Series Preview: WIHC Opens Spring Semester with Trip to West Chester

What: Penn State (No. 1 ACHA WD2 East Region, 11-1-1 overall, 6-1-1 College Hockey East) visits West Chester (No. 3 ACHA WD2 East Region, 6-7-0 overall, 3-3-0 College Hockey East) in a CHE series

When: Saturday, January 18th at 3:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 19th at 11:00 a.m.

Where: Ice Line; West Chester, PA

Notable: West Chester must win more than one point this weekend to stay alive in the race for the College Hockey East regular season title. Should the Golden Rams fail to take at least two points, the conference will become a two-horse race between Penn State and California (PA).

Game Notes

Back at It: After a long winter break, the series against West Chester represents PSU's first games since December 8th, a 41-day layoff. In its last action, the WIHC swept Delaware 6-0 and 4-0 to end the semester on a ten-game unbeaten streak. WCU has played more recently, as the Golden Rams hosted Michigan State two weeks ago. However, prior to that, their last game was November 17th against California.

One Series for Number One: This weekend carries weight even beyond rivalry bragging rights or College Hockey East standings implications. Due largely to break, Penn State, the top-ranked team in ACHA Division 2's East Region, will have only the pair of contests against West Chester to make its case for the pivotal third ACHA ranking of four to be issued this season. The second poll's cutoff date was December 15, 2013, after PSU's previous games with Delaware, while the current ranking period ends January 26th.

Fresh Blood: New roster additions Alex Warren-Caldwell and Emma Dickson are expected to make their debuts against West Chester. Warren-Caldwell, a forward who played in a pair of WIHC games last season, is a junior from Massachusetts who enjoyed a decorated pre-collegiate career with the Boston Jr. Terriers and Arlington High School - including an all-state honorable mention nod from ESPN Boston as a senior. Defender Dickson took a much more indirect route to this point, as she left hockey to pursue a volleyball career in 2011. That move took her all the way to NCAA Division III's Case Western Reserve University, where Dickson appeared in seven matches for the Spartans this past fall before electing to transfer to PSU and make a return to the ice.

The Italian Job: Senior goaltender Katie Vaughan returns to her customary spot in the blue-and-white crease after keying a bronze medal finish for Team USA at the World University Games in Trentino, Italy. It was the first WUG medal for the U.S. since ACHA players began traveling to the event in 2001 (men) and 2011 (women). In November 9-10 2012's series sweep against WCU at Pegula Ice Arena, Vaughan allowed just three goals on 40 shots against the powerful Rams offense - all after PSU had built a 5-0 lead in the second game, en route to a 6-3 win. While Vaughan was overseas (and with junior Sarah Eisenhut out due to injury), junior forward Mary Kate Tonetti filled in admirably between the pipes by not allowing a single goal on 38 shots over two games.

D-livering Under Pressure: Fronting the efforts of Vaughan, Eisenhut and Tonetti this season has been a stellar defense corps including seniors Allie Rothman and Kim Badorrek, junior Ashton Schaffer, sophomore Tara Soukup and freshman Cassie Dunne. The numbers speak for themselves: PSU has allowed one goal in five games (of 13) and posted shutouts in five others, while allowing just 17.8 shots per game and killing 23 of 25 opposing power plays (92.0 percent) despite playing the other three teams in the East Region's top four eight times. The group has also contributed plenty on the offensive end, combining for eight goals and 17 assists this season.

Home Cooking: A trip to West Chester, PA isn't much of one for several members of Penn State's roster. Tonetti, Rothman and sophomore forward Devon Fisk all call the city home and, additionally, played at this weekend's venue, Ice Line, with the West Chester Quakers organization prior to PSU. Dunne (Wyndmoor, PA), freshman forward Lucy Yeatman (Avondale, PA), junior forward Taylor Nyman (Souderton, PA) and senior forward Carly Szyszko (Bensalem, PA) also hail from towns within roughly an hour's drive of West Chester.

The Opponent

Name: West Chester University
Nickname: Golden Rams
Location: West Chester, PA

Series History: Penn State leads, 3-2-0. Last season, the WIHC earned a crucial split in the only contests hosted by WCU before now, winning 2-1 and losing 3-1 on January 26th and 27th, 2013. The Rams took the campaign's rubber match - the ACHA national championship game - by a 5-2 count, before PSU got a measure of revenge earlier this year at Pegula Ice Arena with a 3-0, 6-3 sweep. Graduate student Elizabeth Denis scored three times over that November 9-10, 2013 weekend, while Geneva Wagoner (twice), Szyszko, Soukup, Yeatman and Nina Elia also found twine.

About West Chester: The defending national champions remain a formidable foe, although their spring semester schedule got off to a less-than-ideal start thanks to a pair of 2-1 losses at home against Michigan State two weeks ago. If the Golden Rams are to repeat in March, they'll have to find a way to replace the prolific production of reigning ACHA Player of the Year and tournament MVP Becky Dobson, who graduated in December after posting 18 goals and 29 points in nine games this season. WCU will try to offset the loss of Dobson and keep its offense among the best in the division with a bevy of newcomers added since the November series at Penn State, including Melissa Hansen, Maddie Callaghan, Daria Carzo, Holly Bingham and Lauren Stevens. Mainstays Lindsay Howard and Kirsten Baron, meanwhile, remain among the most crucial Rams up front. Standout goaltender Aly Golia, a senior, will help ensure that her team has a chance to win each time out, regardless of goal production. Golia is fronted by a defense corps that is not very deep but still includes quality blueliners Miranda Stueve, Colleen Elvin and Danielle Speroff.

Trivia: West Chester's excellence in the women's sports world isn't limited to hockey - Geno Auriemma, who has won eight national championships as the head coach of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team, is an alumnus. Another notable Golden Ram is Jill Biden, the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, who received her Master of Education degree from the school.

Head Coach: Scott Reuter (first season)
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.83
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.50

Team Website: