Liberty Proves One Goal Too Far as Penn State Falls Again Saturday

Once again, Penn State provided a sound effort against second-ranked Liberty on Saturday afternoon in Lynchburg, VA, following Friday night's 6-5 overtime defeat. But once again the Lady Ice Lions were a goal short, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Flames to close the 2014 half of this season's schedule.

Autumn Kucharczyk's left-point shot through heavy traffic with 10:51 remaining in the third period proved the difference as LU climbed to 14-3-1 overall. PSU is now 9-5-0 overall and 6-3-0 in the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League.

Darby Kern opened the scoring with 7:02 remaining in the second period against the run of play in a game with a decidedly more measured pace than the series-opening barnburner, as two tired teams attempted to play things tight. Following a quick turnover generated by Geneva Wagoner, Kern lasered a shot past Liberty goaltender Samantha Rupp.

That lead would lead a much shorter life than the 21:28 PSU spent in charge on Friday though.

Following an offensive draw and some sharp puck movement, the Flames' Carrie Jickling beat Mary Kate Tonetti on her glove side with a shot that went bar down from high in the right-wing circle exactly four minutes after PSU went ahead. Madison Fischer and Courtney Gilmour were given assists on the play.

Tonetti was otherwise spectacular though, turning aside 38 shots - including 13 during the first half of the second period, a stretch dominated by LU but ultimately, a sequence of denial that allowed Kern to put her team ahead shortly after. On the other end, Rupp made 23 saves for the hosts.

After Kucharczyk's winner, the Lady Ice Lions still pressed for a second consecutive overtime, particularly in the last six minutes of regulation. Around that mark, Claire Gauthier, strong in possession all weekend, chipped around the LU defense down left wing, but her centering pass for a wide open Devon Fisk just missed. The last 90 seconds of the contest witnessed two more notable close calls: one a Wagoner backhanded wraparound try that generated a rebound for Riley O'Connor and a Madison Smiddy shot that was deflected down by Katie Murphy in front and remained loose near the crease for several seconds. Penn State also received a late power play, with 4:58 remaining and thanks to a Fischer interference call, but could not convert.

In addition to the generally slower pace, the match was also much cleaner than on Friday, with just six total penalty calls. Each team was 0-for-2 on the power play.

Penn State will now enjoy winter break off - well, the "enjoy" part taking over once finals are over in two weeks anyway - and returns to action at Pegula Ice Arena on January 10th and 11th against ECWHL rival Massachusetts. That weekend and the following one, back on the road against Ohio State and number one Miami, will be the team's closing arguments in the third ACHA ranking period, which has a cutoff date of January 18th.

Box Score

First Period
1. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 interference), 8:49; 2. Liberty, Sarah Stevenson (2:00 tripping), 5:47; 3. Penn State, Devon Fisk (2:00 holding), 0:39; 4. Liberty, Alex Alexopoulos (2:00 interference), 0:39.
Second Period
1. Penn State, Darby Kern (Geneva Wagoner), 7:02; 2. Liberty, Carrie Jickling (Madison Fischer, Courtney Gilmour), 3:02.
5. Penn State, Madison Smiddy (2:00 hooking), 12:25.
Third Period
3. Liberty, Autumn Kucharczyk (Carrie Jickling), 10:51.
6. Liberty, Madison Fischer (2:00 interference), 4:58.
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: L, 38 saves/40 shots. Liberty: Samantha Rupp: W, 21 saves/22 shots.

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