Captain Jack Joined by Elia, Kern as 2015-16's On-Ice Leadship Group

Jackie Saideh, Darby Kern and Nina Elia will wear letters for the Lady Ice Lions in 2015-16

Senior forward Jackie Saideh has been voted by her teammates as the Lady Ice Lions' 2015-16 captain, head coach Patrick Fung announced Thursday. The newly-minted fifth captain in squad history will be helped by alternates Nina Elia and Darby Kern.

For Saideh, the distinction is yet more confirmation of her vital leadership role within the club. In 2014-15, the Massachusetts native served as both its vice president and as an alternate captain. Now, her move to the president's chair for the coming season is matched with a similar escalation in her on-ice status. The most recipient of the team's Billie S. Willits Player's Player award has been a timely goal scorer since moving to forward as a sophomore - her 13 tallies since then trail only Kern, Devon Fisk and Cara Mendelson within the roster. Saideh is also a model defensive forward who always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. Those two qualities make her one of the Penn State's most adaptable players, an asset almost anywhere in the lineup.

Elia, like Saideh, is a founding member of the Lady Ice Lions, entering as a freshman in the 2012-13 inaugural season. At the end of that year, she supplied what will long be regarded as one of the team's most memorable moments: a double-overtime putback goal that boosted Penn State over defending national champion Wisconsin-Stout in the ACHA National Tournament semifinals. With the exception of the fall semester of this past season, during which Elia studied abroad, she has appeared in every game possible during her career. She was seventh on the team in scoring during her last full season, although the Skaneateles, NY native is best known for defense and toughness, along for her net-front presence.

Little remains unsaid about the 2014-15 that Kern put together, her first year as a Lady Ice Lion after two with Penn State's NCAA team. Kern's 61 points - in just 25 games - were the best of anyone in the nation, while her 34 goals trailed leader Carrie Jickling (Liberty) by one. The end result, appropriately, was Penn State's second-ever first team All-American pick at the Division 1 level (and the first since 2001-02), as well as a nomination for the Zoe M. Harris Award as the ACHA's player of the year. The winger's recognition haul also included the ACHA's Harrow Player of the Month award for January, ECWHL first team all-conference honors, and naturally, the team's Maurice H. Stroemel Most Valuable Player award.

Ashton Schaffer, who is set to spend the fall semester with the Lady Ice Lions before her December graduation, will retain the C that she wore during the 2014-15 through her remaining time on campus. Holding the captaincy during a second season places her into a rare category, as only Rachel Rieker (1996-98), Ellen Zajko (1998-2001), Katie King (2002-04), Sara Chroman (2010-12) and Carly Szyszko (2012-14) have held down the position for more than one campaign in the combined history of the Lady Icers and Lady Ice Lions.

Saideh, Elia, Kern, Schaffer, an exciting freshman class and the rest of the team will open a second D1 and ECWHL season just over four months from now, over the weekend of October 9th through 11th. The drive for Penn State's first-ever women's hockey national championship will conclude with the ACHA National Tournament in Kalamazoo, MI from March 2nd through 6th, 2016.

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Alumni Smiddy and Rossi Invited to Historic NWHL Free Agent Camps

Madison Smiddy was invited to a camp for the Buffalo Beauts of the newly-formed NWHL

Madison Smiddy and Heather Rossi are looking to take the next step in their hockey careers, and simultaneously take a step into the history books.

Smiddy, a newly-graduated Lady Ice Lions defenseman, and Rossi, who starred in goal for the Lady Icers from 2009 through 2011, were invited to free agent camps hosted by professional teams in the newly-formed National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) this month. Rossi's invite was from the New York Riveters on the 16th and 17th, while Smiddy was tabbed by the Buffalo Beauts for their skate on the 23rd and 24th.

Those camps, as well as ones hosted by the circuit's other two franchises, are a first step towards making it on to a 2015-16 NWHL roster.

Upon its launch this spring, the NWHL and founder/commissioner Dani Rylan made immediate headlines with the promise to pay players a minimum of $10,000 per year, up to a $270,000 salary cap for each team. The presence of salaries is an unprecedented departure from other North American women's hockey leagues, including the competing Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), which recently completed its eighth season and includes five teams (four in Canada, one in Boston).

The inaugural NWHL campaign will feature 18 games per team beginning on October 17th and running through March. At the conclusion of the season, the four squads will compete for the Isobel Cup, which is named for Lady Isobel Gathorne-Hardy (née Stanley), considered to be among the first women to play hockey. Her love of the game is said to have inspired her father, Lord Frederick Stanley of Preston, to donate the famed Stanley Cup awarded to the National Hockey League's champion.

Smiddy, of course, wrapped up her collegiate career in 2014-15 with a stellar season highlighted by her selection to the U.S. National University Team that competed at the World University Games in Granada, Spain back in February. The product of the Honeybaked program starred overseas - despite sitting out of a stat-padding 9-0 rout of Spain, she finished tied for fourth in defense scoring and tied for 15th in plus-minus among all tournament players. That list included numerous entries from the senior national teams of countries like Russia and Japan, which recently finished fourth and seventh at the 2015 IIHF World Championships, as well as stars from Canadian university teams, a healthy source of the CWHL's talent.

In ACHA play, she fired home three game-winning goals among her ten points, including against defending national champion Miami on January 18th and in overtime at Northeastern on November 22nd, helping the Lady Ice Lions to Penn State's first Division 1 national tournament since 2010.

The Michigander dressed 20 times for PSU's NCAA team as a sophomore and junior, posting eight total points. Her rate of 0.4 points per game rate was 58 percent better than the next best Nittany Lions blueliner during that period.

Heather Rossi
Rossi had a collegiate career that could best be described as "nomadic." The Kunkletown, PA native played for the NCAA team at Robert Morris (PA) as a freshman in 2006-07 and posted a 0.911 save percentage in 11 games before moving on to then-ACHA program Lindenwood in 2008-09. She helped the Lions to their third of four national championships before finishing her career at Penn State.

While a Lady Icer, Rossi put together a spectacular 2009-10 season, collecting second-team All-American recognition while taking nearly 95 percent of the team's crease minutes and helping to power Penn State to its second ACHA National Tournament since 2004. On March 12, 2010, she blanked Liberty 1-0 for what is still PSU's last victory at the Division 1 tourney.

As a senior, she formed arguably the ACHA's finest goaltending tandem with Katie Vaughan, who would go on to star for the Lady Ice Lions from 2012 through 2014. Both were part of the first U.S. World University Games team in 2011, which finished fourth in Erzurum, Turkey. Rossi's 34-for-36 effort against a Finland team that included several players from the bronze medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics like Michelle Karvinen, Saara Tuominen and Venla Hovi was arguably that squad's highlight.

Rylan will be the Riveters' general manager, while Linda Mroz will run the Beauts. Former NHLer Ric Seiling and Shelley Looney coached at the Buffalo camp, with 1998 Olympic gold medalist Looney recently serving as one of Smiddy's assistant coaches at the World University Games.

Smiddy and Rossi are two of a handful of ACHA players taking a shot at the pros. Lady Ice Lions opponents Hayley Williams (Miami) and Kristen Levesque (Rhode Island) - both of whom also joined forces with Smiddy on Team USA at the World University Games - each attended three camps, including those in New York and Buffalo, as well as one hosted by the Connecticut Whale on May 9th and 10th. Katie Keeports, a second-team All-American and a first-team All-Tournament pick at Delaware in 2009-10, was also present in Stamford, CT.

The NWHL's free agent camps are not a direct tryout for the teams, but they are an opportunity to get valuable exposure to management. Players have until August 17th to sign for the 2015-16 season, and signees can include those not in attendance at a free agent camp.

Should Rossi and/or Smiddy make the final cut, they would join a club of Penn Staters who have played professionally in North America that presently has a membership of just one: 1998-2002 Lady Icers superstar Andrea Lavelle. Lavelle signed with the Beatrice Aeros of what was also called the National Women's Hockey League (that NWHL, unrelated to the present NWHL, ran from 1999 through 2007 and is considered a forerunner to the CWHL) during the 2002-03 season. She played with a bevy of legends in her native Ontario, including Hockey Hall of Famer Geraldine Heaney and Olympic gold medalists Gillian Ferrari, Cheryl Pounder and Sami Jo Small. Despite that collection of talent, the Aeros lost to the Calgary Oval X-Treme in the NWHL's 2003 championship game.

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The Late Show: Mendelson Named Second Team All-ACHA Tournament

Nobody would argue that missing the public address announcement of the ACHA's all-tournament teams generally made following the title game is the worst part about having to leave the championships before that point. But nevertheless, it is a (very) mild downside to elimination following the group stage, a fate the Lady Ice Lions suffered back in March.

The silver lining came in the form of a pleasant surprise on Wednesday, when a plaque arrived in the mail recognizing newly-graduated forward Cara Mendelson as an all-tournament second team selection.

In just three games at the ACHA finals - two fewer than the number played by championship game participants Liberty and Miami, whose players accordingly dominated the scoring charts - Mendelson notched four points. Of the top 14 scorers in York, PA, only she, linemate Darby Kern (six points, tied for third best) and Minnesota's Laura Gengler came from teams other than the national champion Flames and second-place RedHawks.

The Pittsburgh native's biggest tournament moment came on March 5th against ECWHL rival Massachusetts. There, she opened the scoring late in the first period by receiving a pass in transition near the blue line, dangling around a defenseman, then following her own rebound. Mendelson added a second in the second, on a wraparound try during a delayed penalty to the Minutewomen. Devon Fisk made the score 3-1 on the ensuing power play, although Penn State was not able to hold the lead and settled for a 3-3 draw.

Mendelson collected assists in each of her other tournament games, against Liberty and Grand Valley State. After PSU narrowly qualified for the final eight, she was instrumental in the Lady Ice Lions proving they belonged with an overtime loss to the eventual champs and a tie with semifinalist GVSU.

Over the whole season, her 15 goals, 18 assists and 33 points were second on the squad in each instance, The first of those numbers includes three winners, highlighted by an overtime marker against UMass on January 10th.

Like the first team All-American nod for Kern announced two months ago, there's a fair bit of new history in Mendelson's honor. Until now, former Lady Icers Ellen Zajko and Andrea Lavelle were the only Penn Staters to ever make the first or second tournament team at the ACHA Division 1 level. Zajko got a first-team nod at the ACHA's first women's tournament in 2001, while Lavelle was the most valuable player the following season. Four other Lady Icers were named honorable mentions a total of five times, although none more recently than 2004.

In the Lady Ice Lions era, Fisk (first team in both 2013 and 2014), Katie Vaughan (second team in 2013, first team in 2014) and Tara Soukup (first team in 2014) have all been recognized at the ACHA Division 2 level as the team burst on to the scene with D2 runner-up finishes in its first two seasons.

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Penn State Club Sports Honors Reception Caps 2014-15 School Year

Officers Ashton Schaffer, Mary Kate Tonetti, and Jackie Saideh (not pictured) represented the team at the reception

The Lady Ice Lions received a pair of award nominations at the Penn State Club Sports Program honors reception, held Thursday evening in Beaver Stadium's Mount Nittany Club, but did not take home a prize for the first time in the team's three-year history.

The nominations, given to just three of the club sports program's 80 organizations in each category, still reflected recognition of the squad's ongoing commitment to a superior standard both on and off the ice: Athletic Excellence in an Indoor Non-Martial Arts Activity and Outstanding Women's Club for Organizational Excellence. The awards ultimately went to women's basketball and softball, respectively.

On the athletic side, 2014-15 needs little review: after back to back second place finishes in ACHA Division 2, the Lady Ice Lions moved up to Division 1. The team's ability to compete at that level was initially questioned by many, but the answers were definitive: a 17-8-2 overall record, Penn State's first appearance at the D1 national tournament since 2010 (and just the third since 2004), as well as several signature wins against teams ranked fifth, fourth and first at the time of the contest. The last of those came against then-defending national champion Miami and snapped a 31-game unbeaten streak by the RedHawks that spanned an entire calendar year. Along the way, junior Darby Kern led the nation in scoring and became the second Penn Stater to ever receive ACHA First Team All-American recognition and the first since 2001-02.

Off the ice, the accomplishments were equally impressive, as officers Mary Kate Tonetti, Jackie Saideh and Ashton Schaffer oversaw an organization that was the envy of most across the ACHA. The squad posted a 3.21 team grade point average in the fall semester, led by the perfect 4.0 of junior Devon Fisk and the matching 3.92s of freshman Claire Gauthier and sophomore Lucy Yeatman. In January, the Lady Ice Lions were given the ACHA's Gongshow Stars in the Community award for their work in support of Penn State's famed IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

In previous years, the team has received awards for Most Improved Club (2012-13) and Outstanding Women's Club for Organizational Excellence (2013-14).

Other notable groups among those recognized include the swimming club, which took home Club of the Year. The Lady Ice Lions' men's hockey counterparts, the Ice Lions, saw sophomore Josh Singley recognized with the Supervisor's Choice award.

Here is a complete list of Thursday's winners:

Athletic Excellence Awards
Aquatics Activities
Indoor Non-Martial Arts Activities
Women's Basketball
Martial Arts Activites
Outdoor Field Activities
Men's Lacrosse
Outdoor Non-Field Activities
Cross Country

Organizational Excellence Awards
Outstanding Community Service
Indoor Winter Guard
Outstanding THON Involvement
Field Hockey
When It Rains, It Pours
Outstanding Men's Club
Outstanding Women's Club
Outstanding Co-Ed Club
Most Improved Club

Individual and Officer Awards
Non-Traditional Officer of the Year
Nick DeCarlo - Taekwondo
Secretary of the Year
Timothy Appman - Cross Country
Treasurer of the Year
Casey Norris - English Equestrian
Vice President of the Year
Ashlynn Rice - Western Equestrian
President of the Year
Dan Markosky - Wrestling
Nittany Lion Award
Chris Kutsubos - Paintball
Supervisor's Choice
Josh Singley - Men's Ice Hockey
Male Athlete of the Year
Andrew Smiddy - Swimming
Female Athlete of the Year
Bria Edwards - Triathlon

Club of the Year 

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