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State Natty's Day: Lady Ice Lions Head to ACHA National Tournament




2015 ACHA National Tournament
When
Wednesday, March 4th at 6:15 p.m. (vs. Liberty)
Thursday, March 5th at 1:15 p.m. (vs. Massachusetts)
Friday, March 6th at 12:45 p.m. (vs. Grand Valley State)
Saturday, March 7th at 1:30 p.m. or 4:15 p.m. (semifinals)
Sunday, March 8th at 1:00 p.m. (championship game)
Where
York City Ice Arena
York, PA
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions seek to win Penn State's first ACHA women's national championship Division 1, after finishing second at the Division 2 level in both 2013 and 2014.
Live Video/
Audio
Ustream.tv (Wednesday-Friday, audio only)
YouTube.com (Saturday-Sunday, video)

Game Notes

Natty Light: The ACHA National Tournament, similar to last season, is an eight-team affair with the squads divided into four-team pools:
  • Pool A: 1. Miami, 3. Michigan, 6. Adrian, 8. Minnesota
  • Pool B: 2. Liberty, 4. Massachusetts, 5. Grand Valley State, 7. Penn State
Each team will play the other three in its pool on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with two points awarded for a win and one for a tie. After that, the teams finishing first and second in each pool's standings advance to Saturday's semifinals, with the championship game on Sunday. The primary differences from 2014 include the abolishment of the third-place game as well as the addition of a day to the pool stage to avoid teams playing twice in one day.

Natty Ice: The York City Ice Arena, roughly a two-and-a-half hour drive southeast from Pegula Ice Arena, is hosting the national tournament. The Lady Ice Lions have a bit of history with the facility, as it hosted the 2014 playoffs of Penn State's former conference, College Hockey East. In that tournament, PSU defeated Delaware in the semifinals by a 2-1 count on a Devon Fisk power play goal with 4:14 remaining before falling by the same score to California (PA) in the championship game.

2010 Vision: Oddly enough, each of the four Pool B schools have simultaneously appeared at Division 1 nationals one other time: 2010's championships in Blaine, MN. On that occasion, Liberty and the Lady Icers were pool mates, with PSU topping the Flames 1-0 on a Sam Summers goal on March 12, 2010. Meanwhile, in the opposite pool that same day, Grand Valley State beat UMass 5-0. However, those were the only wins by any of the four teams in the tournament, and none advanced to the semifinals. Lindenwood, now an NCAA Division I program, went on to defeat Michigan State for the title. The Lady Icers finished sixth officially, Penn State's second best finish at the ACHA D1 level behind only 2001-02's third-place run.

Upper East Side: At nationals, the Lady Ice Lions will be led by six All-ECWHL selections, including Darby Kern (first team), Fisk (second team), Mary Kate Tonetti (second team), Madison Smiddy (second team), Cara Mendelson (honorable mention) and Katie Murphy (honorable mention). The four forwards of the group - Kern, Fisk, Murphy and Mendelson - have 69 of the team's 109 goals this season, while Smiddy has another five and anchors one of the ACHA's best defense corps. Tonetti, appropriately, is one of the nation's best goalies and carries 0.945 save percentage behind that group of blueliners.

Fountain of Youth: While four of the Penn State-record six all-league selections are seniors (juniors Kern and Fisk are the exceptions), PSU also boasts a stellar collection of younger players that will be counted on for key contributions at nationals. Sophomore defenseman Cassie Dunne and Kelly Watson, set to be the only returning blueliners next year, both had strong games in the ECWHL playoffs February 20th through 22nd. Speedy wrecking-ball center Riley O'Connor and smooth winger Claire Gauthier have both locked down top-six roles as freshmen and chipped in 14 and 17 points respectively, good for sixth and fifth on the team. Checking line specialists Jackie Saideh, a junior and alternate captain, and Anna Marcus, a sophomore, will also need to play well for the Lady Ice Lions to advance.

Chasing Zoe: The Lady Icers program boasted a Zoe M. Harris Award winner as ACHA player of the year for the 2001-02 season, Andrea Lavelle. And while junior forward Kern may or may not join her this season, she certainly has to be considered a candidate for the prize, which is based on pre-ACHA tournament performance. Kern leads ACHA Division 1 in scoring with 55 points, and her 32 goals trail only the 33 of Liberty's Carrie Jickling. What's more, that output has come in just 22 games, fewer than any player within 20 points of her. The January Harrow/ACHA Player of the Month has certainly had eye-popping stats games - a pair of six-point outings against Navy are tied for a season high in that department - but just as impressively, she has three goals and six assists in PSU's seven games against teams at nationals this season (four against Massachusetts, two against Liberty, one against Miami). Other candidates for the award include Jickling and Miami's Hayley Williams, who won last year while a member of Robert Morris' team.

The 2015 Zoe M. Harris Award winner will be announced during the tournament.

Pool B Opponents

Name: Liberty University
Nickname: Flames
Location: Lynchburg, VA

2014-15 Record: 21-4-1
ACHA Ranking: 2
ACHA National Championships: None
Previous ACHA Tournament Appearances: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014

Series History: Liberty leads, 2-0-0 (2-0-0 this season). On December 5th and 6th, the Flames took a pair of one-goal decisions in Lynchburg, 6-5 and 2-1. The first involved overtime after PSU's late 5-3 lead - built on goals by Mendelson (twice), Fisk, Gauthier and Dunne - evaporated. Kern opened the scoring in the second period the next day, but was answered by LU's Jickling and Autumn Kucharczyk.

About Liberty: While it's not technically accurate to call them a wire-to-wire number two (UMass was second in the preseason poll, the Flames third), LU has solidly been in the rankings line behind only defending national champion Miami for most of the campaign. The always-very-physical, always-very-talented, always-very-Canadian team is led by 33-goal woman Jickling and Sarah Stevenson, who has 33 helpers among her 49 points. Brittany Hymers and Madison Fischer are two standouts on defense, while Chantal Lischynski and Kristina Toppazzini have taken the bulk of the goaltending minutes, both to great effect - the former boasting five shutouts and a sub-1.00 goals against average. Liberty has a 6-2-0 record against tournament teams this season, dropping only a pair of one-goal games to Miami.

Head Coach: Paul Bloomfield
Goals Scored Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 3.13
Goals Allowed Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 2.00

Team Website:
http://www.liberty.edu/campusrec/clubsports/?PID=25959&TeamID=3



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

2014-15 Record: 24-6-0
ACHA Ranking: 4
ACHA National Championships: None
Previous ACHA Tournament Appearances: 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Series History: Massachusetts leads, 3-1-0 (3-1-0 this season). Most recently, Penn State and UMass exchanged 2-1 and 4-3 overtime wins at Pegula Ice Arena on January 10th and 11th, with Mendelson grabbing the decider in game one and the visitors' Amy Morin striking back the next day 19 seconds away from a tie after PSU had rallied from 2-1 and 3-2 holes to force OT. The Minutewomen swept the Lady Ice Lions back in October in Amherst, with former Lady Icer Paige Harrington grabbing the opening goal each time to help 3-0 and 1-0 scores. Kasey Zegel made 76 saves in her dual shutouts that weekend.

About Massachusetts: The Minutewomen are Pool B's sole team claiming a conference championship. UMass crushed archrival Rhode Island 7-2 in the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League title game on February 22nd to both claim the ECWHL's automatic bid to nationals and, as it turned out, snap URI's 11-year streak of tournament attendance. UMass is 9-1-0 in 2015, a record including two wins over both the Rams and No. 13 Robert Morris, and one over No. 11 Colorado State. Potent defensemen Harrington and Caleigh LaBossiere are two of the ACHA's best in front of all-ECWHL pick Kasey Zegel (22 wins, 0.923 save percentage, five shutouts), while Amanda Abromson, Brittani Lanzilli and Michaela Tosone are all among the division's top 15 scorers.

Head Coach: Bill Wright
Goals Scored Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 1.71
Goals Allowed Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 2.71

Team Website:
http://www.umasswomenshockey.com/



Name: Grand Valley State University
Nickname: Lakers
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

2014-15 Record: 16-8-3
ACHA Ranking: 5
ACHA National Championships: None
Previous ACHA Tournament Appearances: 2009, 2010, 2011

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0 (0-0-0 this season). The Lady Ice Lions and Lakers have never met, although the Lady Icers took 11-6 and 7-0 decisions over GVSU on September 29th and 30th, 2007 at the Great Lakes Women's College Hockey Showcase. Chelsea Sacks and Jess Waldron ran show in Mo Stroemel's third and fourth games as the team's head coach, posting 6-5-11 and 4-4-8 lines, respectively.

About Grand Valley State: A member of the brutally-tough Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association, the Lakers are headlined by World University Games selections Kendra Myers, a center, and Corey Robison, a defenseman. Both were among Team USA's best players in Spain and are among GVSU's stars stateside. It's Katie Danto, however, who leads the squad in scoring with ten goals and 19 points, while Lauren Allen backstops one of the nation's best defensive teams with a 1.92 goals against average and a 0.939 save percentage. The Lakers have gone 2-2-2 against Pool A teams Michigan and Adrian this year, but have lost their other five games to the top eight, all to Miami and Liberty. Perhaps GVSU's most impressive accomplishment, however, is a 4-1-1 mark against Michigan State, a reality largely responsible for keeping the perennially-powerful Spartans away from York.

Head Coaches: Darrell Gregorio and Sean McKernan
Goals Scored Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 2.18
Goals Allowed Per Game vs. Tournament Teams: 3.00

Team Website:
http://www.gvsustudentlifesports.com/sport/0/27.php

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NATIONALS BOUND! PSU Secures Historic Trip to ACHA Championships




The waiting may be the hardest part, but often things are worth the wait.

After three days of nail-biting, hypothetical-running, what if-pondering agony following the close of the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League playoffs and possibly the 2014-15 season, the Lady Ice Lions have been invited to the ACHA National Tournament held at York City Ice Arena in York, PA March 4th through 8th. It will be the team's third consecutive trip to the tourney, following runner-up finishes at the Division 2 level in 2013 and 2014.

The announcement came through the issuance of the season's fourth ACHA ranking, released today and placing Penn State seventh. Joining Penn State in the field are Miami, Liberty, Michigan, Massachusetts, Grand Valley State and Adrian (the top six in the ranking), as well as number ten Minnesota. The Gophers were locked into the field by virtue of winning the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League tournament last weekend and therefore the WWCHL's automatic bid.

PSU has been assigned into Pool B and will play the following games in the preliminary round:
  • March 4th at 6:15 p.m. vs. No. 2 Liberty
  • March 5th at 1:15 p.m. vs. No. 4 Massachusetts
  • March 6th at 12:45 p.m. vs. No. 5 Grand Valley State
Should the Lady Ice Lions finish in the top half of the four-team pool, they will advance to the March 7th semifinals, with the championship game on March 8th.

A poll of all ACHA Division 1 coaches, the verdict of a seven-coach committee and a computer poll each count for one third of the ranking, and include factors like strength of schedule, head-to-head comparisons, games with common opponents and records against ranked teams. PSU finished eighth in the computer component.

It certainly wasn't a stress-free route to nationals. PSU languished on or near the bubble for the entire season, checking in at 11th, 12th, 11th and 8th in previous polls, the latter frustratingly coming immediately after an upset at top-ranked, defending national champion Miami that snapped the RedHawks' 31-game (overall) and 25-game (at home) unbeaten streaks. Then, while riding a six-game winning streak that spanned the entirety of the fourth ranking period, the Lady Ice Lions dropped an ECWHL semifinal contest to fellow bubble dweller Rhode Island that appeared to severely damage the case for a tournament spot.

No worries, though. Thanks to some combination of a 17-7-0 overall record, big wins over Miami, URI and UMass, and none of the team's losses coming to teams ranked lower than eighth, Penn State will have the opportunity to compete for a first-ever ACHA women's national championship.

The bid represents a continuation of what has been a historic first season in ACHA Division 1 and the ECWHL. PSU's 0.708 win percentage so far in 2014-15 is the third best in school history at the D1 level, trailing only the 1999-2000 Lady Icers' 0.725 that preceded the ACHA's sanctioning of women's hockey and the 0.750 posted by the 2001-02 team that finished a D1-best third at nationals. This is the seventh appearance for a Penn State team at the D1 tourney overall, but just the third since 2004 and the first since 2010. The slotting of seventh equals the highest spot achieved by a PSU team in D1 since the ACHA first introduced a national ranking for the 2003-04 season, a status last attained on January 28, 2011.

Additionally, the nationals appearance is a nice bit of redemption for the five Lady Ice Lions seniors (plus assistant coach Jess Desorcie) who were a part of the 2011-12 Lady Icers as freshmen. That team went 5-4-1 against tournament participants Rhode Island, Northeastern (the eventual national champion), Liberty and Massachusetts during the spring semester but were denied a bid themselves, finishing ninth.

It follows, of course, a pair of Division 2 championship game runs by the Lady Ice Lions, including last season's journey through Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota State and former archrival California (PA) before falling 1-0 to Iowa State in the title game. The Lady Ice Lions were 7-2-1 in their two D2 tourneys, while the Lady Icers were 6-14-1 in their six in D1.

Here is the complete final ranking:

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

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Six Lady Ice Lions Receive 2014-15 All-ECWHL Recognition

Devon Fisk (left) and Darby Kern (right) were among PSU's All-ECWHL selections



Six Lady Ice Lions have been named to the 2014-15 All-ECWHL teams, as determined by a vote of the league's head coaches.

Junior forward Darby Kern leads the group as Penn State's sole first-teamer. The January Harrow/ACHA Player of the Month had a staggering 18 goals and 10 assists in 12 conference matches. Her 28 points were second among all ECWHL players, trailing only the 30 of Rhode Island's Kristy Kennedy (who played 16 times). Kern surged in the regular-season closing weekend against Navy and Northeastern from January 30th through February 1st, scoring 10 times over the three games. On November 2nd against the Midshipmen, she posted a season-best six points on three goals and three assists.

Half of the second consists of Penn Staters: junior forward Devon Fisk, senior defenseman Madison Smiddy and senior goaltender Mary Kate Tonetti.

Fisk is among the most decorated players in the Lady Ice Lions' short history, as her all-league nod joins ACHA All-American honors in 2012-13 (honorable mention) and 2013-14 (second team), as well as first-team All-ACHA Tournament nods in each of those seasons. This season, the West Chester, PA native has 20 points against ECWHL competition, including four-point outings on September 28th at Vermont, November 2nd vs. Navy and January 31st vs. Northeastern.

After two years spent playing forward, Tonetti has emerged as one of the nation's best backstops this season. The September 2014 and January 2015 Warrior/ACHA Goaltender of the Month boasts a 0.953 save percentage in ECWHL play this season to go with a pair of shutouts, and is one of just two goalies in the league (first-team pick Kasey Zegel is the other) to defeat each conference rival in 2014-15.

2015 U.S. National University Team member Smiddy has headlined one of the ACHA's best defenses all year, while contributing key offensive production. Within the conference, she has chipped in a pair of assists and a goal - the overtime winner at Northeastern on November 22nd.

Cara Mendelson and Katie Murphy round out the PSU picks as honorable mention nominations. Murphy's strongest attributes are her two-way excellence, skating and ability to play in all situations. Along the way the Michigander has posted 10 points in ECWHL games, including five in her last three. Mendelson selflessly undertook a mid-season position change from defense to forward and has been one of the Lady Ice Lions' most explosive scorers since. Her eight goals in 14 league contests include her first career hat trick against Navy on January 30th, and a key goal in a November 9th win at Rhode Island.

Here is the complete list of All-ECWHL selections:

First Team
All-ECWHL
Second Team
All-ECWHL
Kasey Zegel
Massachusetts
G
Mary Kate Tonetti
Penn State
Darby Kern
Penn State
F
Devon Fisk
Penn State
Kristy Kennedy
Rhode Island
F
Emily Ford
Vermont
Amanda Abromson
Massachusetts
F
Brittani Lanzilli
Massachusetts
Paige Harrington
Massachusetts
D
Madison Smiddy
Penn State
Caleigh LaBossiere
Massachusetts
D
Sydney Collins
Rhode Island

Honorable Mention
All-ECWHL
Pos.
School
Cara Mendelson
F
Penn State
Katie Murphy
F
Penn State
Michaela Tosone
F
Massachusetts
Emily Buzzard
F
Navy
Claire Clark
D
Navy
Sarah Hutchinson
G
Navy
Cara Pastrana
D
Navy
Allyson Strachan
F
Navy
Kelsey Hickey
F
Northeastern
Michelle Macchione
F
Northeastern
Kat So
D
Northeastern
Brenna Callahan
D
Rhode Island
Cassie Catlow
F
Rhode Island
Alisha DiFilippo
F
Rhode Island
Kristen Levesque
F
Rhode Island
Audrey Currier
G
Vermont
Rosie Gluck
G
Vermont
Katherine Kreis
F
Vermont
Erin McDonald
F
Vermont
Greer Vogl
D
Vermont

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Third Place, Top Seven? PSU Bests Vermont, Prepares to Wait

Katie Murphy enjoyed a three-point outing in the consolation win



Third-place games are tough.

They generally take place early in the morning in front of intimate crowds, while the teams subsequently playing for a trophy prepare. And they involve two teams on an emotional low and freshly off of the championship track, often with little motivation beyond pride. In the Lady Ice Lions' case, a golden opportunity to all but seal a bid to the ACHA National Tournament had just passed with a 4-1 ECWHL semifinal loss to Rhode Island the night before. When a good team plays its worst match of the year, just as often as not, it's in the third-place game.

Just about the only thing that can overcome all of that is character, resolve, and effort - and Penn State had plenty of those things in a 4-1 consolation victory over Vermont on Sunday morning in Kingston, RI that may have (but hopefully didn't) closed the 2014-15 season.

It was a dominant effort not fully reflected by the score, as the stellar PSU defense limited UVM to just a dozen shots in the 60 minutes with one, a Nicole Beaudoin fluttering wrister from the right circle late in the second period, beating Mary Kate Tonetti. On the other end, the Lady Ice Lions fired 39 on Catamounts goalies Audrey Currier and Rosie Gluck.

The line of Darby Kern, Katie Murphy and Cara Mendelson - a junior and two seniors playing possibly their final high-level hockey game - once again drove the PSU output, with Mendelson sniping clean from the slot 3:18 from puck drop for a 1-0 lead, after Kern threw it to the middle from the left corner.

Roughly ten minutes later, Kern both started and finished the play herself. She made a neutral zone takeaway that led to a pile of offense, including tries from Murphy and senior captain Ashton Schaffer along with a near miss on another centering feed for Mendelson, before the pride of Peters Township High School buried Murphy's rebound.

Kern struck again early in the second period to boost the score to 3-0 with a phenomenal individual effort in taking a loose puck in the neutral zone and dancing around both UVM defensemen for the deposit. Then, 2:14 after Beaudoin's goal, Murphy answered with a similar look to Mendelson's opening goal. On the play, Currier saved Kern's initial shot before the left wing swung behind the net to her home corner, finding a wide-open Michigander with a laser backhand.

A supremely dominant third period (14-2 on shots, three Vermont penalties to none for PSU) closed things out, although without additional scoring. Devon Fisk perhaps came closest on a loose puck in front during the Catamounts' second penalty of the frame. UVM forward Emily Ford took objection and wrestled her to the ice, giving Penn State more time on the advantage. In all, the now 17-7-0 overall team was 0-for-3 on the power play, while staying out of the box during the contest.

The win was the eighth-ranked Lady Ice Lions' final argument for inclusion in the ACHA national championships, which begin March 4th in York, PA, a verdict that will be rendered in the middle of the coming week. Should PSU - which will likely have to move up to seventh - receive good news on that front, this third-place game might not have been in vain after all.

Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (Darby Kern, Katie Murphy), 16:42; 2. Penn State, Darby Kern (Katie Murphy, Ashton Schaffer), 6:05.
Penalties
1. Vermont, Katherine Kreis (2:00 body checking), 4:16.
Second Period
Scoring
3. Penn State, Darby Kern (unassisted), 15:23; 4. Vermont, Nicole Beaudoin (unassisted), 4:31; 5. Penn State, Katie Murphy (Darby Kern, Kelly Watson), 2:17.
Penalties
None.
Third Period
Scoring
None.
Penalties
2. Vermont, Grace Doxsey (2:00 hooking), 17:17; 3. Vermont, Monique Squiers (2:00 tripping), 9:13; 4. Vermont, Emily Ford (2:00 roughing), 7:31.
Goaltending
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: W, 11 saves/12 shots. Vermont: Audrey Currier: L, 21 saves/25 shots; Rosie Gluck (20:00 3rd period): 14 saves/14 shots.

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