Penn State Shoots, Sciacca Saves as Cal Takes Inaugural CHE Playoff Title

Geneva Wagoner's late goal was not enough to topple Maria Sciacca, Margo Laboon and Cal

California's Maria Sciacca made 22 saves, while Megan Cooper added a goal and an assist to boost the Vulcans over Penn State 2-1 in the College Hockey East playoff championship game Saturday afternoon in York, PA.

With the victory, Cal claimed the title of the first-ever CHE women's tournament and boosted its overall record to 18-4-3. The loss drops the regular season champion WIHC to 15-3-2.

As with any one-goal defeat, each missed opportunity presents cause for regret - and no missed opportunity was larger than a two-minute-long 5-on-3 midway through the first period. Devon Fisk's hard work at the PSU line drew a hooking call to Cal's Hayley D'Hondt, and before the Vulcans could touch up for a whistle, Savannah Sales tripped Carly Szyszko for a second penalty. From there though, CU spent much of the vital kill blocking WIHC shot attempts, emerging unscathed.

Just 34 seconds after the pair in black were freed from their sentences, the Vulcans' Cooper gave her team a 1-0 lead. To do so, she collected a neutral zone turnover and skated in one on one before firing past PSU goalie Katie Vaughan, who finished with 16 saves.

Penn State would spend much of the rest of the game chasing that goal.

By every measure - other than the one that counts - it was a successful pursuit. After escaping the first period without further damage, the WIHC enjoyed an 18-10 shooting advantage the rest of the way, including 9-4 over the final 17 minutes. That total was boosted by two largely productive power plays, featuring one sequence late in the second period that may have resulted in a Nina Elia goal, had instant replay been available. Other prime chances came courtesy of FIsk, Allie Rothman, Elizabeth Denis and Tara Soukup.

A Szyszko shot that beat Sciacca but drew crossbar with two minutes left in the second period provided an additional source of frustration, while a Lucy Yeatman deflection of Ashton Schaffer came close early in the third.

With 2:17 remaining in the contest, Alli Paratore appeared to seal the Vulcans win by banging a rebound past Vaughan after Cooper blocked the puck at the CU line and rushed it herself.

Penn State used its timeout shortly after and continued to push forward, however. Hope came with 63 seconds left, when Geneva Wagoner scored on a bouncing puck that had been thrown to the front of the net. Despite continued pressure to the horn, a stunning equalizer did not follow, allowing Cal to skate off with the CHE cup.

Up next, though, is an even bigger fish: the ACHA National Tournament. Penn State has all but officially locked up a bid to the championships, which run March 13th through 16th in Newark, DE. The ACHA is expected to announce the eight tournament participants, their seeding placements and the schedule of games in the coming week.

Box Score

First Period
1. California, Megan Cooper (unassisted), 12:01.
1. Penn State, Mary Kate Tonetti (2:00 holding), 4:53; 2. California, Hayley D'Hondt (2:00 hooking), 9:27; 3. California, Savannah Sales (2:00 tripping), 9:27; 4. Penn State, Elizabeth Denis (2:00 tripping), 12:18.
Second Period
5. California, Michelle Daley (2:00 tripping), 10:52; 6. Penn State, Ashton Schaffer (2:00 tripping), 15:02.
Third Period
2. California, Alli Paratore (Megan Cooper), 14:43; 3. Penn State, Geneva Wagoner (unassisted), 15:57.
7. California, Lauren Lehman (2:00 tripping), 7:55.
Penn State: Katie Vaughan: L, 16 saves/18 shots. California: Maria Sciacca: W, 22 saves/23 shots.