Lady Ice Lions Issue Awards, Celebrate 2014-15 at Postseason Banquet

The Penn State Lady Ice Lions formally closed a historic and memorable 2014-15 campaign with its annual postseason team banquet on Saturday afternoon at The Ramada State College Hotel and Conference Center.

The festivities included a buffet lunch, addresses from head coach Patrick Fung and veteran players Mary Kate Tonetti, Ashton Schaffer and Elizabeth Denis, as well as an off-ice highlight video overflowing with locker room dancing and produced by junior forward Nina Elia. The team's paper plate award tradition continued too, with each player being honored for a wide range of reasons, from awkward dance moves, to looking like characters from the movie Avatar and being the first back on the bus after road trip rest stops.

More formal team awards were also part of the festivities, including junior forward Darby Kern, who was named the Lady Ice Lions' Maurice H. Stroemel Most Valuable Player.

There's little left to say about Kern's 2014-15 season, in which the former NCAA team player became Penn State's second-ever ACHA Division 1 First-Team All-American (with the other honoree, Andrea Lavelle, coming thirteen years ago). Her 32 goals and 55 points during the regular season were second and first, respectively, among all division players. Despite PSU's failure to advance out of the pool stage at the ACHA National Tournament, she ranked third in tournament scoring with six points in three games - notably, Kern and linemate Cara Mendelson were the only players not from eventual national champion Liberty to crack the top seven on that list. The product of the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite program and Peters Township High School was also the ACHA's January 2015 Harrow Player of the Month after beasting her way to 10 goals and 16 points in just six games during the 31 days.

The Kyle Rossi Rookie of the Year Award went to forward Riley O'Connor.

Like Kern, O'Connor also won an ACHA monthly award, the Sher-Wood Freshman Spotlight for November 2014. That honor underscored a meteoric rise for the one-time lightly-regarded recruit (who had actually been playing defense for her Princeton Tiger Lilies 19U team) to PSU's top-line center. O'Connor, despite her size, added healthy doses of grit and net-front presence whenever she was on the ice, to go along with her noted speed, with an end result of nine goals. One third of those came against long-time ECWHL power Rhode Island, including the winner on November 9, 2014 as a Penn State team defeated the then-fourth-ranked Rams for just the third time since 2002. Another big goal came from Kern's centering feed to the front of the crease late in the second period on January 18, 2015 to give the Lady Ice Lions a 3-2 lead in an eventual upset of eventual national champion Miami.

Like O'Connor, Billie S. Willits Player's Player Award winner Jackie Saideh potted against Miami (and six other times), but was honored just as heavily based on her leadership, work ethic and unscored on-ice contributions. The junior alternate captain and club vice president - who will assume the presidency next year as a senior - is a highly-adaptable player who plays where needed and effectively. Sometimes that's been as a goal-scoring winger, and sometimes, as in her freshman year, it's been as a defenseman. Primarily, though, it's been as the prototypical checking line player, one who plays outstanding defensively and on the penalty kill, while seemingly always getting a stick in a passing lane or win a key puck battle at a vital moment.

Although a graduating class of six key seniors is no small loss, the Lady Ice Lions will return all three award winners in 2015-16, in addition to up to 16 others with remaining eligibility, while adding a large and talented recruiting class. That collection of players will attempt to Penn State's highly-successful return to ACHA Division 1 (including a 17-8-2 record, a final ranking of seventh, and the school's first D1 tournament appearance since 2010) with PSU's first-ever national championship in women's hockey.

Previous Lady Ice Lions Team Award Winners
Maurice H. Stroemel
Most Valuable Player
Kyle Rossi
Rookie of the Year
Billie S. Willits
Player's Player
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Mandy Mortach
Carly Szyszko
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Geneva Wagoner
Carly Szyszko
Darby Kern
Riley O'Connor
Jackie Saideh

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