ACHA Powers and NCAA Competition Highlight 2016-17 Schedule

Historic Hersheypark Arena will host the Lady Ice Lions' first game against varsity competition on February 3rd

2016-17 schedule

Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club head coach Patrick Fung has unveiled the team's 2016-17 schedule, one that promises to once again be among the ACHA's toughest. It features 12 games against teams that competed at the 2016 ACHA National Tournament, as well as the Lady Ice Lions' first-ever games against NCAA varsity competition.

In what's become something of an informal team tradition, the early slate is dominated with away games. Infamously, the first Lady Ice Lions team in 2012-13 played only a single game in central Pennsylvania, in Altoona against Slippery Rock. The next year was more balanced, but 2014-15 saw ten away games away from Pegula Ice Arena during the fall semester, compared to just five at home (and only one of those against an ACHA Division 1 opponent). Last season, five road games opened things up, at Massachusetts, Northeastern and Adrian.

This time around, ten of the fall semester's 14 matches are away contests, with the season's opening half featuring all of what is expected to be PSU's toughest Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League opposition. Following an opening series at Vermont over the weekend bridging September and October, Massachusetts will visit on October 14th and 15th before the Lady Ice Lions visit Rhode Island on October 28th and 29th. The opposite-site games will take place on November 18th and 19th when Penn State travels to Amherst, MA and on December 9th and 10th when third-year head coach Ashley Pagliarini brings her Keaney blue-clad squad to Pegula Ice Arena.

UMass, the ECWHL's two-time defending playoff champion, and URI, which took the regular season crown last year, were the league's two representatives at ACHA nationals back in March. Both schools rank in the top four in all-time tournament appearances (UMass is tied for the lead with 13, the Rams rank fourth with 12) and have combined for 12 of the 13 playoff titles in ECWHL history.

Northeastern, the remaining ECWHL opponent, will host Penn State in Boston for single games attached to the URI and UMass trips, on October 30th and November 20th. The Huskies will then drive down to Pennsylvania on February 10th and 11th, that last date slated to include this season's senior night ceremony.

The October 15th tilt with the Minutewomen, a team that features reigning Zoe Harris Player of the Year Brittani Lanzilli, will take place at Galactic Ice in Altoona. Beyond that first home game in team history against SRU, Penn State has used its occasional auxiliary rink two other times, running to a 3-0-0 record in Blair County with wins over Liberty's ACHA D2 team and Delaware in 2013-14.

Another highlight of the fall schedule is a trip to Michigan to play an ascendant Adrian program. The Bulldogs, although of much more recent vintage than the aforementioned ECWHL rivals (the team was founded in 2012), have quickly and firmly established themselves as a top program with consecutive trips to the ACHA semifinals in 2015 and 2016. The initiation of the all-time series last season saw Adrian take all four meetings.

Following winter break, the team will open the second half at Michigan State on January 21st and 22nd. The Spartans are another of the long-time ACHA blue bloods and boast 13 nationals appearances, with championships in 2003 and 2011. MSU, as with Liberty, fields a team in both ACHA divisions, and the Lady Ice Lions swept four games with the D2 Spartans during PSU's 2012-14 D2 era, including the first win in team history on October 13, 2012. The D1 version of the green and white was an occasional opponent of Penn State's previous Lady Icers program, with the last meetings during the 2010-11 season at Munn Ice Arena. Future Lady Ice Lions Allie Rothman and Carly Szyszko participated in that series, a sweep for the eventual national champs, while Fung took over the bench that weekend with regular head man Mo Stroemel away at World University Games.

The next weekend, Penn State returns home to face Liberty, a squad that has made the ACHA semifinals in each of the last four seasons, including a 2015 national championship win. The Flames are once again expected to be among the nation's strongest teams, with two-time Zoe Harris finalist Carrie Jickling returning to play out her eligibility as a grad student. Goaltender Rosie Kelly and defenseman C.J. Tipping were LU's other All-Americans last season, and both are expected back as well. The Virginians have been a bit of a bogey team for the Lady Ice Lions, as PSU has held a lead past the halfway point in four of the six meetings while coming up empty in the win column.

On February 3rd and 4th, Penn State will experience a team first: games against an NCAA Division III program, in the form of a home-and-home series with the new women's team at Lebanon Valley College. The Dutchwomen will be at Pegula Ice Arena for the back half of the series, the day after a contest at historic Hersheypark Arena. The edifice, built in 1936, is best known as the home of the American Hockey League's Hershey Bears between 1936 and 2002 - but it is also notable as the frequent site of games played by some of Penn State's earliest intercollegiate hockey teams in the 1930s and 1940s, including the first known win by any PSU team, over Lehigh on February 9, 1939. The Lady Icers infrequently faced NCAA competition over the years, with the last matchup a 3-2 overtime win over Division I's Sacred Heart on January 14, 2012.

The ECWHL playoffs, an event that will once again feature all five conference teams, will take place at UMass over the February 24th-26th weekend, while nationals will be played in Columbus, OH between March 15th and 19th.

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Chiavacci's Unlikely Path to Penn State Paying Dividends This Summer

The Lady Ice Lions' Jordan Chiavacci is skating with an all-female men's league team this summer

College hockey players face an interesting dilemma while staying in game shape beyond the standard dryland work during the offseason because, compared to other sports, it's much more difficult to access the playing surface or find the capable players required to get a quality game going. The solutions generally include latching on to the men's league teams of friends, hitting every available stick time at the local rinks or, if still eligible, rejoining the pre-college U19 team for the summer showcase circuit.

Women's Ice Hockey Club senior Jordan Chiavacci is doing things a little differently than most. Then again, she's used to different by now, as a player who took up the game not with a top youth program or even a high school team as most of her Penn State teammates did, but in the Wyoming Valley Ice Hockey League (WVIHL), a men's league based out of the Revolution Ice Center in Pittston, PA. The WVIHL has skill-level-based divisions called A/B, C and D Leagues.

"My first ever game of organized hockey was in D League, due to lack of female teams and girls not being allowed to play guys juniors when I was starting up hockey," Chiavacci said, before adding that part of her development included practicing and scrimmages with members of the Wilkes-Barre Miners men's junior team.

"The guys on that first team, especially Stew Hatchell, really helped me improve my game and made me a lot more comfortable playing organized hockey."

Chiavacci continued to participate heavily in the various WVIHL leagues, eventually playing in both the A/B League and the C League in order to get as much ice time as possible just before arriving in University Park following two years at Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

It was that start in the game that led to her present situation: skating with a groundbreaking all-women's team in the WVIHL this summer. Chiavacci, along with five other women dubbed the "Original Six" for their status as the six longstanding female players in the WVIHL, form the core of the 14-member squad. In true men's league fashion the team's name, Turnin' Hat Tricks, has an obvious double meaning.

And, of course, another name for men's league is "beer league," so there's plenty of that as well.

"One person on the team is assigned beer duty for the game that week so everyone has a turn buying beer," Chiavacci said. "Our bags go around the outside by the benches and the beer cooler is always in the middle of the locker room. We have a German lady on the team and she brings us German gummy bears and German chocolate candies before games. Usually we play the early games so after our game we usually drink and watch the other teams.

"It's a night full of good company, good beer, and hockey. What more could you want?"

Don't let the less-formal parts fool you though, as there's a lot of high-end experience wearing the Tricks' white and purple jerseys.

Bobbi Fedele, the WVIHL's treasurer and a former player at NCAA Division I's Sacred Heart from 1998-2000 who later skated with Penn State Berks' men's team in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference, took a lead role in forming the team.

“It was kind of a spur of the moment thing that we just threw out there,” Fedele told Wilkes-Barre based paper The Citizens' Voice last month. “It all came together real fast. It was a surprise. Honestly, I thought that we were going to struggle to fill out the team."

"We also have Hannah Goyne, who plays at West Chester for their ACHA Division 2 team," Chiavacci added. "Hannah actually started playing in D League as well before she went to college, so I guess you can consider her and I 'league-born players.' Brittany Rose is our goalie and will be going into her freshman year in the fall at NCAA Division III Stevenson University."

And, of course, there's Chiavacci, who will be counted on this fall to boost a Penn State forward group that loses all three 2015-16 captains to graduation, including team all-time leading scorer Darby Kern.

"Every time I lace up to step out on the ice just makes me more and more excited for our season to start back up," she observed. "I have a lot to prove for myself coming with such an unconventional background, I do everything I can to improve my game and make myself an all around better hockey player."

After an 0-6 start, which Chiavacci blames on players needing to find their legs - several came out of retirement to be a part of the team - while learning how to work together, the Turnin' Hat Tricks have turned up of late. Following several close calls, the team finally notched its first win on June 16th, rallying from a 2-0 hole against the Hooligans for a 4-2 result. Leading the way was none other than the Penn Stater, who collected what might be her first hat trick in organized competition. That explosion has been part of what's been a productive season for the former all-league soccer goalie in high school who, in addition to the Turnin' Hat Tricks, plays for the C League's co-ed Crimson Lions.

She's scored often enough that it's led to a nickname: "Beau Bennett," after the former Pittsburgh Penguins player traded to the New Jersey Devils during June's NHL Entry Draft and also the reason Chiavacci wears number 19 on her jersey. Bennett, notably, also had an unconventional entry into the game, playing primarily inline hockey until he was 15 years old.

"After every goal I score I yell 'Beau Bennett baby!' so the nickname just stuck," she said.

The D League's regular season, which consists of ten games per team, is presently wrapping up. The top four finishers in the five-team circuit will get an additional four round robin playoff tilts in early August to try to win the title. The championship trophy, like most hockey trophies but of particular appropriateness in beer league, includes a bowl ideal for drinking on top.

Regardless of how this summer's seasons turn out, Chiavacci remains grateful for her unconventional, but highly fruitful road to playing at Penn State.

"Without the tremendous help and support from everyone in the WVIHL and all the people I have played with or against, I probably wouldn't be the hockey player I am today."

"From my first session in D League never playing organized anywhere and only getting better, then playing on Penn State's Division 1 club team is something I can really look back on and say 'wow, I really did it.' I'm one who truly lives by the statement that hard work pays off."

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Lady Ice Lions Reinforce Roster, Set to Welcome Five New Players

Penn State Lady Ice Lions coach Patrick Fung has announced the addition of five student-athletes to the squad for the 2016-17 season. They are incoming freshmen Trisha Cierniak (Forked River, NJ), Kate Lombardozzi (Ridgefield, CT), Keara Sullivan (New Providence, NJ) and Megan Lydick (Indiana, PA) as well as rising sophomore Jillian Foster (Johnstown, PA).

Forward/Defense | Shoots Right | Forked River, NJ | Brick Hockey Club U19/Lacey Township HS

Prior to Penn State
Cierniak has a deep hockey background, playing not only for Brick Hockey Club's Tier II U19 team, but also for the boys' team at Lacey Township High School, where she helped launch the program as a junior in 2014-15 and served as a Lions captain during both of her seasons there. Those two years capped an impressive six total captaining boys teams, extending back to travel teams prior to the Lacey squad's inauguration. With Brick, Cierniak was part of a storied program that finished as the third-place team in USA Hockey's Atlantic District in 2015-16.

Patricia Maria Cierniak was born on February 24, 1998 in Trenton, NJ to Stan and Fran Cierniak and has one brother, Chris. As a high schooler, Cierniak was a three-sport athlete, playing field hockey and lacrosse in addition to ice hockey. Beyond her rink exploits, she was very accomplished at both of the other sports, winning All-Shore Conference recognition in field hockey as a senior captain, helping Lacey to an undefeated league championship season in lacrosse as a sophomore, and winning defensive player of the year honors with both teams. Academically, the intended nursing major qualified for both high honor roll and National Honor Society, and also won the Lions' lacrosse team's award for the highest grade point average.

Fung on Cierniak
"Trisha is a product of the Brick AA program that produced NHLer Jim Dowd and several other NCAA-caliber hockey players from an AA level in NJ. She brings a versatile skill set to us at defense - athletic with speed and physical grit, and has the vision and ability to develop into a great offensive contributor for us as well. Trisha is a daughter of a coach, with high hockey IQ and compete level to match."

Defense | Shoots Right | Ridgefield, CT | Hartford Jr. Wolfpack

Prior to Penn State
Lombardozzi spent the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with the Hartford Jr. Wolfpack of the prestigious New England Women's Junior Hockey League, a circuit that places more than half of its players with various college hockey programs. In her first season with the Wolfpack, she tied for the team lead in assists, then followed that up the next year by finishing second in defense scoring. Lombardozzi also played for Ridgefield High School from 2013 through 2015 (her play with the Tigers earned her an All-Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference second team nod), as well as with the Mid-Fairfield Stars Tier II program prior to joining the Jr. Wolfpack. In 2013-14, she helped the Stars' U16s to a New England District runner-up finish and an appearance at USA Hockey nationals.

Kate Elizabeth Lombardozzi was born on March 9, 1998 to Andrew and Cristina Lombardozzi and has a younger brother, Thomas. As a Ridgefield High School student, Lombardozzi ran up an impressive list of academic credentials, including National Honor Society, high honor roll status, and winning the school's Scholar-Athlete Award for both athletic and academic excellence. She intends to major in nursing with the career goal of becoming a certified nurse, then a nurse practitioner.

Fung on Lombardozzi
"Kate has been in touch about Penn State for several years and I believe has grown, as a hockey player, to be a perfect match for the program we have become. A standout student who is in Penn State's elite nursing program, Kate brings the same well-rounded, refined presence on the ice. A Mid-Fairfield Stars product and two-year veteran of the NEWJHL, Kate routinely played heavy minutes against the top girls competition in the northeast. She brings steady, smart two-way play as a defenseman and has the skating ability and skill set to develop into a standout with our team."

Forward | Shoots Right | New Providence, NJ | New Jersey Rockets U19/The Pingry School

Prior to Penn State
Sullivan skated with the noted New Jersey Rockets program, both for the Tier II U16 team from 2013-14 through 2014-15, and as a member of the Tier I U19 team's taxi squad in 2015-16. Scholastically she played at The Pingry School, where she was heavily decorated as a team captain, winning team MVP honors as a junior in 2014-15 as well as the Pingry Girls Ice Hockey Award the following year.

Keara Di Mare Sullivan was born on September 13, 1998 in Livingston, NJ to David Sullivan and Maria Di Mare and has one brother, Nolan, and two sisters, Brigit and Fiona. She was a superb athlete at The Pingry School, playing soccer (both for the school and a club team) and lacrosse in addition to her hockey experience for all four years. In her junior year, Sullivan helped a vastly improved Pingry girls lacrosse squad to the state quarterfinals, while the school's girls soccer team is perennially strong. She is an environmental resource management major in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

Fung on Sullivan
"A late addition, Keara is a pleasant surprise who will give us much needed depth at forward. A graduate of The Pingry School, which has a tradition of developing extremely high-achieving and well-rounded young men and women, Keara is a talented three-sport athlete who was part of a dedicated and hard working group in establishing the girls hockey program. A captain at Pingry, Keara also practiced with the U19 New Jersey Rockets team that represented the Atlantic District at Tier I nationals yet again last season."

Goaltender | Catches Left | Indiana, PA | Mid-State Mustangs U19/Indiana Area HS

Prior to Penn State
Lydick has an extremely deep hockey background, including playing for Indiana Area High School's varsity boys team in addition to the Altoona, PA-based Mid-State Mustangs Tier II U19 team, which she captained during the 2015-16 season. Prior to that, Lydick played for the Armstrong Arrows Tier II U19 squad. She helped backstop the Arrows to a Mid-Am District championship in 2014-15 - including a shutout of the Steel City Selects in the district tournament opener. That trip to USA Hockey nationals was one of three for Lydick, as she also visited youth hockey's biggest stage in 2010-11 and 2011-12 as a U12 and U14 player, respectively.

Megan Nicole Lydick was born in Indiana, PA on August 25, 1998 to Doug and Fran Lydick and has a younger brother, Owen. The academically-inclined netminder was a National Honor Society member in high school, while also qualifying for high honor roll during every period of her high school career. In addition to hockey, Lydick also played on the Indians' varsity lacrosse team, serving as a three-year captain. The architecture major is artistically talented as well, and was featured in a show at a local gallery, along with other IHS seniors, in the spring of 2016.

Fung on Lydick
"Megan is the next in our long line of outstanding Pennsylvania native goalies. An athletic, explosive goaltender who cut her teeth playing boys hockey in the Indiana Convention Center, Megan has the ability to change any game she plays in. A multiple-time district playoff and nationals qualifier with both Mid-State and the Armstrong Arrows, she has USA Hockey nationals experience on the girls side as well. I anticipate she will become one of the very best in the league as she develops with us."

Forward | Shoots Left | Johnstown, PA | Armstrong Arrows U19

Prior to Penn State
Foster played for the varsity boys team at Greater Johnstown High School, as well as for the Armstrong Arrows program, the latter stint continuing through her freshman year at Penn State in 2015-16. The 2014-15 Arrows Tier II U19 team won the championship of USA Hockey's Mid-Am District to advance to the national championship tournament, while the following season's squad were district runners-up. Prior to her time with the Arrows, she also played for the Pittsburgh Vipers, where she served as a U19 team captain in 2013-14.

Jillian Rose Foster was born on January 31, 1997 in Johnstown, PA to John and Joyce Foster (Joyce is a Penn State alumna) and has two sisters, Kasia and Nina. She is an architectural engineering major, with plans to one day own or be a partner in an architectural firm. At Westmont Hilltop High School (her school when not playing hockey), Foster graduated in the top ten of her class and was a National Honor Society member.

Fung on Foster
"Jillian is a sophomore who missed most of her senior season in high school with a broken leg and complications rehabilitating. She practiced with us last spring and continues to show promise as she comes back after being out a year. Jillian is a strong kid who has a good shot and offensive instincts. She will be able to contribute once she has some skating under her again and adjusts to the speed in college."

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Watson Ready to Lead All-New Group of Lady Ice Lions Captains

Left to right: New captain Kelly Watson, alternates Anna Marcus, Lucy Yeatman and Cassie Dunne

In the wake of the graduations of captain Jackie Saideh and alternate captains Nina Elia and Darby Kern, an all-new group of letter wearers is set to lead the Lady Ice Lions during the 2016-17 season, led by captain Kelly Watson.

Thanks to an extremely tight team vote to decide the roles, three additional players will serve as alternates, including Cassie Dunne, Lucy Yeatman and Anna Marcus.

Watson, an All-ECWHL second team selection as a sophomore in 2015-16, has quickly emerged as an anchoring blueliner for Penn State whose quiet leadership should stand as a great example as the Lady Ice Lions try to build a winning culture. Although she collected her first two career goals while helping pilot a sound PSU power play en route to a career-best 11 points this past season, her most impressive stat is actually the absence of a stat. Specifically, despite leading the team in ice time and drawing some of the nation's toughest assignments - six of ACHA Division 1's top ten scorers last season played for ECWHL opponents - Watson has yet to serve one second in the penalty box during her career.

She becomes the sixth player to wear the C in the post-2012 Lady Ice Lions era, following Carly Szyszko, Elizabeth Denis, Kim Badorrek, Ashton Schaffer and Saideh.

Dunne, a senior widely known to those ECWHL opponents as a tough-to-play-against agitator, will provide a vocal element to the leadership group. The quick puck mover has seven goals and 21 points in her three years with the team and has proven extremely adaptable in joining with significantly different defense partners like Marcus, Badorrek and Allie Rothman during her career. The leadership of the Wyndmoor, PA native and key part of PSU's prominent Princeton Tiger Lilies pipeline extends beyond the game itself, as she was also the club's vice president this past year.

Yeatman is another player who has had a tremendous impact off the ice, not only as club treasurer, but also as an elite student (she was retroactively given the team's freshman academic achievement award for 2013-14 in April). Her arrival that season signaled a transition of sorts, as a thin 2012-13 roster suddenly had a full lineup of quality players. While she generally plays the role of a defensive winger, Yeatman did offer six points to the ACHA D2 runners up as a freshman to make her one of the nation's top rookies and scored her first D1 goal on a deflection against Northeastern this past season.

Marcus, a reliable center as a freshman and sophomore, moved to defense this past spring after spending the fall semester studying abroad. Despite playing just half of the season and as a blueliner, she offered some of the best offensive production of her career. Her eight points were third best among full-time Lady Ice Lions defensemen, although her per-game rate of 0.5 points was exceeded by just five players on the squad, all forwards. Marcus is both strong defensively and one of the team's better shooters, an asset whether sniping from between the circles or generating high-danger chances in front of the net.

Three of the captains will also make up 75 percent of the club's executive board, headed by new president Dunne. Yeatman, considered the team's foremost mathematician, returns as treasurer, while Watson becomes the new THON chair, responsible for club fundraising events and family relations related to Penn State's famed Dance Marathon.

They'll be joined by new vice president Riley O'Connor who, per organizational custom, will rise to president as a senior in 2017-18. O'Connor, over her first two seasons, has already joined the ranks of the Lady Ice Lions' most prolific scorers. The team's 2014-15 Kyle Rossi Rookie of the Year award winner and an All-ECWHL honorable mention pick this past year has 42 career points, good for fourth in post-2012 team history (her first point in the fall will tie her with Szyszko for third). The tough-for-her-size center has anchored Penn State's top line for most of her career to date while also becoming a leader within the team - beyond the officer position, she narrowly missed out on alternate captain status, placing fifth in the voting.

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