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Back to the Start: PSU Rolls Seven in the ACHA Preseason Ranking




The Lady Ice Lions will begin 2015-16 exactly where they left the 2015 ACHA National Tournament: 7th, according to the preseason ranking issued by the ACHA Division 1 competition committee on Wednesday.

The competition committee, which is made up of eight members - including Penn State head coach Patrick Fung - exclusively determines the preseason ranking. For the four regular-season rankings, the committee's decision will count as one-third of the final result, along with a computer ranking and a vote of all Division 1 coaches.

Similarity in PSU's ranking between the end of last season and now is hardly a shock, as the team returns a robust group of 18 players including, of course, D1 leading scorer and first-team All-American Darby Kern. Program all-time leading scorer Devon Fisk, Claire Gauthier and Riley O'Connor are also back from last year's top six point getters. Cassie Dunne and Kelly Watson are expected to anchor the Lady Ice Lions' always-strong defense, while freshmen Liz Tuorinsky and Madison Dwyer will see significant time on the blueline as well.

While few would consider a seventh-place spot the ultimate goal, it does represent a high water mark of sorts, as it equals Penn State's highest ranking in a national D1 poll since the ACHA first introduced one in 2003-04. The Lady Icers hit the mark eight times: November 19, 2004; November 17 and December 15, 2006; November 6, 2009; February 17, November 5 and December 17, 2010; and January 28, 2011. The Lady Ice Lions, of course, have added two to the list with last year's nationals finish and the present year's preseason poll.

Miami University, 2013-14's national champion and 2014-15's runners-up took seven of the eight first-place votes to top the poll. The RedHawks lost two-time Zoe M. Harris Award winner Hayley Williams to the professional ranks of the National Women's Hockey League, but still have a stellar group of returners including Kaley Mooney and Rachael Booth, as well as a typically-loaded recruiting class.

Penn State's Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League fared well in the ranking, with the top three teams taking three consecutive tournament-worthy spots: Rhode Island leads the pack in fifth, defending league champ Massachusetts clocks into sixth place, followed by the Lady Ice Lions in seventh. The ECWHL's other two teams are also represented, as Vermont rated 15th and Northeastern received votes.

Several of PSU's non-conference opponents are also in the top 15. Defending national champion Liberty, which hits the schedule in both January and February, is second. Adrian, a semifinalist last season and the foe for series in both October and December, placed third. Davenport, which visits Pegula Ice Arena for a rare Thursday game on January 28, 2015, grabbed the 13th spot. Colorado joins Northeastern in the "others receiving votes" category, and PSU will play the Buffaloes in January in Lynchburg, VA.

The cutoff date for the next poll is October 25th, with others following on November 22nd, January 17th and February 21st. The top eight teams in that final ranking will qualify for the ACHA National Tournament, held March 9th through 13th in Kalamazoo, MI.

Penn State begins its quest to qualify for the tournament on October 9th and 10th with a pair of games at Massachusetts, followed by a single game at Northeastern on October 11th. This season's Pegula Ice Arena opening series is set for November 7th and 8th against the Huskies.

Here is the complete ranking (first place votes in parentheses):

Pts. ..
Pts.
1
Miami (7)
9
9
Michigan State
69
2
Liberty (1)
23
10
Minnesota
81
3
Adrian
34
11
Colorado State
86
4
Grand Valley State
36
12
Robert Morris
97
5
Rhode Island
45
13
Davenport
99
6
Massachusetts
49
14
LU-Belleville
110
7
Penn State
55
15
Vermont
119
8
Michigan
58
Others receiving votes: Northeastern, Colorado

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