-from-behind fashion) and now occupies the driver's seat in the ECWHL regular season title chase. Their success is no great secret. Even with Collins, the number two scorer in D1, on the squad, URI boasts remarkable balance. A stacked top six also generally includes DiFilippo (31 points), Kristen Levesque (23) and Monica Darby (19). Casey McCormick, Marykate Stimpson and Janessa Courtney also tend to play well against Penn State. Torres and Katelyn Bucior are probably the conference's best goaltending tandem, while Brenna Callahan, Michelle Monet and Jackie Keable headline what might be its deepest defense corps.

Trivia: Senior forward Levesque - a member of the 2015 U.S. National University Team - was one of seven ACHA players or alumni invited to at least one free agent camp hosted by the professional National Women's Hockey League last summer, prior to its inaugural 2015-16 season. Specifically, Levesque skated at camps hosted by the New York Riveters, Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale alongside players like former Lady Icer Heather Rossi and former Robert Morris and Miami star Hayley Williams, who ultimately signed with the Beauts.

Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.15
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.50

Team Website:
http://uriwhockey.pointstreaksites.com/

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