-->

ACHA Alters Tournament Structure, Rankings at Annual Meeting




At its annual meeting, held in Naples, FL from April 28th through 30th, the ACHA's Women's Division 1 head coaches approved a number of rule changes for the upcoming 2016-17 season.

Chief among those is a drastic change to the structure to the ACHA national championship tournament.

While the field will remain the same - eight teams - pool play has been abolished in favor of strict head-to-head matchups. The first three days will now see the qualifying and seeded teams pair off (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5) for a best-of-three series. The winners of that round will be re-seeded and advance to the semifinals.

The previous format, which had been in place since the 2009-10 season, split the eight teams into two pools of four, with the top two teams from each advancing to the semifinals after a full round robin.

The nature of tournament sites will also change, as the ACHA will be centralizing the tournaments from each of its five divisions at one big-city location during the same dates in order to consolidate the association's marketing potential and create what should be seen as a major destination event. Columbus, OH will be the first metropolis to host the megatournament, tentatively scheduled for March 14th through 18th of next year.

Additionally, teams trying to qualify for nationals will generally have a much better idea where they stand, as the ACHA rankings will now be issued each week during the season. The move is unprecedented for a women's division as, regardless of changes to methodology, rankings have only ever been issued four or five times per year. Computers and the competition committee will each count for half of the final ranking, as the division-wide vote of the coaches (previously one-third of the tally, along with the other two elements) has been eliminated.

Overtime during the regular season will now be 4-on-4 for five minutes with the teams switching ends, the hope being that reducing the number of players and including the long change will result in fewer tie games.

Several slightly more mundane, but still productive updates were also made and include:
  • There is now a universal pre-game protocol. Game times will be listed as the point when the teams step on to the ice, and from there, a ten-minute warmup, starting lineups, the national anthem and the opening faceoff will follow. Exceptions will be made for those at a school requiring the different protocol used by NCAA teams, although in those cases, the game time listed will still correspond to the moment the teams first take the ice.
  • Teams will now be required to wear matching equipment.
  • All-American nominations, previously submitted by the coaches, will now be automatically granted to players winning first-team selection from each of D1's three conferences. Independent teams (Liberty is the only one right now) will still submit nominations, but will be limited to three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie. Coach of the year awards will use a similar process, with each conference coach of the year and all independent coaches being considered for the honor.
  • Following a controversial finish to the ACHA semifinal game between Grand Valley State and Adrian, officials and video review were major points of discussion. Efforts will now be made to use referees from the USA Hockey national pool (as is done in tournament games) more frequently during the regular season. The inclusion of a dedicated video review official for games where replays are available will also be examined.
  • Pending legal approval, schools with both a D1 and a D2 team (Miami, Michigan State and Liberty are the only three presently in that category) will be able to roster goalies with both teams. This past season, Liberty's D1 team had to forfeit a game to GVSU after playing a goalie from their D2 team due to being shorthanded in net.
Thirteen of the division's coaches were in attendance to vote on the changes, including ECWHL bosses Bill Wright of Massachusetts (who also serves as the league's commissioner), Ashley Pagliarini of Rhode Island and Bob Lehouiller of Vermont.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Lady Ice Lions Honor Seniors, Celebrate Season at Annual Banquet




The Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club's annual postseason banquet, held on Saturday afternoon at The Atherton Hotel in State College, probably doesn't differ substantially from similar events held by almost every team in organized sports.

There are several standard bullet points on the itinerary: remarks from the head coach and captains, presentations of team awards, parting gifts for the graduating seniors and a standard hotel buffet spread involving salad, something with meatballs and cheesecake. And, to be fair, the Lady Ice Lions' season celebration always hits each of those.

What separates PSU's event from others, though, is that the team has developed separate traditions unique among Banquet Saturdays.

One are the team's paper plate awards - a practice dating back to the Lady Icers era - in which each player is given a paper plate by their teammates with honors like "most likely to kidnap a child and claim it as her own" and "most likely to get injured playing intramural soccer," generally including a humorous drawing to match the title.

Another is an annual video prepared by Nina Elia and generally referred to as the "off-ice highlights." Elia's camera is ubiquitous throughout the season on road trips, team social events and impromptu pregame locker room dance parties and the payoff is always a thoroughly entertaining reminder that there's no real value in laying out the money and time commitments involved in playing hockey if fun isn't part of the return. With Elia graduating, her video series is unfortunately at its end, but sophomore Riley O'Connor looks ready to take the reins if her often funny and occasionally emotional senior tribute video that came next is any indication.

Familiarity was also the operative word concerning the formal team awards, as both the Maurice H. Stroemel Most Valuable Player and Billie S. Willits Player's Player Awards went to repeat winners in Darby Kern and Jackie Saideh, respectively. Kern, of course, just completed a career that saw 107 points in only two seasons as well as back-to-back ACHA All-American nods. The latter distinction makes Kern only the second Penn Stater ever to be on the national first or second team twice, following Lady Icer great Katie King in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Saideh, who served as both club president and team captain this season, has always been someone who does whatever the organization needs, on or off the ice. From regular position changes to her high-effort style of play to putting the team's hotel bill on her personal credit card while waiting for Penn State club sports to clear the payment and prepping the banquet's centerpieces, the senior's contributions will be missed in numerous ways next season.

Meghan Miller was voted as the Kyle Rossi Rookie of the Year. The well-rounded Rhode Island native won a tight vote thanks to being a steady performer able to pivot scoring or checking lines with equal effectiveness. She posted nine points for the season, including a pair of power play goals to tie for second on the team in that category as the Lady Ice Lions' had their best season in team history on the advantage.

The team also instituted a new award this year, given to the freshman with the best fall semester grade point average: Rachel Cole and her 3.94 for the 2015-16 opening term. The honor will also be given retroactively to would-have-been past winners Devon Fisk, Lucy Yeatman and Claire Gauthier.

The Lady Ice Lions will lose five seniors for 2016-17 but return much of the team's core, including O'Connor (already the fourth best scorer in team history) and Kelly Watson, each of whom have won Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League and/or ACHA awards, as well as others like Miller, Cole and Gauthier. Those players, along with a recruiting class expected to add tons of skill and depth to the roster, will attempt to win PSU's first-ever national championship in women's hockey next year.

Previous Lady Ice Lions Team Award Winners
Season
Maurice H. Stroemel
Most Valuable Player
Kyle Rossi
Rookie of the Year
Billie S. Willits
Player's Player
2012-13
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Mandy Mortach
Carly Szyszko
2013-14
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Geneva Wagoner
Carly Szyszko
2014-15
Darby Kern
Riley O'Connor
Jackie Saideh
2015-16
Darby Kern
Meghan Miller
Jackie Saideh

Season
Freshman Academic
Achievement Award
2012-13
Devon Fisk
2013-14
Lucy Yeatman
2014-15
Claire Gauthier
2015-16
Rachel Cole

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Thirteen Lady Ice Lions Carry a 3.5 Cumulative Grade Average or Better

Rachel Cole is among Penn State's best at school with a 3.94 GPA



The 2015-16 academic year was a productive one for the Lady Ice Lions, as the team once again excelled in the classroom, headlined by eight upperclassmen who boast a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5.

Those players - whose achievement reached the level of ACHA Academic All-American qualification in seasons that honor is awarded - include Cassie Dunne, Nina Elia, Tarika Embar, Claire Gauthier, Darby Kern, Jackie Saideh, Hanna Scanlon and Lucy Yeatman.

Underclassmen with cumulative GPAs of 3.5 or better include Rachel ColeAimee Little, Meghan Miller, Riley O'Connor and Sophie Paolizzi.

One other upperclassman, Devon Fisk, would qualify as well, although her December graduation with a perfect average for her entire college career meant that she was not reported on the spring semester eligibility form filed with the ACHA and used for determining academic standing with the association.

Specific to this past fall semester Fisk, along with Kern, Yeatman and Little all posted perfect 4.0 GPAs. That quartet, along with Elia, Gauthier, Saideh, Miller, Dunne, Embar, Paolizzi, O'Connor, Cole, Scanlon, Anna Marcus, Allyssa Long and Kelly Watson all won Dean's List recognition (a 3.5 GPA for a single semester), helping the Lady Ice Lions' team-wide mark to a 3.43 for the term, a sharp improvement over last season.

In all, 13 of the 21 players rostered during the spring semester (62 percent) carry a 3.5 cumulative average, while 16 (76 percent) made Dean's List during the last completed semester of school.

Cole was the best-performing freshman with a 3.94 average and will be recognized with a newly-initiated award for the team's top academic rookie.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Second Team, First Class: Kern Named Repeat ACHA All-American




A tough 2015-16 season for the Lady Ice Lions was unable to obscure the brilliance of the team's brightest star, as senior forward Darby Kern has been named a second team ACHA All-American by the association's Division 1 coaches.

Following up on her junior season (her rookie year in the ACHA), in which she led D1 in scoring while winning first team All-American and Zoe M. Harris Player of the Year Award finalist status, was certainly not an easy task. However, despite a sharp drop in team success, from ACHA National Tournament qualifier to 5-20-2, the left winger still nearly duplicated her numbers across the board.

Her 25 goals and 21 assists for 46 points placed her fifth in D1 in scoring during the regular season, while her career stat line of 59-48-107 - accomplished in just two seasons, it bears repeating - will likely stand as a Lady Ice Lions team record for quite a while. Highlights from this past season include a 14-game point streak running from January 9th through February 19th, a four-goal game against Northeastern on November 8, 2015 as well as five-point efforts against the Huskies on October 11, 2015 and Massachusetts on October 9, 2015. Over the former NCAA team member's 51 ACHA games, she posted four goals three times and five or more points six times.

Kern joins an extremely exclusive list in PSU annals with the honor. In 16 seasons of ACHA women's division play, Andrea Lavelle (2000-01 honorable mention, 2001-02 first team) and Katie King (2001-02 second team, 2002-03 second team) are the only Penn Staters who have won All-American honors in Division 1 multiple times. More recently, Devon Fisk (2012-13 honorable mention, 2013-14 second team) and Katie Vaughan (2012-13 honorable mention, 2013-14 first team) accomplished the feat in Division 2.

The alternate captain wraps up her spectacular career with the two All-American nods of course, but also a pair of ECWHL All-Conference listings, one ACHA Player of the Month win, as well as last season's Maurice H. Stroemel Award as Lady Ice Lions MVP (with a second one possibly to come next month).

Here are the full ACHA Division 1 All-American teams:

First Team
All-American
Second Team
All-American
Emalee Wills
Miami
G
Rosie Kelly
Liberty
Sydney Collins
Rhode Island
F
Darby Kern
Penn State
Carrie Jickling
Liberty
F
Téa Greca
Grand Valley State
Brittani Lanzilli
Massachusetts
F
Kaley Mooney
Miami
Morgan McGrath
Miami
D
Brenna Callahan
Rhode Island
C.J. Tipping
Liberty
D
Becca Senden
Miami


Zoe M. Harris Award
Player of the Year
Brittani Lanzilli
Massachusetts

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram