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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

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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.

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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

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ACHA Announces Nationals Bids, Penn State Absent From Final Ranking




It wasn't exactly a secret that the Lady Ice Lions were not ticketed for a repeat ACHA National Tournament bid following a 5-20-2 campaign, so the ACHA final rankings not including Penn State in the top eight wasn't exactly a surprise.

The news that they did offer, though, was one more ignominy in a season full of them: Penn State was booted from the rankings altogether to close things out, landing in the dreaded "others receiving votes" category along with Ohio State and Midland.

To say it wasn't deserved, however, would be wrong. Although PSU placed 15th in each in-season ranking this year, then-unranked Vermont went 2-0-1 against the blue and white since the last time things were tabulated, including a 7-2 drubbing in the ECWHL third-place game on Sunday. The Catamounts, essentially, took PSU's spot in the rankings by checking in to 15th.

Liberty, Miami, Grand Valley State, Adrian, Massachusetts, Lindenwood-Belleville, Rhode Island and Michigan (in that order) were ranked as the top eight and will compete at nationals in Kalamazoo, MI from March 9th through 13th. The Lady Ice Lions, of course, played half of the field this season and went 1-15-0 against Liberty, Adrian, UMass and URI, with an overtime win against the Minutewomen on January 9th standing as an obvious season highlight.

Colorado - which narrowly missed the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League title and an autobid to nationals with a 2-1 loss to LU-B in the WWCHL final - finished 11th. Davenport was 14th to round out the collection of ranked PSU opponents from 2015-16.

In Penn State's combined ACHA history, it is the first rankings miss (within the team's ACHA division at the time) since January 25, 2008. The 20 losses and 0.222 winning percentage that led there are all-time lows.

Here is the complete ranking:

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

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