Penn State to Try Firefighting This Weekend at No. 1 Liberty

Penn State (0-2-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) at
No. 1 Liberty (3-0-0/Independent)
Saturday, October 14th at 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 15th at 11:00 a.m.
LaHaye Ice Center
Lynchburg, VA
The Lead
Penn State attempts to bounce back from an 0-2-0 start and get the 2017-18 season on track by upsetting top-ranked Liberty on the road.

Game Notes

Zeroed Out: Although the Lady Ice Lions have often struggled to score goals in the last couple seasons, when Penn State failed to find the net in last weekend's season-opening series against Miami, it was nevertheless just the fourth time that PSU has been shut out for an entire series since returning to ACHA Division 1 in 2014-15. The previous instances were October 10-11, 2014 at Massachusetts, December 4-5, 2015 vs. Adrian and October 14-15, 2016, again vs. UMass. There is a bit of a silver lining to be found in the first item of that list: Penn State rebounded from the early-season double bagel to go 13-6-2 the rest of the way and qualify for the ACHA National Tournament. If a similar turnaround is in the cards for 2017-18, players like freshmen Crosby Deliman (coincidentally a product of the same Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program as 2014-15 leading scorer Darby Kern '16) and Sarah McGillicuddy, along with upperclass leaders Riley O'Connor and Meghan Miller are likely to be central to the effort.

A Carousel of One: Freshman goaltender Emma Shannon made her collegiate debut in the aforementioned games against the RedHawks, and was extremely solid in making 74 combined saves and giving PSU at least a puncher's chance of upsetting the defending national champions. As the only goalie on the Lady Ice Lions' roster, the Downingtown, PA native will be a focal point of the team all season and central to its fortunes. Although it's very, very, very early, she's already on pace to challenge Meg Lydick's still-new season saves record (the pace is 814 when including only regular season games, the mark to beat is 842, which included playoff games) as well as just about anything else based on logging a hefty number of minutes.

Get Used to This: With series scheduled between Penn State and Liberty for both the LaHaye Ice Center and Pegula Ice Arena this year, as well as one additional game set at the UMass Showcase next month, the Flames will be the first opponent PSU has ever played five times in one regular season. When including league playoffs and nationals, five is not an uncommon number - there have been four scheduled meetings between most sets of ECWHL opponents over the years, making any playoff encounter a fifth game. The Lady Ice Lions even hit six on both California (PA) and Delaware in 2013-14, with four regular season meetings followed up with College Hockey East playoff and ACHA National Tournament games in each case. But five head-to-head matchups with any one opponent prior to playoffs is unprecedented, until now.

Penn State has played Liberty five times overall once before, in 2009-10. The teams split those contests 2-2-1, with Penn State taking a January 30th overtime win at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion on an Alicia Lepore '10 goal, then a 1-0 result at that year's ACHA National Tournament, with Sam Summers '14 notching the game's only score.

Tiger Lilies Reunion: Given Liberty's always-very-Canadian roster (18 of the 24 Flames hail from the northern neighbors at the moment) and the fact that Penn State hasn't rostered a Canadian since 2002 graduate Andrea Lavelle, it's extremely rare for the players on these two teams to have much prior history. However, an exception presently exists in the form of LU freshman defenseman Kristi Serafin. The Doylestown, PA native spent time prior to college with the Princeton Tiger Lilies program. While she's a few years younger than, and therefore was usually an age classification removed from, notable PTL alumni Riley O'Connor and Cassie Dunne '17, Serafin has played with O'Connor's younger sister Kellie, along with Madison Dwyer and her sister Sam.

The Opponent

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

Series History: Liberty leads, 21-7-2.

About Liberty: The Flames have found themselves in a familiar spot - at the top of the polls - to begin the 2017-18 season, as LU hopes to qualify for the ACHA semifinals for the sixth straight season and win their second national title. This edition of Liberty's squad will look very familiar to those who saw LU visit Pegula Ice Arena four times late last season: a massive class of then-freshmen, now-sophomores makes up half of the roster, and partly as a result, this year's incoming group is much smaller, just four freshmen and two transfers from NCAA Division III Finlandia University. While ACHA all-time great Carrie Jickling has graduated and long-time coach Paul Bloomfield gave way to Chris Lowes over the offseason, most of the Flames' standouts are back, including speedster Lauren McDonald, All-American defenseman Clarissa Tipping and big-goal scoring Chelsey Greenwood. Liberty's three ACHA games so far took place in the St. Louis area last weekend, a sweep of No. 12 McKendree (1-0) and No. 4. Lindenwood-Belleville (twin 3-1 counts).

Head Coach: Chris Lowes
Goals Scored Per Game: 2.33
Goals Allowed Per Game: 0.67

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

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Penn State Hangs Tough, Falls Late to Miami to Drop to 0-2

Riley O'Connor was involved in many of PSU's best offensive chances

No. 15 Penn State gave defending national champion Miami all they could handle for two periods on Saturday evening in Pegula Ice Arena, but faded down the stretch with some help from penalty trouble, as the RedHawks completed a season-opening sweep by a 6-0 count.

Following a scoreless first period - a well-balanced frame among PSU's best in recent memory, given the competition - Miami struck late in the second period through Emily Sloan. The goal came after a pileup in front of, and on top of, Penn State goalie Emma Shannon. The referees' whistles never blew (nor was goaltender interference called) and Sloan capitalized through the chaos. Nevertheless, after 40 minutes, the Lady Ice Lions found themselves in a position few teams have seen against MU in recent years.

However, one hallmark of great teams is the ability to finish games, particularly the close ones. Miami has it, Penn State is still learning it.

MU accordingly rifled home five goals in the third period to improve the cosmetics of the final result, from their point of view. Central to that thrust were Carly Noble, who got things going with a top-shelf rip on an early power play and added a second in the late going, and UMass transfer Jenn Davis, who grabbed two of her own from in or near the blue paint underneath Shannon. Ellen Chiligiris and Alyssa Visalli, as they did in Friday's series opener, also earned heavy stat lines with three and two assists, respectively.

The Lady Ice Lions' attack throughout the contest was once again highlighted by the red line (so named for the color of the practice jerseys worn by PSU's top unit), which includes Riley O'Connor, Crosby Deliman and Meghan Miller.

O'Connor was stymied by MU goalie Rachel Damrath on a third-period breakaway and misfired on a look into a gaping cage for two of the home side's best chances of avoiding the shutout. Deliman was also dangerous in transition, although most of her attempts ended not with a shot, but with a tackling RedHawks player on top of her. Miller, of course, offered her usual heady and responsible effort. Sarah McGillicuddy also showed flashes of her pedigree, as a product of the prestigious Tabor Academy program. Each member of the defense corps was instrumental in keeping one of the ACHA's most explosive teams at bay for most of the contest.

Shannon finished with 39 stops on 45 RedHawks shots, as the freshman battled through the first leg of what is arguably the toughest way for an ACHA rookie goaltender to step on to the scene.

Her task, along with that of the remainder of the squad, doesn't get much easier from here: next weekend, Penn State will take its first road trip of the season, to battle No. 1 Liberty. Puck drops from LaHaye Ice Center are scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Box Score

First Period
1. Miami, Darby Edmondson (2:00 body checking), 15:48; 2. Penn State, Meghan Miller (2:00 body checking), 9:17.
Second Period
1. Miami, Emily Sloan (Ellen Chiligiris), 3:52.
3. Miami, Sarah Peterson (2:00 cross checking), 16:44; 4. Penn State, Sarah McGillicuddy (2:00 slashing), 13:42; 5. Penn State, Rachel Cole (2:00 holding), 3:52.
Third Period
2. Miami, Carly Noble (Ellen Chiligiris), 12:04 (power play); 3. Miami, Jennifer Davis (Sarah Peterson, Ellen Chiligiris), 8:28; 4. Miami, Katie Baldwin (Nicole Matthews, Alyssa Visalli), 6:40 (power play); 5. Miami, Carly Noble (Alyssa Visalli), 5:32; 6. Miami, Jennifer Davis (Natalie Hornbuckle), 0:30.
6. Penn State, Kate Lombardozzi (2:00 body checking), 13:04; 7. Miami, Carly Noble (2:00 slashing), 11:00; 8. Miami, Emily Sloan (2:00 hooking), 10:15; 9. Penn State, Rachel Cole (2:00 body checking), 6:56; 10. Penn State, Sarah McGillicuddy (2:00 roughing), 6:17; 11. Miami, Ellen Chiligiris (2:00 roughing), 6:17; 12. Miami, Lexi Russell (2:00 body checking), 4:30; 13. Miami, Nicole Matthews (2:00 hooking), 3:04.
Penn State: Emma Shannon: L, 39 saves/45 shots. Miami: Rachel Damrath: W, 15 saves/15 shots.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Same, Yet Different: Penn State Drops Opener to Miami, 9-0

Emma Shannon made 35 saves in her Penn State debut

It's happened a lot over the last couple seasons: Penn State loses decisively to one of the ACHA's top teams and begins looking for shreds of hope, a positive moment or sequence to offer some encouragement and maybe plant a seed of "if only we can keep that up for 60 minutes, we might have something here."

On Friday night, No. 15 Penn State did, in fact, do at least half of that once again, in dropping its season opener to second-ranked Miami by a rather ugly 9-0 count at Pegula Ice Arena. This time, however, the post mortem felt anything but forced.

While the defending national champions are certainly capable of beating the best at their best, the Lady Ice Lions nevertheless came away frustrated with the miscues that helped make the RedHawks' task easier. One was a rough line change just 3:25 into the contest that ended in a Nicole Matthews goal and a 1-0 hole. A few minutes later, Katie Sciales made it 2-0 on a long rebound that nobody in Penn State white could locate.

Between goals like those, and others like the three fatigue-aided tallies in the late going that made the score bulge well out of proportion to the flow of the game, there was an optimism related to the number of correctable mistakes that helped MU along despite what, on the surface, was a blowout loss.

While they're not all items that can be adjusted with five minutes and a dry erase board (conditioning being one thing notoriously difficult to improve in season), between things like that and stretches like the first five minutes of both the first and third periods that saw PSU carry the play for long periods of time, there was a lot to like about the evening.

Ellen Chiligiris led the RedHawks' attack with two goals and two assists, while freshman Darby Edmondson added a pair of goals. Another rookie, Erin Sparks, earned a 15-save shutout.

The blue and white side of the ledger was highlighted by Emma Shannon, who made 35 saves in her collegiate debut, a performance that ranged from exhilarating (her second-period penalty shot stop on Emily Sloan, after PSU's Mikaela Walker closed her hand on the puck in her own crease) to frightening (a third-period collision with Sloan that left the Lady Ice Lions' only rostered goalie shaken up, but fortunately able to continue). Crosby Deliman also gave those in attendance - including 2017 graduates Cassie Dunne and Darian Dempsey - plenty of hope for a bright future, as the Pittsburgh native was central to many of Penn State's best scoring chances.

The two teams will close the series with a rematch on Saturday evening at 5:15 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

Box Score

First Period
1. Miami, Nicole Matthews (Jenn Davis), 16:35; 2. Miami, Katie Sciales (Katie Baldwin), 10:03; 3. Miami, Darby Edmondson (Ellen Chiligiris), 6:07 (power play); 4. Miami, Ellen Chiligiris (Katie Sciales), 0:33.
1. Penn State, Crosby Deliman (2:00 tripping), 7:26; 2. Penn State, Trish Cierniak (2:00 cross checking), 6:07.
Second Period
5. Miami, Darby Edmondson (Ellen Chiligiris, Natalie Hornbuckle), 4:30 (shorthanded).
3. Penn State, Mikaela Walker (penalty shot for delay of game), 12:04; 4. Miami, Michaela Goguen (2:00 holding the stick), 5:17; 5. Penn State, Crosby Deliman (2:00 interference), 1:06.
Third Period
6. Miami, Carly Noble (Alyssa Visalli, Michaela Goguen), 14:54; 7. Miami, Emily Sloan (unassisted), 6:16; 8. Miami, Natalie Hornbuckle (Alyssa Visalli), 3:42; 9. Miami, Ellen Chiligiris (Amanda Pugliese), 2:42.
6. Penn State, Meghan Miller (2:00 slashing), 13:24; 7. Penn State, Sarah McGillicuddy (2:00 hooking), 10:55
Penn State: Emma Shannon: L, 35 saves/44 shots. Miami: Erin Sparks: W, 15 saves/15 shots.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Showtime: Penn State Set to Open with Defending Champ Miami

Crosby Deliman is among the Penn State freshmen expected to make an immediate impact

Seven Lady Ice Lions freshmen and one junior transfer - literally 40 percent of the team's roster - will receive a baptism by fire of sorts in making their Penn State debuts Friday at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

The opponent for the opening series? Defending ACHA national champion Miami University. The RedHawks, in fact, have won three of the last four, with 2014 and 2016 crowns preceding the most recent win. Essentially, there's no greater challenge available on the ACHA schedule at the present time.

It could be argued that Penn State's rookie class is without peer as well, whether rating it within the annals of team history or across the nation this season. Three of them - Pens Elite and Shady Side Academy product Crosby Deliman, Tabor Academy's Sarah McGillicuddy and the Junior Flyers' Erin Bonner - are expected to immediately step into top six forward roles. Freshmen will also be the starting goaltender (Emma Shannon, from Downingtown East High School) and two of the top six defensemen (Mikaela Walker and Sydney Foy, from Tier 2 powers Reston Raiders and Steel City Selects, respectively).

Those players, combined with a healthy dose of veteran leadership from returners like forwards Riley O'Connor, Meghan Miller, Tarika Embar and Rachel Cole, along with defensemen Trish Cierniak, Kate Lombardozzi and Rachel Kapoian, are central to the hopes of an improved season from the blue and white, which was ranked 15th in the ACHA's preseason ranking.

One more new face for Penn State, of course, is head coach Jeremy Bean, who takes over for five-year boss Patrick Fung and promises an up-tempo, fun-to-watch style in Happy Valley.

Second-ranked Miami is not without their own form of upheaval. The RedHawks graduated one of the most decorated classes in ACHA history, a group that was central to all three MU national championships, including Kaley Mooney (who is now serving as one of Scott Hicks' assistants), Rachael Booth and Katie Augustine, the only player to win both of Team USA's recent bronze medals at World University Games, in 2013 and 2017. MU therefore, will also be heavily-reliant on freshmen, including forwards Darby Edmondson and Emily Sloan, defenseman Lexi Russell, and new starting goaltender Erin Sparks. Another newcomer, one familiar to Penn State already, is sophomore transfer Jenn Davis, who played PSU four times while at Massachusetts last season.

Many of those players came to the fore in Miami's first two games of 2017-18, a pair of routs over ACHA D1 newcomer Aquinas last weekend. Edmondson had a goal and an assist in each game, Sloan added two goals in each, while remaining veterans like hard-working forward Alyssa Visalli and blueline standout Nicole Matthews offered their usual contributions.

Penn State won the only previous meeting between the squads, a 4-3 stunner of the top-ranked, defending national champions in Oxford, OH late in the 2014-15 season. The result, among the biggest in Lady Icers or Lady Ice Lions history, played a large role in PSU's qualification for the ACHA National Tournament that year.

A repeat of that outcome, without a doubt, would establish that the names aren't the only thing new in central Pennsylvania.

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram