Over Overtime: Penn State Loses Late Lead, Settles For Tie with UMass

In the last word between ECWHL rivals Penn State and Massachusetts this season, neither team ultimately found an edge as the two skated to a 3-3 tie in the middle game of the ACHA National Tournament's round robin stage Thursday afternoon.

That's not to say that the Lady Ice Lions didn't have one for a substantial portion of the game, though.

Cara Mendelson put Penn State ahead 1-0 into the first intermission with four minutes remaining, following passes from linemates Riley O'Connor and Darby Kern, reception near the blue line, a nifty dangle around UMass defenseman Alyx Rivard, and a nice follow-up to her initial shot. Although the Minutewomen would level things up through an Amanda Abromson power play goal midway through the second period, one of the game's key stretches would soon follow.

An increasingly chippy contest saw Kern and Michaela Tosone sit for roughing and hooking, respectively, with 4:01 left. Penn State's speed won the ensuing 4-on-4 battle, as Mendelson bagged her second on a right-to-left wrap try into a gaping cage. The goal came during a delayed hooking call to Rivard, and it appeared that UMass expected a whistle and slowed a bit to create an opening.

PSU cashed in the ensuing power play as well just 28 seconds later, thanks to a Madison Smiddy drive that was deflected home in front and credited to Devon Fisk.

It's often said, however, that the two-goal lead is the most dangerous in hockey and Penn State knows that better than most teams.

And less than 24 hours after losing a 3-1 lead against Liberty and falling in overtime, the script repeated itself to a large extent.

The Minutewomen made the score 3-2 just 41 seconds into the third period during an early hooking call to Mendelson, as Caleigh LaBossiere found Meghan Crosby on the doorstep. Then, with the Lady Ice Lions just 64 seconds from a huge victory and with UMass goalie Kasey Zegel on the bench, Abromson - who had recently been shaken up during an Ashton Schaffer cross check - fired a seeing-eye shot through heavy traffic from the left side to tie things up.

Penn State finished with the Fisk goal in four power play opportunities, including a hook to Tosone in overtime. Massachusetts was two for five. Mary Kate Tonetti won the battle of the two all-ECWHL goaltenders, making 37 saves on 40 shots, versus 25 on 28 for Zegel.

With the result, both PSU and UMass are 0-1-1 within Pool B. Liberty and Grand Valley State, scheduled to play each other Thursday night, are both 1-0-0. From here, the easiest path to the semifinals for the Lady Ice Lions is to defeat GVSU on Friday - puck drop is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. - and for the Flames to win their remaining games against the Lakers and Minutewomen. Those results would place PSU at 1-1-1, good for second place in the pool ahead of 1-2-0 Grand Valley State and 0-2-1 Massachusetts.

Box Score

First Period
1. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (Riley O'Connor, Darby Kern), 4:04.
1. Penn State, Katie Murphy (2:00 tripping), 0:16.
Second Period
2. Massachusetts, Amanda Abromson (Paige Harrington, Alyx Rivard), 12:26 (power play); 3. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (unassisted), 2:51; 4. Penn State, Devon Fisk (Madison Smiddy), 2:23 (power play).
2. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 tripping), 13:03; 3. Massachusetts, Brittani Lanzilli (2:00 body checking), 11:42; 4. Massachusetts, Michaela Tosone (2:00 hooking), 4:01; 5. Penn State, Darby Kern (2:00 roughing), 4:01; 6. Massachusetts, Alyx Rivard (2:00 hooking), 2:51.
Third Period
5. Massachusetts, Meghan Crosby (Caleigh LaBossiere), 19:19 (power play); 6. Massachusetts, Amanda Abromson (unassisted), 1:04.
7. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (2:00 hooking), 19:26; 8. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 cross checking), 10:45; 9. Massachusetts, Bench (2:00 too many players, served by Meredith Gallagher), 7:36; 10. Penn State, Devon Fisk (2:00 hooking), 5:30.
11. Massachusetts, Michaela Tosone (2:00 hooking), 2:52.
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: T, 37 saves/40 shots. Massachusetts: Kasey Zegel: T, 25 saves/28 shots.

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Natty Iced: Liberty Rally Stuns Lady Ice Lions in ACHA Tourney Opener

Taylor Nyman opened the game's scoring on Wednesday

The Road to Nattys pulled into the Frustration Station on Wednesday night.

Sarah Stevenson flipped a net-front backhanded rebound try past Mary Kate Tonetti with just 36 seconds remaining in overtime, as Liberty twice rallied from two-goal deficits to top the Lady Ice Lions 4-3 in the ACHA National Tournament opener for both teams.

Penn State now sits fourth in Pool B with a 0-1-0 record, trailing third-place Massachusetts on the goals against tiebreaker, after the Minutewomen dropped a 2-0 decision to Grand Valley State earlier in the day. The Flames are second, likewise falling behind the Lakers on goals against.

The contest marked the third loss in three games this season for PSU against LU, but also the third time in those three games that the Lady Ice Lions held a lead well into the proceedings, the second time that lead was more than one goal, and the second time Liberty capped their rally in overtime.

Taylor Nyman laid the first brick in building that lead, and also set off a scoring bonanza after a fairly tight first period. Just 18 seconds after PSU successfully killed an interference call to Ashton Schaffer, Darby Kern threw the puck to the front out of the right wing corner, where Nyman redirected past LU goalie Chantal Lischynski.

Kern did the honors herself less than a minute later to make it 2-0, taking a Cara Mendelson pass in the neutral zone and weaving through both Flames defensemen before firing home. However, Liberty cut the lead in half on the next shift, as Courtney Gilmour deflected a low C.J. Tipping drive from center point through.

The next goal, uncharacteristically (all things considered), took four minutes to come. On the play, Katie Murphy won the puck in the defensive zone and moved it ahead to Claire Gauthier for a 3-on-1 also including Devon Fisk. Gauthier elected to rip a shot herself, and got it just through enough for a 3-1 lead.

That would turn out to be Penn State's high point, however.

The Flames rally - which included a 32-9 shot differential after a first period that ended 10-9 PSU in the category - officially began with Stevenson, who foreshadowed her later goal with a rebound try past a sprawled Tonetti near the end of the second period. Then, 5:46 away from the Lady Ice Lions upset, Chelsey Greenwood bullied her way to the front for the third of four LU goals scored within garlic breath proximity of the blue paint.

PSU will be back in action on Thursday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. against familiar ECWHL foe Massachusetts in what is essentially a must-win game for both teams in order to place within the top two of the pool and advance to the semifinals. Following that contest, the team will close the round robin stage on Friday at 12:45 against GVSU.

Box Score

First Period
Second Period
1. Penn State, Taylor Nyman (Darby Kern), 13:19; 2. Penn State, Darby Kern (Riley O'Connor, Cara Mendelson), 12:23; 3. Liberty, Courtney Gilmour (C.J. Tipping), 12:07; 4. Penn State, Claire Gauthier (Devon Fisk), 8:17; 5. Liberty, Sarah Stevenson (Catherine Burrell, C.J. Tipping), 1:25.
1. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 interference), 15:37; 2. Liberty, Chelsey Greenwood (2:00 tripping), 7:14.
Third Period
6. Liberty, Chelsey Greenwood (unassisted), 5:46.
3. Liberty, Courtney Gilmour (2:00 roughing), 16:07; 4. Penn State, Darby Kern (2:00 elbowing), 12:28.
7. Liberty, Sarah Stevenson (Carrie Jickling), 0:35.
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: L, 37 saves/41 shots. Liberty: Chantal Lischynski: W, 16 saves/19 shots.

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

2015 ACHA National Tournament
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)
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/
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:

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:

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:

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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:

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

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