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WIHC Stuns Alaska to Open Nationals

Katie Vaughan finished with 20 saves, including seven during a heart-stopping third period

Anything can happen at tournament time. Just ask the Women's Ice Hockey Club. Or, perhaps even more appropriately, ask Alaska. The Nanooks - the top seed in the West Region - were shocked by East Region No. 4 Penn State, 2-1, to open the ACHA National Championships in Ashburn, VA.

The win starts PSU off on the right note: 1-0-0 in the three-game preliminary round, which will pare the field from eight teams to four over the first two days of the tournament.

After an extended feeling-out period in what turned out to be a defensive yet vertical game, Allie Rothman's first goal of the season gave Penn State a surprising 1-0 lead late in the first period. Rothman intercepted a muffed clearing attempt just inside the line at the tail end of a power play, then threw the puck on net - never a bad idea. Alaska goaltender Katrina Lydon made a chest save, initially, but the rebound bounced up, past her shoulder, and over the goalline.

PSU extended the lead to 2-0 with 9:49 left in the second when Devon Fisk once again made two plays that she typically makes. First, she stole the puck from the Nanooks' Brittany Stahle on the near boards in the Alaska zone. The loose puck ended up on Lydon, who stopped it, but Fisk scooped up the rebound, swung behind the net, and fired home once reappearing on the opposite side.

As is the case against any good team though, it wasn't simply a matter of coasting to the finish line from there.

The Nanooks surged in the third period, outshooting PSU 8-3 while getting the WIHC in some penalty trouble. With 7:06 remaining, or 17 seconds after Taylor Nyman's tripping penalty, Alaska defender Bailey Brewer blasted one past Katie Vaughan from left point. Shortly after, cross-checking calls 11 seconds apart to Mandy Mortach and Rothman forced a long 5-on-3 kill, but Vaughan, along with forwards Carly Szyszko and Elizabeth Denis, and Ashton Schaffer, Tara Soukup and Georgia Foulds on defense answered the call during a tense 109 seconds.

Vaughan finished with 20 saves, which generally increased in difficulty as the game progressed.

Penn State will tackle their final two preliminary games on Friday. First, at 10:45 a.m., PSU faces West No. 2 Wisconsin-Stout, the defending national champion. A few hours later, at 5:30 p.m., West No. 3 North Dakota State will be the opponent. If the WIHC is in the top four of the standings following those matches, they'll advance to Saturday's semifinal round.

Highlights

Here are Penn State's goals - apologies for goal scorer Rothman being out of frame on the first one.



Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Allie Rothman (unassisted), 10:55 (power play).
Penalties
1. Penn State, Tara Soukup (2:00 elbowing), 6:00; 2. Alaska, Bailey Brewer (2:00 body checking), 8:57.
Second Period
Scoring
2. Penn State, Devon Fisk (unassisted), 7:11.
Penalties
3. Penn State, Elizabeth Denis (2:00 interference), 9:26; 4. Alaska, Hunter Hollenberg (2:00 body checking), 16:05.
Third Period
Scoring
3. Alaska, Bailey Brewer (Cayla Wiita), 9:54 (power play).
Penalties
5. Penn State, Taylor Nyman (2:00 tripping), 9:47; 6. Penn State, Mandy Mortach (2:00 cross-checking), 11:18; 7. Penn State, Allie Rothman (2:00 cross-checking), 12:07.
Goaltending
Penn State: Katie Vaughan: W, 20 saves/21 shots. Alaska: Katrina Lydon: L, 16 saves/18 shots.