Lady Ice Lions Stun No. 4 Rhode Island to Earn Gutsy Road Split

Kelly Watson (left) and Taylor Nyman contributed to an outstanding team effort

Former Penn State Icers head coach and PSU associate athletic director Joe Battista used to always say "champions find a way."

On Sunday afternoon, the Lady Ice Lions found a way, riding three early goals and hanging on late for a 3-2 win over fourth-ranked Rhode Island for a hard-earned weekend split in Kingston, RI. The result came with several players unavailable, including leading scorer Darby Kern, and 2013-14 ACHA award winners Geneva Wagoner and Tara Soukup.

No worries, though. Penn State charged out of the gate, outshooting URI 14-9 in the first period, after allowing 53 shots to the Rams on Saturday night. Cara Mendelson, playing forward to help balance out the lineup, made one of them count with 7:55 left in the frame as she took a stretch pass from Devon Fisk and gained a step behind the Rhody defense before deking goalie Kayla DiLorenzo.

Anna Marcus doubled the advantage in the late going with her first tally of the season. Just two seconds after the end of a body checking call to URI's Sydney Collins that had the Lady Ice Lions already set up in the offensive zone, Kim Badorrek threw the puck from right point to the slot area, where the Connecticut native was able to deflect home.

The train kept rolling early in the second period as, just 2:47 of game time after the Marcus goal, Riley O'Connor bagged her second of the weekend and third of the season with an in-tight shot that somehow squirted through DiLorenzo after a Fisk try from Sam Siciliano.

Rhode Island rose to the game shortly after, however, and began chipping into the PSU lead. First came Kristen Levesque halfway through regulation, as Claire Gauthier's fellow Sandwich, MA resident one-timed a transitional feed from Janessa Coutney, who drove down left wing. Six minutes later, with Madison Smiddy off on a cross checking penalty, Courtney redirected a Collins shot to cut the lead back to one.

That goal was the first surrendered by PSU's shorthanded units this season, after 15 successful penalty kills to open the campaign.

After that things went from dicey to nerve-wracking, as the Lady Ice Lions successfully stemmed the Rams' rally but still needed to hold on with a gutsy team defensive effort for 23:54 to secure the win. Mary Kate Tonetti did her part with 13 stops in the third period alone, a big chunk of her 34 for the game. One, midway through the final period, almost turned to disaster as a URI shot ticked off of Tonetti's glove and landed near the goalline. However, Kelly Watson came to the rescue with a heads-up clearance to repel the chance.

The senior netminder didn't need the help shortly after that, as her highlights included a stop on a Levesque one-timer that looked similar to the URI sophomore's goal, and a sliding rebound denial of Bethany Saunders.

With the win, Penn State is now 6-3-0 overall and 4-3-0 in the ECWHL. Rhode Island is 5-4-0 overall and 4-2-0 in the ECWHL. The Lady Ice Lions' 1-1-0 against the Rams this weekend represents a massive statement on a couple of fronts.

First off, it destroyed quite a bit of negative history. Penn State's previous Lady Icers ACHA Division 1 program was just 6-34-1 overall against URI, including a 1-17-0 mark at Rhody's Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena, the site of this weekend's series.

Second, and more importantly, 12th-place PSU hopes to climb into the top eight of the ACHA rankings in time to qualify for the ACHA National Tournament in March. Beating the number four team in the country should certainly help that effort, and with games against Miami, Liberty and Massachusetts - the top three teams in the most recent poll - on tap, there will certainly be more opportunities.

Before all of that, however, Penn State will return to Pegula Ice Arena for the final time this fall semester to face Slippery Rock on Friday and Saturday. Puck drops for both games are set for 7:00 p.m.

Box Score

First Period
1. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (Devon Fisk), 7:55; 2. Penn State, Anna Marcus (Kim Badorrek), 1:24.
1. Rhode Island, Kristen Levesque (2:00 tripping), 14:35; 2. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 hooking), 7:33; 3. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (2:00 body checking), 3:26.
Second Period
3. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Sam Siciliano, Devon Fisk), 18:37; 4. Rhode Island, Kristen Levesque (Janessa Courtney, MaryKate Stimpson), 9:57; 5. Rhode Island, Janessa Courtney (Sydney Collins, Kristen Levesque), 3:54 (power play).
4. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 cross checking), 4:55; 5. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (2:00 hooking), 1:00.
Third Period
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: W, 34 saves/36 shots. Rhode Island: Kayla DiLorenzo: L, 29 saves/32 shots.

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