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ACHA Nationals: The Other Seven

Devon Fisk and Penn State will try to once again take down contenders like Becky Dobson's West Chester

Beginning on Thursday afternoon and concluding on Sunday, the Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club will wrap up its historic first season at the ACHA national championships in Ashburn, VA by competing with seven other teams for the association's Women's Division 2 title.

The format for the tournament is quite simple. During the preliminary round on March 7th and 8th, each invitee will play the three teams from the opposite region outside of the one with the same seed (so for example, Penn State, which is fourth in the East Region, will play the first, second and third seeds from the West Region, while West Region-topping Alaska will play the second, third and fourth seeds from the East). After those games are finished, the top half of the eight-team field will advance to the semifinals on March 9th, followed by the championship game on March 10th.

Here is a capsule look at each of the teams blocking PSU's road to glory. For more on nationals, including a full schedule, standings and a link to webcasts of the games, be sure to visit ACHA Tournament Central.

Note: All records and statistics below only include ACHA-sanctioned games.

East Region

1. West Chester

Record: 13-2-0
Head coach: David Japchen
Goals scored per game: 5.87
Goals allowed per game: 1.13

Versus Penn State:
Lost 1-2 on January 26th
Won 3-1 on January 27th

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 1:15 p.m.
March 8 vs. North Dakota State, 8:45 a.m.
March 8 vs. Wisconsin-Stout, 8:00 p.m.

DVCHC website team page:
http://womens.dvchchockey.org/page/show/748376-west-chester-univ-?subseason=101512

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Becky Dobson (44-21-65 in 15 games)
Kirsten Baron (14-11-25 in 15 games)
Lindsay Howard (7-12-19 in 15 games)
Colleen Tweedy (6-7-13 in 15 games)
Amanda Vito (6-7-13 in 15 games)

Goaltender:
Aly Golia (13-2-0, 1.13 GAA, 0.941 Sv%)

Simply put, it's impossible to find a more impressive-looking team headed into the tournament than WCU. Although Cal was ranked first in the East Region for most of the season, the Rams split a pair of regular season games with the Vulcans, then dominated a semifinal meeting in the Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference playoffs en route to the league title (their only other loss, of course, was to Penn State). They boast D2's leading scorer in Becky Dobson, who averages just under a hat trick per game, as well as goalie Aly Golia, who joins PSU's Katie Vaughan and Sarah Eisenhut in D2's top three for both goals against average and save percentage.



2. California

Record: 14-2-0
Head coach: Gregg Kaminski
Goals scored per game: 3.56
Goals allowed per game: 1.44

Versus Penn State:
Won 2-1 (OT) on October 6th
Won 2-0 on October 7th

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. North Dakota State, 3:30 p.m.
March 8 vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 11:00 a.m.
March 8 vs. Alaska, 7:45 p.m.

Team website:
http://calu.zonethemes.com/womens/

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Megan Cooper (11-14-25 in 16 games)
Alli Paratore (8-17-25 in 16 games)
Kelsey DeNardo (17-6-23 in 15 games)
Dana Bowersox (9-6-15 in 16 games)
Melissa Heisler (5-8-13 in 16 games)

Top goaltender:
Maria Sciacca (13-2-0, 1.32 GAA, 0.939 Sv%)

The Vulcans, an emerging power in D2, gained the nation's top spot in the poll this season for the first time in program history but, as mentioned, faltered in two of three meetings with West Chester (as well as against Delaware last month) to drop to second in the east in the final ranking. Impressively, Cal has earned a sweep at D1 Buffalo by 2-0 and 3-2 scores on October 20th and 21st, as well as a 4-2-0 ACHA record against teams at the tournament - the two wins over Penn State are joined by 1-1-0 marks against WCU and UD.



3. Delaware

Record: 11-3-0
Head coach: Bobby Crystle
Goals scored per game: 4.64
Goals allowed per game: 2.07

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. Wisconsin-Stout, 3:15 p.m.
March 8 vs. Alaska, 8:30 a.m.
March 8 vs. Minnesota-Duluth, 5:45 p.m.

Team website: http://www.udelhockey.com/w2/

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Danielle Malysa (16-5-21 in 13 games)
Mari O'Leary (7-7-14 in 13 games)
Kimberly Blasnik (7-7-14 in 13 games)
Kaitlyn Smith (4-10-14 in 13 games)
Kelley Philbin (7-6-13 in 13 games)

Goaltender:
Sarah Ehrlich (10-3-0 record, 2.21 GAA, 0.888 Sv%)

Delaware joins Penn State as a team that, while claiming one of the east's bottom seeds, is still worthy of contender status - although they'll face a tough preliminary schedule that includes Alaska and UW-Stout, the top two western teams. Like PSU, Delaware has played tight games against West Chester and Cal this year, and in fact, gave the Vulcans one of their two losses February 9th on the strength of Danielle Malysa's goal with four seconds left in overtime (similar to how Penn State hung WCU with one of their two losses). A UD-Cal rematch at the DVCHC tournament resulted in a 2-1 Vulcans win despite Kelley Philbin's third period goal.


West Region

1. Alaska

Record: 6-0-2
Head coach: Scott Vockeroth
Goals scored per game: 4.38
Goals allowed per game: 1.25

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. Penn State, 1:00 p.m.
March 8 vs. Delaware, 8:30 a.m.
March 8 vs. California, 7:45 p.m.

Team website:
http://www.uafwomenshockey.com/

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Cayla Wiita (7-9-16 in 8 games)
Rackell Kowalchuk (10-5-15 in 8 games)
Shawna Jusczak (5-2-7 in 8 games)
Brittany Stahle (2-5-7 in 7 games)

Goaltender:
Katrina Lydon (6-0-2 record, 1.25 GAA, 0.924 Sv%)

Alaska has played a pretty light schedule this season, due of course to their geographic isolation (they did play several games against local U19 teams to supplement their eight ACHA games). It would be unfair to say the Nanooks are not battle-tested, however. Six of their eight games have come against tournament teams Stout, Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota State - and all were on the road, with none resulting in losses. UAF, which lost last season's national championship game to Stout, certainly has to be considered one of the favorites, particularly with Katrina Lydon, one of the ACHA's best stoppers, in net.



2. Wisconsin-Stout

Record: 11-5-1
Head coach: Matt Morin
Goals scored per game: 3.60
Goals allowed per game: 2.13

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. Delaware, 3:15 p.m.
March 8 vs. Penn State, 10:45 a.m.
March 8 vs. West Chester, 8:00 p.m.

Team website:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/UW-Stout-Womens-Hockey-Team/236134433101216

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Lily Cranston (19-8-27 in 16 games)
Ashley Gibson (14-13-27 in 11 games)
Kara Fritsche (6-5-11 in 16 games)
Kerry Blomberg (8-2-10 in 9 games)
Alex Westman (3-3-6 in 16 games)

Goaltender:
Kaye Collier (9-5-1 record, 2.13 GAA, 0.903 Sv%)

The defending ACHA national champions have a little something to prove after a loss-tie home weekend against Alaska on January 26th and 27th cost them the West Region's top seed, but otherwise, they have performed well against a tough schedule that included several D1 teams, including Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Nanooks, however, were the Blue Devils' only D2 tournament opponent, as scheduled games against Minnesota-Duluth in December were forfeited in Stout's favor.



3. North Dakota State

Record: 14-4-1
Head coach: Garrett Gulsvig
Goals scored per game: 5.16
Goals allowed per game: 2.21

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. California, 3:30 p.m.
March 8 vs. West Chester, 8:45 a.m.
March 8 vs. Penn State, 5:30 p.m.

Team website:
http://www.hometeamsonline.com/teams/?u=NDSUHOCKEY-2&s=hockey&t=c

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Kacie Johnson (29-18-47 in 15 games)
Kaylee Lothspeich (14-21-35 in 17 games)
Jacqueline Johnson (8-22-30 in 19 games)
Ellie Dahl (13-6-19 in 19 games)
Brittany Johnson (11-8-19 in 19 games)

Goaltender:
Hannah Seitz (14-4-1 record, 2.21 GAA, 0.912 Sv%)

Following early-season struggles - NDSU started off 3-4-1 thanks in part to games against Alaska and Minnesota-Duluth - the Bison enter the tournament as one of the nation's hottest teams, as they ticked off 11 straight wins to close the regular season. They have one of the ACHA's highest-powered offenses, as Kacie Johnson's goal and point totals are second only to West Chester's Becky Dobson in D2, while Jacqueline Johnson (the leader), Kaylee Lothspeich and Johnson are all in the top five in assists.



4. Minnesota-Duluth

Record: 10-9-1
Head coach: Paul Kessler
Goals scored per game: 3.30
Goals allowed per game: 2.80

Preliminary round schedule:
March 7 vs. West Chester, 1:15 p.m.
March 8 vs. California, 11:00 a.m.
March 8 vs. Delaware, 5:45 p.m.

ACHA website team page:
http://achahockey.org/team_roster.php?team_id=14140&league_id=1066

Leading scorers (goals-assists-points):
Liz Smith (7-12-19 in 18 games)
Katherine Johnson (7-12-19 in 14 games)
Steph Hale (12-5-17 in 16 games)
Allison Jonas (9-7-16 in 16 games)
Mia Marturano (9-4-13 in 18 games)

Top goaltender:
Katie Gilderman (6-0-1 record, 2.00 GAA, 0.905 Sv%)

Despite an unimpressive-looking record (that is artificially deflated due to the aforementioned forfeits to Stout), UMD can boast decisive wins against North Dakota State - 9-2 and 6-1 on November 10th and 11th - have played competitively with both Alaska and D1 power Minnesota, and also carry a roster that runs 21 deep. Mia Marturano had two goals in each of the NDSU wins, but a balanced offensive effort saw eight different goal scorers in the first game, and five in the second.