No News is No News as Penn State Stays 15th in ACHA Rankings

Photo: Allyssa Long

Despite a showing that was more or less objectively better than what preceded the first in-season ACHA ranking of 2015-16, the Lady Ice Lions held steady at 15th in ACHA Ranking 2, released Tuesday evening and including games played through November 22nd.

Following a drop from 7th in the preseason poll to 15th last month after an 0-4-1 start, Penn State played two series. The first was a sweep of Northeastern by twin 5-0 scores after a 6-6 tie on October 11th. The second was a pair of losses to newly-minted No. 6 Rhode Island, 5-2 and 3-0. In just about every way, URI tracks comparably to No. 5 Massachusetts, which defeated PSU by five and four goals in the campaign's first two games. Still, those slight gains were not held in enough esteem by the division's coaches and the computer ranking to merit a jump.

The Lady Ice Lions are rated 14th by the computers, which count for one third of the total, along with the averaged votes of all coaches nationally and the collective opinion of the D1 competition committee, an eight-member body that includes head coach Patrick Fung.

Penn State will have plenty of opportunity to climb up into the top eight - the cutoff for an ACHA national tournament bid - before the third rankings cutoff on January 17th and the fourth on February 21st, which determines the teams invited to Kalamazoo, MI between March 9th and 13th. The team has no fewer than 12 contests remaining against ranked teams during the regular season (of 15 total games), including No. 1 Liberty, No. 2 Adrian, No. 5 Massachusetts, No. 6 Rhode Island, No. 13 Colorado and No. 14 Davenport.

Adrian's Bulldogs are up first on the list as PSU's first opponent once the team returns from Thanksgiving break this week. Those games are set for Friday, December 4th at 10:15 p.m. and Saturday, December 5th at 7:30 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

Here is the complete ranking:

Michigan State
Robert Morris
Grand Valley State
Colorado State
Rhode Island
Penn State
Others receiving votes: Vermont, Wisconsin

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

National Scoring Leader Collins, Rhode Island Too Much for PSU Again

Claire Gauthier was heavily involved in Penn State's offense on Saturday

Ultimately, a big part of the story of the Lady Ice Lions' two home defeats to Rhode Island on Friday and Saturday was the performance of the Rams' stars.

In the series opener, center Alisha DiFilippo's hat trick powered URI's 5-2 win. On Saturday night, it was Sydney Collins' turn, as ACHA Division 1's leading scorer (16 goals, 30 points entering the contest) posted her own trifecta to help her squad to a 3-0 sweep clincher.

Collins burned PSU once in each period, with all three coming on similar effort plays.

The first came with 1:14 remaining in the opening period, immediately after Aimee Little made arguably her best stop of the game, using her glove to deny Janessa Courtney before Collins bulled her way to the net for the follow-up. Another late-period marker was in order for the second period, with just 53 seconds left and on another second-chancer - this time chasing herself. Courtney picked up a second helper on the play.

Midway though the third period, Collins closed the scoring on a try that appeared to deflect in off of the Lady Ice Lions' defense and in.

From Penn State's perspective, the truly frustrating part was that Saturday's execution and effort far exceeded what was present on Friday. Abbey Torres was forced to be sharp all evening long but was up to the task, turning aside all 35 shots she faced for her second shutout of 2015-16.

PSU came out strong and generated eight of the game's first nine shots, helped by a pair of power plays in the first 15 minutes. Devon Fisk had the most notable chance of that early stretch, stepping around the defense and firing a solid shot on before pursuing the rebound, but Torres made both saves.

Another close call came early in the second period when Cassie Dunne launched out of the penalty box following a hooking minor and broke in alone on Torres. However, Brenna Callahan tripped up the defenseman to foil the immediate chance, and the Lady Ice Lions could not convert what would turn out to be the final power play for either side. Claire Gauthier was also involved in a pair of narrow misfires, first joining Fisk for a pair of hacks on a puck that caromed off of the end boards late in the second period, then another with 3:47 remaining in regulation that saw the Sandwich, MA native chip around the Ram defense to the front of the net, but a bouncing puck and a scramble in front was ruled no goal.

Little turned in her typically-sound effort and finished with 38 saves, but saw her record drop to 0-4-0. Another record that looks a little worse than it did before: Penn State's all-time mark at Pegula Ice Arena, which sat at 18-2-0 coming into the weekend but is now 18-4-0 following the first-ever series sweep by a visiting team.

The team will now enjoy a week of optional practice and another week including Thanksgiving break before returning to game action at home on December 4th and 5th against third-ranked Adrian - a team that, of course, took two meetings with PSU in Michigan last month. Before then, the second ACHA in-season ranking is scheduled for release during the week after November 22nd with the now 2-6-1 club hoping to advance from its current 15th-place spot.

Box Score

First Period
1. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (Janessa Courtney, Brenna Callahan), 1:14.
1. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (2:00 high sticking), 14:32; 2. Penn State, Caitlin Costello (2:00 tripping), 9:26; 3. Rhode Island, Bench (2:00 too many players on the ice, served by Sam Evans), 6:56; 4. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 hooking), 0:10.
Second Period
2. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (Janessa Courtney), 0:53.
5. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (2:00 tripping), 17:57.
Third Period
3. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (unassisted), 12:03.
Penn State: Aimee Little: L, 38 saves/41 shots. Rhode Island: Abbey Torres: W, 35 saves, 35 shots.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

DiFilippo's Hat Trick Rams Rhode Island Ahead of Lady Ice Lions, 5-2

Liz Tuorinsky scored her first collegiate goal in the loss. Photo: Allyssa Long

Rhode Island's Alisha DiFilippo scored three times, while Janessa Courtney and Monica Darby each added a goal and an assist as URI topped the Lady Ice Lions 5-2 Friday night in Pegula Ice Arena.

Despite the final scoreline, the game felt like something of a missed opportunity, as fifteenth-ranked Penn State, now 2-5-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League, found itself in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes despite being outshot 23-11 by a strong, hard-working visiting squad.

DiFilippo got her team's offense started early, scoring a pretty transition goal from Courtney just 1:35 into the game, as the URI standout worked around the Penn State defense and went bar and in on Aimee Little. Liz Tuorinsky had a reply late in the frame, scoring her first career goal with her trademark heavy shot from just inside the line, set up by Riley O'Connor.

The unlikely goal trade was in effect once again in the second period, this time with the Lady Ice Lions' outstanding power play going first, with Brenna Callahan off on a tripping call in the last four minutes of the stanza. Caitlin Costello, 19 seconds from the penalty's expiration, finished her seventh tally in front after Darby Kern deftly slid the puck over to her in tight quarters. Meghan Miller got the secondary assist on the play, to help PSU's power play improve to 7-for-15 this year.

Rhody answered less than a minute later on DiFilippo's second, an unassisted marker after the puck took an awkward bounce off of the end boards and was misplayed. That goal, in hindsight, effectively foreshadowed the remainder of the contest.

Courtney, Darby and DiFilippo all scored in the third period to help the No. 5 Rams, now 8-4-2 overall and a first-place-worthy 7-1-1 in the ECWHL pull away for a solid result, with the latter finishing her trifecta with 14 seconds remaining in the game on her team's 39th shot. Courtney's score came just 12 seconds into a Tuorinsky checking call, part of a 1-for-3 Rhode Island power play effort. Callahan assisted both the first and last goals of the period to join her three teammates in notching a multi-point evening.

The teams will meet again to close the series on Saturday evening at 9:00 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena, the last game for the Lady Ice Lions before the second in-season ACHA ranking of 2015-16 is released in the week following November 22nd.

Box Score

First Period
1. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Janessa Courtney), 18:25; 2. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (Riley O'Connor), 0:29.
1. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 cross checking), 4:48.
Second Period
3. Penn State, Caitlin Costello (Darby Kern, Meghan Miller), 3:45 (power play); 4. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (unassisted), 2:51.
2. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (2:00 tripping), 5:26.
Third Period
5. Rhode Island, Janessa Courtney (Brenna Callahan, Monica Darby), 13:43 (power play); 6. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (Lexie Stefekos, Casey McCormick), 5:25; 7. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Sydney Collins, Brenna Callahan), 0:14.
3. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 body checking), 13:55; 4. Rhode Island, Casey McCormick (2:00 hooking), 12:40; 5. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 body checking), 10:51.
Penn State: Aimee Little: L, 34 saves/39 shots. Rhode Island: Katelyn Bucior: W, 15 saves, 17 shots.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Lady Ice Lions Set For Rhody Back to National Contention

Photo: Allyssa Long

No. 15 Penn State (2-4-1/2-2-1 ECWHL) vs.
No. 5 Rhode Island (7-4-2/6-1-1 ECWHL)
Friday, November 13th at 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, November 14th at 9:00 p.m.
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
The Lead
Rejuvenated Penn State seeks to claw back into national consideration against the nine-time ECWHL champion Rams
Live Video

Game Notes

Goaldigging: The Lady Ice Lions' goaltending situation this year, to put it mildly, has been a madhouse. Aimee Little, the projected starter headed into the season, has missed five of the team's seven games due to commitments with Penn State's women's rugby team (which won the Big Ten championship last weekend, thanks in part to Little's try in the semifinals). Sumire Clevenger started PSU's ill-fated opening road trip to Massachusetts and Northeastern. Little was then available for the trip to third-ranked Adrian, playing spectacularly in defeat. Allyssa Long has been injured, with her projected return sometime around winter break. The latest entry in the category is Hanna Scanlon, a practice player who stepped in against Northeastern last weekend and laid down two shutouts with a combined 39 saves - the Lady Ice Lions' first consecutive bagels since December 7-8, 2013 by Mary Kate Tonetti against Delaware under similar emergency circumstances (recall that Tonetti, in the middle of a two-year stretch playing forward, had to return to the crease while Katie Vaughan was at World University Games). With rugby now finished for the fall semester, things should stabilize a bit for the time being, although the position certainly remains under close watch.

Red Hot Hockey: Another team concern has been the ability to build depth through the forward lines. Still, while it's maybe not the ideal situation, it's hard to take issue with the amount of production PSU has received from its Red Line (named for the color of its practice jerseys), consisting of Darby Kern, Riley O'Connor and Caitlin Costello. October ACHA/Sher-Wood Freshman Spotlight winner Costello led the way last Saturday with a pair of goals, while 2014-15 All-American Kern exploded for four on Sunday. Small but fearless O'Connor has been remarkably consistent between the two, with her 10 points (two over the weekend) already more than halfway to passing her 17 during her team rookie of the year campaign in 2014-15.

Texas Forever: Ashton Schaffer has never been known for offensive production, serving instead as a rugged, positionally-sound blueliner who has been on the most-heavily-used pairing for one of the nation's top defensive teams over the last two seasons. Still, her start to this year has been noteworthy: one goal (a power play marker at UMass) and two assists (both from solid shots on goal resulting in a deflection and a rebound last Saturday) in seven games. For perspective, had a 1-5-6 line in 25 games last season, and 2-8-10 in 39 games at the Division 2 level from 2012-14. Unfortunately, the world won't find out how the start translates to a full season, as Schaffer only has four games left before her December graduation.

Special at Specialization: PSU's special teams units have continued to be one of the squad's highlights. Thanks to a Kern power play goal on Sunday, the Lady Ice Lions went 1-for-3 over the weekend to set the season total at a national-leading 6-for-13 (46.2%) after an 8-for-64 (12.5%) effort last season. On the other side of things, Penn State killed all four of its penalties against the Huskies to bring that season mark to 12-for-15 (80.0%). Kern and Meghan Miller have two PPGs each, which Schaffer and O'Connor have chipped in one.

The Opponent

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

Series History: Rhode Island leads, 2-1-0. The first truly noteworthy win of the Lady Ice Lions' time in Division 1 came on November 9, 2014 when Cara Mendelson, Anna Marcus and O'Connor staked PSU out to an early 3-0 lead, with PSU hanging on for an eventual 3-2 result against then-fourth-ranked URI. The Rams took the first game of that series 3-1 behind a goal and an assist by Cassie Catlow and 25 Kayla DiLorenzo saves. Most recently, Rhode Island bested the Lady Ice Lions 4-1 in last season's ECWHL semifinals thanks largely to two third-period Kristy Kennedy goals, a contest that was seen by many (incorrectly, as it turned out) as deciding the final bid to the ACHA National Tournament.

About Rhode Island: URI was expected by many to be in a transitional season after losing players like former Zoe Harris Award winner Catlow, Kennedy (50 points last year, third only to Kern and Liberty's Carrie Jickling during the ACHA Division 1 regular season) and DiLorenzo, a former first-team All-American. However, the Rams currently stand fifth in the rankings thanks to results like a 4-3 win over No. 4 Massachusetts on October 24th and a 3-2 loss to top-ranked defending national champ Liberty on October 10th. Last weekend, Rhode Island competed at the ACHA Showcase in Amherst, MA and came away with a 1-1-1 record after a scoreless draw with No. 7 Michigan and a 5-2 victory against No. 11 Colorado State. Versatile Sydney Collins, who has moved to wing this season after being a potent blueliner (and even a brief stretch in goal) last year, leads all of D1 in scoring with 29 points, 16 on goals, in just 13 games, while Alisha DiFilippo (20) and Kristen Levesque (18) also reside in the top five. Brenna Callahan and Jackie Keable anchor a rebuilt defense group, while Katelyn Bucior and Abigail Torres have split goaltending duties so far.

Trivia: The Rams - until last season - had qualified for 11 consecutive ACHA National Tournaments, dating to 2003-04 and presently tied for the second-longest string in history. Since the first ACHA National Tournament in 2001, Michigan State has qualified most frequently, 13 of the 15 times. That's followed by Massachusetts with 12, then URI, Michigan and Robert Morris all tied at 11, and Minnesota and Lindenwood both with eight. Penn State has seven total trips at the D1 level (2001-04, 2007, 2010, 2015). Rhode Island, Michigan State and Robert Morris had all qualified for every tourney from 2004 until last year when none of them did.

Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 4.23
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.92

Team Website:

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram