Finally! PSU Set to Open 2015-16 Against Massachusetts, Northeastern

No. 7 Penn State (0-0-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) vs.
No. 6 Massachusetts (3-0-1/1-0-1 ECWHL)
Friday, October 9th at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 10th at 11:00 a.m.
Mullins Center
Amherst, MA
The Lead
Penn State opens a new season with big aspirations and a two important games with the rival Minutewomen
Live Video

No. 7 Penn State (0-0-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) vs.
Northeastern (0-2-0/0-2-0 ECWHL)
Sunday, October 11th at 12:30 p.m.
Matthews Arena
Boston, MA
The Lead
After playing a series at UMass, the Lady Ice Lions conclude opening weekend with a third ECWHL game, at Northeastern
Live Video

Game Notes

Running the Cycle: One of the first priorities for the team as it enters 2015-16 will be the establishment of roles for a whopping eight new players that, it is hoped, will replace a sizable gap in production: 30 goals and 32 assists by three graduated forwards, vital top-four roles from two graduated defensemen and roughly 87 percent of the goaltending minutes provided by graduated Mary Kate Tonetti. Up front, the new Lady Ice Lions include Caitlin Costello, Meghan Miller, Jordan Chiavacci, Rachel Cole and Sophie Paolizzi, a group that includes two players from USA Hockey national championship tournament teams and two stars on their high school teams. Liz Tuorinsky, Madison Dwyer and Rachel Lee will greatly bolster the defense, with two of that group also bringing USAH nationals experience. Goaltenders Sumire ClevengerAimee Little and Allyssa Long (who is out due to injury to start the year) are not new players - each debuted for the team during 2014-15 - but the candidates to replace Tonetti's heavy crease duties have just 213:39 of combined game time so far.

By the Numbers: Obviously, the aforementioned new players will experience career firsts for just about every hockey event imaginable as they come up. But for some of the more experienced players, some larger numbers are in play. That group is headlined by senior Devon Fisk, who begins the year with 47 career goals, just three shy of half a century, and her 77 points could easily become 100 by the end of the year, given her season averages. Senior Darby Kern seems destined to hit both milestones as well with 34 goals and 61 points so far in a single season of work.

Super senior Ashton Schaffer, who will play a final semester for the team over the opening half of the year, has 78 career games banked, including 64 of the 66 in Lady Ice Lions history. The other remaining founding members have 65 (Fisk), 61 (Jackie Saideh) and 52 (Nina Elia) games played, with Elia's count including every game outside of a semester abroad last season. Kelly Watson and Darian Dempsey are the only returning players still seeking a first career goal, while Dempsey, Emma Embar and Hannah Dier need a first assist.

Rank and File: The ACHA competition committee released a preseason ranking on September 16th, placing the Lady Ice Lions seventh. The position makes sense, as it's precisely where the team finished at the ACHA National Tournament back in March. It also equals the highest mark by a Penn State team in any ACHA national ranking, accomplished a total of 11 times by the Lady Icers and Lady Ice Lions (the national women's poll dates to the 2003-04 season). The top eight teams in the fourth ranking of the season, issued after the games of February 21, 2016, will be invited to the 2016 national tournament in Kalamazoo, MI - although automatic bids given to the playoff champions of the Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association and the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League could cut that number by one or two if the team(s) in question are not already in the top eight.

A Look Ahead: Penn State's schedule, like last year, is front-loaded with road games, starting this weekend and continuing on October 24th and 25th at 2015 ACHA semifinalist Adrian. After that, however, the team returns to Pegula Ice Arena for eight consecutive tilts, beginning with Northeastern on November 7th and concluding with Massacusetts on January 10, 2016.

The (First) Opponent

Name: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Nickname: Minutewomen
Location: Amherst, MA

Series History: Massachusetts leads, 3-1-1. Most recently, PSU and UMass skated to a 3-3 tie at the ACHA National Tournament back on March 5th, with the Minutewomen rallying from a 3-1 Lady Ice Lions lead (supplied by Fisk and Cara Mendelson) at the second intermission. The teams split overtime decisions at Pegula Ice Arena in January, with Mendelson's winner in game one answered by Amy Morin the next day. The UMass series advantage comes from a sweep in Amherst in October, 2014 by 3-0 and 1-0 counts.

About Massachusetts: Unlike the Lady Ice Lions, UMass is well established in their season after running to the ECWHL regular season and playoff titles, as well as an ACHA National Tournament bid, in 2014-15. The Minutewomen started off with routs of non-ACHA team Boston University (6-0) and ACHA Division 2's Connecticut (7-1) before opening ECWHL play with Vermont at home last weekend. While the first game of the series was more of the same - UMass pulled away from a 3-3 second-period tie to win 7-3 - the rematch resulted in an "upset tie" against the 15th-ranked Catamounts, 3-3. Brittani Lanzilli has been a force of nature, scoring seven goals and nine points in three ACHA games, while linemates Ally Perdios and Michaela Tosone each have seven points to tie for second on the squad. Freshman Meghan Lawler is also off to a promising start, while Bethany Welch and Sam Baturin have taken on the unenviable task of replacing graduated first-team All-ECWHLer Kasey Zegel between the pipes.

Trivia: Penn State and Massachusetts have a common player thread in the form of Paige Harrington, a 2015 UMass grad who played for the Lady Icers in 2011-12 before transferring to play the remainder of her college career in Amherst. On August 11th, Harrington became one of 72 players to sign with the National Women's Hockey League for the pro circuit's historic inaugural season. She and her teammates with the Buffalo Beauts (a group also including fellow ACHA alumna Hayley Williams) are set to open their campaign on Sunday against the Boston Pride.

Head Coaches: Bill Wright
Goals Scored Per Game: 5.75
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.75

Team Website:

The (Second) Opponent

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

Series History: Penn State leads, 4-0-0. In November 2014, the Lady Ice Lions took a pair of one-goal decisions in Boston, by 2-1 and 3-2 counts. The first required overtime, where a Madison Smiddy drive 40 seconds in settled things, while the second saw a pair of Claire Gauthier assists and another winner from a defenseman - this time Tara Soukup in regulation. On January 31st and February 1st in Pegula Ice Arena, Kern was much of the story, as she beasted her way to seven goals and two assists in the series, helping PSU win 11-1 and 6-1 blowouts.

About Northeastern: The Huskies got off to a discouraging start last weekend, dropping a pair of meetings with always-strong Rhode Island (currently ranked 5th) by 8-1 and 6-0 scores. However, Anne-Marie Dion has more than proven herself as one of the ACHA's better goalies, as she stopped 85 of 90 in last November's series at Matthews Arena and forced the Lady Ice Lions to eke out two tight wins. Although the Huskies are looking to replace lots of production from program legends Michelle Macchione and Kelsey Hickey, Estelle Ip has Northeastern's tally so far this year, and recorded points on both goals her team scored against Penn State in last season's series at Pegula Ice Arena. Kim Pfeifle, who played goal in that series with Dion unavailable, is the team's leading returning scorer as she gathered six goals and nine points as an out player in 2014-15.

Before facing Penn State on Sunday, Northeastern has two other games scheduled: Thursday against defending national champion Liberty and Saturday against Connecticut.

Trivia: Although the ECWHL boasts two of the ACHA's perennial best in Rhode Island and Massachusetts (with Penn State occasionally part of the group as well), it's Northeastern that claims the league's only national championship. In 2011-12, the Huskies defeated Minnesota in Wooster, OH to take the crown behind tournament MVP goalie Chelsea Dietz, who saved 128 of the 131 shots she faced at nationals. NU also won a Division 2 national title in 2009-10 before moving to D1 the following season and subsequently losing the 2010-11 title game to Michigan State.

Head Coach: Jeff Postera
Goals Scored Per Game: 0.50
Goals Allowed Per Game: 7.00

Team Website:

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Lady Ice Lions Dominate Spring and Summer Classes, Post 3.49 GPA

Tarika Embar is one of the Lady Ice Lions' best students

A great 2014-15 spring semester for the Lady Ice Lions was highlighted on the ice by an upset of top-ranked Miami and a trip to the ACHA National Tournament, as Penn State finished its first Division 1 season with a 17-8-2 record. However, the squad also shined academically, posting an outstanding 3.49 team grade point average over the spring semester and summer sessions.

The 3.49 number is a full 0.28 higher than the fall semester team number, and edged out Fall 2013's 3.45 as a new unofficial team record.

Leading the way were four players with perfect 4.0s during the spring/summer period. One, of course, was senior Devon Fisk (a biobehavioral health major), who has held the mark through her entire college career. Senior goalie Allyssa Long (public relations) was also perfect, as was classmate Nina Elia (health policy administration), while freshman Meghan Miller (education) got off to a great academic start over the summer. Several other academic stars who posted a 3.80 or better included Riley O'Connor (3.93, biobehavioral health), Tarika Embar (3.93, health and human development), Lucy Yeatman (3.88, mathematics) and freshman Madison Dwyer (science), who joined Miller in a summer jumpstart with a 3.84.

In all, 11 of the 22 players reported for the set of data qualified for Dean's List recognition (a 3.5 GPA or better for full-time students), up from six of 23 during the fall.

Next weekend, the Lady Ice Lions will open the 2015-16 season and a drive to return to the ACHA National Tournament with three games in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's flagship school in Amherst is up first, with contests set for Friday, October 9th at 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 10th at 11:00 a.m. On Sunday, October 11th, Penn State will travel across the Bay State to Boston and a noon matchup with Northeastern.

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Penn State Adds Four More to Roster, Team Now Stands at 26

Rachel Cole is a product of the strong Steel City Selects program

Penn State Lady Ice Lions coach Patrick Fung has announced that four student-athletes have joined the squad for the fall semester and the 2015-16 season. They are Jordan Chiavacci (Wyoming, PA), Rachel Cole (Wexford, PA), Rachel Lee (Binghamton, NY) and Sophie Paolizzi (West Chester, PA).

Forward | Shoots Right | Wyoming, PA

Prior to Penn State
Chiavacci has a rather unconventional playing background as she is largely a self-made player: she took up the game in high school and developed very quickly through a combination of skills camps, private coaches, house leagues and unwavering passion. Chiavacci does have plenty of sports background though, as she was a setter on the volleyball team at Penn State Wilkes-Barre as a freshman and sophomore. In her first year at that campus, she was named academic all-league by the Penn State University Athletic Conference before helping the team improve its winning percentage by 0.312 last season. At Wyoming Area High School, she was a star soccer goalkeeper, winning Wyoming Valley Conference MVP honors as a senior.

Jordan Marie Chiavacci was born on October 23, 1994 in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Her parents are Maria and Michael Alba, and she has a brother who is also named Michael Alba. She is majoring in kinesiology with the goal of entering the fields of physical therapy and sports medicine.

Fung on Chiavacci
"Jordan is a junior transfer from Penn State Wilkes-Barre who picked up hockey recently. She skated with several boys and men's teams prior to arriving at University Park, and has developed remarkably. Tough and hard working, we expect great things with a full season in a team system here."

Forward | Shoots Right | Wexford, PA | Steel City Selects U19

Prior to Penn State
Cole developed a reputation as an intelligent, responsible and skilled forward in the Steel City Selects organization with both the U19 and U16 squads, as she and her teams made consecutive trips to the USA Hockey Tier 2 national championships in 2013 and 2014. The first came in the U16 age group by upsetting the North Hills Vipers 2-0 for the Mid-Am District championship, with Cole scoring both of the contest's goals. As a U19 player, she joined eventual Lady Ice Lions teammates Tarika and Emma Embar for the 2014 run, which featured a win over the Armstrong Arrows for the district title.

Rachel Marie Cole was born on August 7, 1996 in Pittsburgh, PA to Edward and Norenne Cole and has two sisters, Hannah and Kathryn. She intends to pursue a science degree and attend medical school following her undergraduate studies. Edward Cole played hockey for Villanova University's former NCAA Division III program, graduating in 1991, while uncle Brian Cole is a 1984 Penn State graduate and cousin Ryan Cole presently attends PSU. In addition to her academic prowess as an award-winning high schooler finishing in the top 10 percent of her class, Cole is an expert in Irish dance, having participated in it for a decade.

Fung on Cole
"Rachel is an athletic forward with great academics who was accepted very early last year, and is a hard-working, gritty player with USA Hockey Nationals experience as a member of the Steel City Selects. She has a great combination of size, skill and hockey smarts that will contribute more and more as the season goes on."

Defense | Shoots Right | Binghamton, NY | Binghamton Blizzard U19

Prior to Penn State
Lee played in the Binghamton Blizzard organization on both the U16 and U19 teams, along with fellow Lady Ice Lion Kelly Watson. The Blizzard U16s qualified for the New York State Amateur Hockey Association tournament in 2011-12, a final step before qualifying for the USA Hockey national championships.

Rachel Elisabeth Lee was born on April 19, 1997 in Binghamton, NY to Robert and Lisa Lee. She has a brother, Jason, and a sister, Jennifer, and intends to major in biomedical engineering - eventually with the goal of designing prosthetic devices for a living. Lee was a great student at Union-Endicott High School, as she spent two years in National Honor Society before graduating summa cum laude. She also played on the tennis team for four years in addition to her hockey exploits.

Fung on Lee
"Rachel was a former teammate of sophomore Kelly Watson with the Binghamton Blizzard. Although she took some time off to concentrate on other sports last year, she has returned to ice hockey. With some time to get back into skating shape, we expect her to continue to develop quickly as a versatile player who can play both forward and defense."

Forward | Shoots Left | West Chester, PA | West Chester East HS

Prior to Penn State
Paolizzi skated for West Chester East High School where, as a senior, she was named an All-Area Honorable Mention by the (Chester County) Daily Local News. She was also an Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League all-star selection while putting up 10 points to rank third on the eventual Flyers Cup runners-up, with all but two coming in an eight-game stretch between December 6, 2014 and February 5, 2015. Over her high school career, she averaged better than half a point per game (35 points, 64 games) while serving as a captain for three years.

Sophie Germaine Paolizzi was born on February 28, 1997 in West Chester, PA to Vince and Celeste Paolizzi (the latter a 1983 Penn State graduate) and has an older brother Vinnie, as well as a younger sister Katie. She intends to major in psychology and is an outstanding student - she was a National Merit Commended Scholar in high school and will be participating in PSU's Paterno Fellows Program, a well-rounded and rigorous joint venture of the College of the Liberal Arts and the Schreyer Honors College.

Fung on Paolizzi
"Sophie is another standout academic who was admitted early last year. She grew up a neighbor of former Lady Ice Lions alternate captain Allie Rothman, who also coached her at West Chester East High School last season. A very coachable, talented multi sport athlete and the daughter of a Penn Stater, we expect to see great development out of Sophie as the year progresses."

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Back to the Start: PSU Rolls Seven in the ACHA Preseason Ranking

The Lady Ice Lions will begin 2015-16 exactly where they left the 2015 ACHA National Tournament: 7th, according to the preseason ranking issued by the ACHA Division 1 competition committee on Wednesday.

The competition committee, which is made up of eight members - including Penn State head coach Patrick Fung - exclusively determines the preseason ranking. For the four regular-season rankings, the committee's decision will count as one-third of the final result, along with a computer ranking and a vote of all Division 1 coaches.

Similarity in PSU's ranking between the end of last season and now is hardly a shock, as the team returns a robust group of 18 players including, of course, D1 leading scorer and first-team All-American Darby Kern. Program all-time leading scorer Devon Fisk, Claire Gauthier and Riley O'Connor are also back from last year's top six point getters. Cassie Dunne and Kelly Watson are expected to anchor the Lady Ice Lions' always-strong defense, while freshmen Liz Tuorinsky and Madison Dwyer will see significant time on the blueline as well.

While few would consider a seventh-place spot the ultimate goal, it does represent a high water mark of sorts, as it equals Penn State's highest ranking in a national D1 poll since the ACHA first introduced one in 2003-04. The Lady Icers hit the mark eight times: November 19, 2004; November 17 and December 15, 2006; November 6, 2009; February 17, November 5 and December 17, 2010; and January 28, 2011. The Lady Ice Lions, of course, have added two to the list with last year's nationals finish and the present year's preseason poll.

Miami University, 2013-14's national champion and 2014-15's runners-up took seven of the eight first-place votes to top the poll. The RedHawks lost two-time Zoe M. Harris Award winner Hayley Williams to the professional ranks of the National Women's Hockey League, but still have a stellar group of returners including Kaley Mooney and Rachael Booth, as well as a typically-loaded recruiting class.

Penn State's Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League fared well in the ranking, with the top three teams taking three consecutive tournament-worthy spots: Rhode Island leads the pack in fifth, defending league champ Massachusetts clocks into sixth place, followed by the Lady Ice Lions in seventh. The ECWHL's other two teams are also represented, as Vermont rated 15th and Northeastern received votes.

Several of PSU's non-conference opponents are also in the top 15. Defending national champion Liberty, which hits the schedule in both January and February, is second. Adrian, a semifinalist last season and the foe for series in both October and December, placed third. Davenport, which visits Pegula Ice Arena for a rare Thursday game on January 28, 2015, grabbed the 13th spot. Colorado joins Northeastern in the "others receiving votes" category, and PSU will play the Buffaloes in January in Lynchburg, VA.

The cutoff date for the next poll is October 25th, with others following on November 22nd, January 17th and February 21st. The top eight teams in that final ranking will qualify for the ACHA National Tournament, held March 9th through 13th in Kalamazoo, MI.

Penn State begins its quest to qualify for the tournament on October 9th and 10th with a pair of games at Massachusetts, followed by a single game at Northeastern on October 11th. This season's Pegula Ice Arena opening series is set for November 7th and 8th against the Huskies.

Here is the complete ranking (first place votes in parentheses):

Pts. ..
Miami (7)
Michigan State
Liberty (1)
Colorado State
Grand Valley State
Robert Morris
Rhode Island
Penn State
Others receiving votes: Northeastern, Colorado

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