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Lady Ice Lions Seek to Buck 'Eyes, Top-Ranked Hawks on Trip to Ohio




No. 11 Penn State (10-6-0/7-4-0 ECWHL) at
Ohio State (1-12-1/0-8-0 CCWHA)
When
Saturday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.
Where
Taft Coliseum
Columbus, OH
The Lead
Penn State heads back on the road to take on a Big Ten foe familiar to PSU in most sports, but less so in women's ACHA hockey.
Live Video
None

No. 11 Penn State (10-6-0/7-4-0 ECWHL) at
No. 1 Miami (16-0-1/7-0-1 CCWHA)
When
Sunday, January 18th at 2:00 p.m.
Where
Goggin Ice Center
Oxford, OH
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions face, arguably, the biggest challenge in program history in battling the defending champion, top ranked, and unbeaten RedHawks.
Live Video
None

Game Notes

Around the World in Seven Months: Ohio, this weekend's destination, will become the ninth state where the Lady Ice Lions have played since 2012-13, joining Pennsylvania (obviously), Michigan, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Six of the nine appear on this year's schedule, a stark departure from last season, when Penn State only left Pennsylvania for two trips to nearby Delaware. In all, the team will have logged 4,895 miles on a bus this year once the weekend is over, with voyages back to Rhode Island for the ECWHL tournament (778 miles round trip) and hopefully York, PA for the ACHA National Tournament (226 miles) still to come.

Sudden-Death Decisive: So far in 2014-15, Penn State games have averaged 0.47 goals (by either team) every five minutes during regulation time. At that rate, one would expect roughly half of PSU's overtime games to end in ties. However, whether as a result of increased urgency or the open ice of 4-on-4 play, 12:31 of OT this season spread over five games (including four of the last six team contests) has produced five goals and therefore a winner each time - a rate of 2.00 per five minutes, scoring more than four times as frequent as during regulation. The Lady Ice Lions are 3-2-0 in overtime this season, with Darby Kern, Madison Smiddy and Cara Mendelson netting winners against Vermont, Northeastern and Massachusetts, respectively.

Take Your Records, Take Your Freedom: Kern's outstanding season has placed her squarely in line for most of the Lady Ice Lions' single-season scoring records. Her 28 points and 15 goals are just two and five behind Devon Fisk's 2013-14 benchmarks, and her 13 goals trail Geneva Wagoner's record, also set last season, by two. Kern presently ranks seventh in ACHA Division 1 scoring and is one of just five players averaging at least two points per game.

Fisk, who still has most of PSU's career scoring records in her pocket should Kern topple her season marks, is eight goals away from becoming the program's first player with 50. She also has 11 assists this season, placing her third on the all-time list (behind Wagoner last year and Kern this year, and tied with Carly Szyszko's 2010-11 total) and in the race for that record.

Mary Kate Tonetti's stellar senior campaign in goal will place her highly in several record book categories. Tonetti's nine wins are six behind Katie Vaughan's single-season record, set last season, while her three shutouts equal Vaughan's 2013-14 mark and her 0.945 save percentage is bested only by her own total last year during her consecutive-shutout cameo in December, 2013. On the career charts, her six shutouts trail only Vaughan's eight, while the West Chester, PA native's 0.941 save percentage is on pace to finish tops.

This is Really Rank: This weekend represents the closing argument in the penultimate ACHA ranking of the regular season as teams attempt to climb into the top eight and ACHA National Tournament consideration. While the No. 11 Lady Ice Lions have gone just 1-3-0 since the last ranking was issued in late November, it's notable that the four games came against No. 2 Liberty and No. 5 Massachusetts - and that all three losses were by a single goal, two of them coming in overtime.

Most teams, thanks to winter break, have only played a handful of games during the ranking period, but No. 12 Robert Morris will look to make a move on the back of two close losses to No. 1 Miami in December and a tie-win series against No. 4 Michigan State this past weekend. One other important series for PSU's purposes came in Lynchburg, VA this past weekend when No. 6 Grand Valley State dropped 3-2 and 2-0 decisions to Liberty. The four teams immediately above Penn State in the poll - No. 7 Colorado State, No. 8 Adrian, No. 9 Minnesota and No. 10 Michigan - have all been completely idle, although Adrian (two games against GVSU) and Michigan (one against MSU) are both playing before the period closes.

The present top five (Miami, Liberty, Rhode Island, Michigan State and Massachusetts, respectively) are a combined 64-12-5 overall this season, but 55-3-5 when playing teams from outside of the top five. Of the three losses, two came against the Lady Ice Lions: a 3-2 PSU win over URI on November 9th and the 2-1 decision against UMass last Saturday. RMU's defeat of Michigan State, also last Saturday, is the third.

The (First) Opponent

Name: Ohio State University
Nickname: Buckeyes
Location: Columbus, OH

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0. The Lady Icers played Ohio State's current incarnation occasionally, winning the last meeting 3-1 on October 3, 2008 at the Great Lakes Women's College Hockey Showcase in Michigan behind two Michelle Clarke goals, to cap off a 6-5-0 head-to-head mark.

About Ohio State: The Buckeyes were a power in the pre-ACHA days of women's college club hockey, winning the first three Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association titles in 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 before elevating that program to varsity status the following season. The current team added a fourth CCWHA title for the school in 2006-07, but has largely struggled over the last few years. This season, OSU is 1-12-1, with the win coming over Division 2 team - and former PSU rival - California (PA) and the draw occurring against 14th-ranked Lindenwood-Belleville.

That said, outside of two games with Cal (the other meeting a December 7th loss), the Buckeyes have only played ranked teams, including Robert Morris, Davenport, Michigan and Grand Valley State. OSU has acquitted itself well against the tough competition, only allowing 3.33 goals in those games and scoring 0.58. Emily Cibroek (3.05 goals against average, 0.935 save percentage) is the goalie largely responsible for keeping that first number down, while no Buckeye on the offensively-challenged squad has more than the three points of Emilie Dunlap, Sam Tolson and Melinda Vercollone.

Trivia: The game against OSU will take place not at the school's on-campus ice rink, but at the Taft Coliseum, the arena at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fairgrounds. Taft, which was built in 1918, is notable as the former home of Buckeyes men's basketball from 1920-56 and the Columbus Thunderbolts Arena Football League team in 1991. In hockey, it was the home rink of the ECHL's Columbus Chill from 1991-99, a team whose popularity (at one time, it claimed a minor league record 83-game sellout streak) is often credited with helping convince the NHL to award the city an expansion franchise in 1997.

Head Coaches: Brian Shaw and Brad Park
Goals Scored Per Game: 0.79
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.21

Team Website:
http://womensclubhockey.org.ohio-state.edu/
https://www.facebook.com/OhioStateWomensClubHockey/

The (Second) Opponent

Name: Miami University
Nickname: RedHawks
Location: Oxford, OH

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0.

About Miami: It took the RedHawks only four seasons from a 2010 founding to reach the ACHA's summit, as MU took the 2014 Division 1 national title as a wire-to-wire number one and finished 30-2-3. Miami might be on pace for even greater things this year at 16-0-1, in the first rankings spot all season, and led by Hayley Williams and Rachael Booth, the top two scorers in the nation with 37 points each (Williams was last season's Zoe M. Harris Player of the Year award winner while at Robert Morris). Forward Katie Augustine (23 points) and defenseman Morgan McGrath (12 points) starred on the bronze medal-winning U.S. World University Games team last season and will be returning to the tournament next month in Spain along with both Booth and Williams. Forward Kaley Mooney (23 points), the 2014 ACHA National Tournament MVP, rounds out the RedHawks' WUG playing contingent. Among MU's 16 wins, arguably the most impressive were a 3-2, 2-1 sweep of Liberty in late November, while the lone blemish was a tie against Adrian the weekend before that.

The meeting with Miami will be a reunion of sorts, as several stars on each team came up through the Pittsburgh Tier 1 scene and were minor hockey teammates at different points. Those crossover links include Penn State's Mendelson, Kern and Kim Badorrek and MU's Mooney, McGrath and Augustine.

Trivia: RedHawks sophomore defenseman Catie Karpinski's father is Keith Karpinski, who played linebacker on Penn State's football team from 1984 through 1988, including on the 1986 national championship squad. Keith was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the NFL Draft and played there in 1989.

Head Coach: Scott Hicks
Goals Scored Per Game: 6.41
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.00

Team Website:
http://www.muwomenshockey.org/

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