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Elia Propels PSU to National Title Game

Nina Elia's first goal - ever - lifted Penn State to the national championship game

Nina Elia's putback goal 3:46 into the second overtime period launched the Women's Ice Hockey Club to a thrilling 2-1 national semifinal comeback win over Wisconsin-Stout and into the ACHA championship game Sunday afternoon - an incredible feat for the first-year team that has faced countless obstacles both in getting established and in gaining traction. Perhaps just as incredibly, it was Elia's first career goal. Ever.

With the triumph, PSU will face West Chester, which rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat Alaska 4-3 in the day's other semifinal, at 1:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoon for the title.

On the play that lifted Penn State over the now-formerly defending national champions for the second day in a row (following Friday's 3-1 result in the preliminary round), Devon Fisk carried into the zone and fired a backhander that was saved by Stout's Kaye Collier. After Elizabeth Denis took a hack at the rebound, Elia calmly worked around a fallen Collier and deposited into the empty cage.

It was a victory that looked somewhat unlikely through the first 34 minutes. At the second intermission, the Blue Devils' Lily Cranston had the game's only goal, scoring midway through the first period by knocking home a back-door pass from Joanie Francis, who had gloved down a puck sandwiched high in the air right in front of PSU goalie Katie Vaughan. Furthermore, Stout owned an 18-9 shooting advantage, with Vaughan (who closed another outstanding game with 35 vital saves) the primary reason the game remained within reach.

Penn State finally found footing in the third period, and with just 9:28 separating the team from the end of its title hopes, captain Carly Szyszko drew a hooking penalty given to the Devils' Ashley Gibson in transition. The WIHC cashed in the ensuing power play, as Denis swung the puck high to Tara Soukup, whose bomb from just above the left circle deflected in off of Fisk's shoulder. PSU carried momentum for much of the rest of regulation and through a first five-minute overtime, even killing a pair of disaster-inviting penalties during the game's stretch run. Denis, Fisk, Mandy Mortach, Allie Rothman and Georgia Foulds were outstanding at the game's most thankless task to keep Penn State in it.

In all, PSU's penalty kill turned in a perfect six-for-six effort. On the flip side, the team's power play had Fisk's crucial goal to show for its three attempts in a rather liberally-officiated game, considering the level of physicality throughout.

As mentioned, the WIHC now has just one more game standing between it and perhaps the unlikeliest of ACHA Division 2's seven titles. Sunday's national championship game will be broadcast live at acha.fasthockey.com for a fee and with a free site registration.

Highlights

Here are Penn State's goals.



Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. UW-Stout, Lily Cranston (Joanie Francis), 7:51.
Penalties
1. Penn State, Elizabeth Denis (2:00 hooking), 5:31; 2. Penn State, Mary Kate Tonetti (2:00 tripping), 13:26.
Second Period
Scoring
None.
Penalties
3. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 hooking), 0:46; 4. UW-Stout, Hannah Krueger (2:00 holding), 10:25; 5. Penn State, Jacqueline Saideh (2:00 unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:04; 6. UW-Stout, Alex Westman (2:00 interference), 14:19.
Third Period
Scoring
2. Penn State, Devon Fisk (Tara Soukup, Elizabeth Denis), 8:20 (power play).
Penalties
7. UW-Stout, Ashley Gibson (2:00 hooking), 7:32; 8. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 hooking), 13:23.
First Overtime
Scoring
None.
Penalties
9. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 roughing), 1:26.
Second Overtime
Scoring
3. Penn State, Nina Elia (Elizabeth Denis, Devon Fisk), 3:46.
Penalties
None.
Goaltending
Penn State: Katie Vaughan: W, 35 saves/36 shots. UW-Stout: Kaye Collier: L, 21 saves/23 shots.