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Penn State to Shoot for First-Ever CHE Playoff Title in Battle of Yorktown
What: Penn State (No. 1 ACHA WD2 East Region, 14-2-2 overall, 8-2-2 College Hockey East) faces off against each of its three College Hockey East rivals in the inaugural CHE women's playoff tournament.
When: The semifinals, pitting PSU against Delaware and California (PA) against West Chester will take place on Friday, February 21st at 1:45 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. The winners of those two games will meet for the championship on Saturday, February 22nd at 3:30 p.m.
Where: York City Ice Arena; York, PA
Notable: The regular season champion WIHC seeks the CHE double with a conference playoff win.
Nickname: Fightin' Blue Hens
Location: Newark, DE
Season Record: 7-14-3 overall (0-9-3 CHE, fourth place)
ACHA Ranking: 4th (East Region)
Goals Scored Per Game: 1.43
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.78
Head Coach: Bobby Crystle (fourth season)
Series History: Penn State leads, 3-0-1 (3-0-1 this season). On November 16th and 17th, 2013, PSU hit the big ice at Fred Rust Arena and, after a disappointing 1-1 tie thanks to Allie Rothman's equalizer, roared back the next day with a 6-1 victory. Devon Fisk scored twice in that game and added an assist, while Anna Marcus, Mary Kate Tonetti, Geneva Wagoner and Carly Szyszko also delivered goals. Things went much more smoothly three weeks later in the home half of the series, as Tonetti moved to goalie and put up a double shutout with 6-0 and 4-0 wins. Fisk and Wagoner again paced the offense with four points each over the weekend, while Elizabeth Denis had a pair of goals and a helper in the first contest.
About Delaware: This year's ACHA National Tournament hosts have struggled for most of this year, although an autobid will allow their sixth nationals appearance in seven years next month (including third-place finishes in 2010 and 2012). Impressively, the Blue Hens have managed draws with each of the top two CHE teams this year - a 2-2 result with Cal preceding the 1-1 tie with the WIHC by three weeks. It's been tough sledding otherwise against the upper echelon though: the Vulcans and PSU won their other six games against UD by a combined 31-3. Delaware made a bit of history last month by traveling to Alaska and facing the Nanooks in the first two intercollegiate women's games in the history of the 49th state. Rookie blueliner Alexx Good is one of the team's stars, while Kelley Philbin, Jamie Moelis and Danielle Marten are the Hens' top goal scorers.
Location: California, PA
Season Record: 16-4-3 overall (8-3-1 CHE, second place)
ACHA Ranking: 2nd (East Region)
Goals Scored Per Game: 5.39
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.52
Head Coach: Gregg Kaminski (fourth season)
Series History: California leads, 4-2-0 (tied 2-2-0 this season). The Vulcans swept the first two games in WIHC history back in October 2012, but neither team has been able to win consecutive games against the other since then. Cal posted the only shutout against PSU this season with a 1-0 win at Rostraver Ice Garden on October 11, 2013 on a late Kelsey DeNardo goal, and also won the Pegula Ice Arena weekend opener 5-2 on January 31st. Penn State bounced back the next day in each case though, as Wagoner (goal, assist), Fisk (two goals) and Tonetti (three assists) outweighed another DeNardo goal on October 12, 2013. The most recent meeting saw PSU clinch the CHE regular season title with another 3-1 win. Denis and Tonetti offered early goals in that one, with Carly Szyszko's power play deflection sealing things.
About California: It would be hard to find two teams that track more similarly than PSU and Cal, as the giants have run 1-2 in CHE and in the ACHA WD2 East Region poll all season long. In addition to their series split, both carry 3-0-1 records against Delaware. CU went 3-1-0 versus West Chester, one point worse than the WIHC's 3-0-1 - essentially the entire difference in the league regular season race. In CHE play, the Vulcans have scored 37 goals and allowed 17, nearly identical to Penn State's 37 and 15. A remarkably deep Cal team is paced by six of the top seven scorers in ACHA WD2 - DeNardo, Megan Cooper, Margo Laboon, Lauren Lehman, Melissa Heisler and Dana Bowersox - as well as the capable goaltending of Maria Sciacca, who is third in the division in both goals against average and save percentage.
Nickname: Golden Rams
Location: West Chester, PA
Season Record: 7-10-2 overall (4-6-2 CHE, third place)
ACHA Ranking: 3rd (East Region)
Goals Scored Per Game: 2.94
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.28
Head Coach: Scott Reuter (first season)
Series History: Penn State leads, 4-2-1 (3-0-1 this season). A hard-fought split at WCU was a 2012-13 precursor to the 2013 national championship game, won 5-2 by the Golden Rams. This season, PSU blasted West Chester in an emotional revenge series back in November by 3-0 and 6-3 scores. Katie Vaughan and the defense shut the door on a team that had averaged nine goals per game within the division, while Denis (three times), Wagoner (twice), Szyszko, Nina Elia, Tara Soukup, Lucy Yeatman all buried over the weekend. Things were much more tightly contested last month in West Chester: power play goals by Szyszko and the Rams' Miranda Stueve led to a 1-1 tie on January 18th, while tallies by Elia and Jackie Saideh, along with more heroics by Vaughan, were enough to withstand a late WCU rally in a 2-1 win the next day.
About West Chester: The Golden Rams have been confronted by a rather unique challenge: adapt to the mid-season graduation loss of 2012-13 ACHA player of the year and 2013 ACHA national tournament MVP Becky Dobson. Even without playing since November, Dobson still leads the team in scoring - in fact her 18 goals and 29 points double anyone else on the team. Her departure leaves a team that often struggles for offense (just over one goal per game and one win without Dobson), but one that's rediscovered some balance and remains stout defensively and in close games each time out. Star sophomores Lindsay Howard and Kirsten Baron are the new offensive linchpins at WCU, while senior netminder Aly Golia, first-team all-ACHA tournament a year ago, remains crucial to success.
Posted by Kyle Rossi