Third Place, Top Seven? PSU Bests Vermont, Prepares to Wait

Katie Murphy enjoyed a three-point outing in the consolation win

Third-place games are tough.

They generally take place early in the morning in front of intimate crowds, while the teams subsequently playing for a trophy prepare. And they involve two teams on an emotional low and freshly off of the championship track, often with little motivation beyond pride. In the Lady Ice Lions' case, a golden opportunity to all but seal a bid to the ACHA National Tournament had just passed with a 4-1 ECWHL semifinal loss to Rhode Island the night before. When a good team plays its worst match of the year, just as often as not, it's in the third-place game.

Just about the only thing that can overcome all of that is character, resolve, and effort - and Penn State had plenty of those things in a 4-1 consolation victory over Vermont on Sunday morning in Kingston, RI that may have (but hopefully didn't) closed the 2014-15 season.

It was a dominant effort not fully reflected by the score, as the stellar PSU defense limited UVM to just a dozen shots in the 60 minutes with one, a Nicole Beaudoin fluttering wrister from the right circle late in the second period, beating Mary Kate Tonetti. On the other end, the Lady Ice Lions fired 39 on Catamounts goalies Audrey Currier and Rosie Gluck.

The line of Darby Kern, Katie Murphy and Cara Mendelson - a junior and two seniors playing possibly their final high-level hockey game - once again drove the PSU output, with Mendelson sniping clean from the slot 3:18 from puck drop for a 1-0 lead, after Kern threw it to the middle from the left corner.

Roughly ten minutes later, Kern both started and finished the play herself. She made a neutral zone takeaway that led to a pile of offense, including tries from Murphy and senior captain Ashton Schaffer along with a near miss on another centering feed for Mendelson, before the pride of Peters Township High School buried Murphy's rebound.

Kern struck again early in the second period to boost the score to 3-0 with a phenomenal individual effort in taking a loose puck in the neutral zone and dancing around both UVM defensemen for the deposit. Then, 2:14 after Beaudoin's goal, Murphy answered with a similar look to Mendelson's opening goal. On the play, Currier saved Kern's initial shot before the left wing swung behind the net to her home corner, finding a wide-open Michigander with a laser backhand.

A supremely dominant third period (14-2 on shots, three Vermont penalties to none for PSU) closed things out, although without additional scoring. Devon Fisk perhaps came closest on a loose puck in front during the Catamounts' second penalty of the frame. UVM forward Emily Ford took objection and wrestled her to the ice, giving Penn State more time on the advantage. In all, the now 17-7-0 overall team was 0-for-3 on the power play, while staying out of the box during the contest.

The win was the eighth-ranked Lady Ice Lions' final argument for inclusion in the ACHA national championships, which begin March 4th in York, PA, a verdict that will be rendered in the middle of the coming week. Should PSU - which will likely have to move up to seventh - receive good news on that front, this third-place game might not have been in vain after all.

Box Score

First Period
1. Penn State, Cara Mendelson (Darby Kern, Katie Murphy), 16:42; 2. Penn State, Darby Kern (Katie Murphy, Ashton Schaffer), 6:05.
1. Vermont, Katherine Kreis (2:00 body checking), 4:16.
Second Period
3. Penn State, Darby Kern (unassisted), 15:23; 4. Vermont, Nicole Beaudoin (unassisted), 4:31; 5. Penn State, Katie Murphy (Darby Kern, Kelly Watson), 2:17.
Third Period
2. Vermont, Grace Doxsey (2:00 hooking), 17:17; 3. Vermont, Monique Squiers (2:00 tripping), 9:13; 4. Vermont, Emily Ford (2:00 roughing), 7:31.
Penn State: Mary Kate Tonetti: W, 11 saves/12 shots. Vermont: Audrey Currier: L, 21 saves/25 shots; Rosie Gluck (20:00 3rd period): 14 saves/14 shots.

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