Finally! PSU Set to Open 2015-16 Against Massachusetts, Northeastern

No. 7 Penn State (0-0-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) vs.
No. 6 Massachusetts (3-0-1/1-0-1 ECWHL)
Friday, October 9th at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 10th at 11:00 a.m.
Mullins Center
Amherst, MA
The Lead
Penn State opens a new season with big aspirations and a two important games with the rival Minutewomen
Live Video

No. 7 Penn State (0-0-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) vs.
Northeastern (0-2-0/0-2-0 ECWHL)
Sunday, October 11th at 12:30 p.m.
Matthews Arena
Boston, MA
The Lead
After playing a series at UMass, the Lady Ice Lions conclude opening weekend with a third ECWHL game, at Northeastern
Live Video

Game Notes

Running the Cycle: One of the first priorities for the team as it enters 2015-16 will be the establishment of roles for a whopping eight new players that, it is hoped, will replace a sizable gap in production: 30 goals and 32 assists by three graduated forwards, vital top-four roles from two graduated defensemen and roughly 87 percent of the goaltending minutes provided by graduated Mary Kate Tonetti. Up front, the new Lady Ice Lions include Caitlin Costello, Meghan Miller, Jordan Chiavacci, Rachel Cole and Sophie Paolizzi, a group that includes two players from USA Hockey national championship tournament teams and two stars on their high school teams. Liz Tuorinsky, Madison Dwyer and Rachel Lee will greatly bolster the defense, with two of that group also bringing USAH nationals experience. Goaltenders Sumire ClevengerAimee Little and Allyssa Long (who is out due to injury to start the year) are not new players - each debuted for the team during 2014-15 - but the candidates to replace Tonetti's heavy crease duties have just 213:39 of combined game time so far.

By the Numbers: Obviously, the aforementioned new players will experience career firsts for just about every hockey event imaginable as they come up. But for some of the more experienced players, some larger numbers are in play. That group is headlined by senior Devon Fisk, who begins the year with 47 career goals, just three shy of half a century, and her 77 points could easily become 100 by the end of the year, given her season averages. Senior Darby Kern seems destined to hit both milestones as well with 34 goals and 61 points so far in a single season of work.

Super senior Ashton Schaffer, who will play a final semester for the team over the opening half of the year, has 78 career games banked, including 64 of the 66 in Lady Ice Lions history. The other remaining founding members have 65 (Fisk), 61 (Jackie Saideh) and 52 (Nina Elia) games played, with Elia's count including every game outside of a semester abroad last season. Kelly Watson and Darian Dempsey are the only returning players still seeking a first career goal, while Dempsey, Emma Embar and Hannah Dier need a first assist.

Rank and File: The ACHA competition committee released a preseason ranking on September 16th, placing the Lady Ice Lions seventh. The position makes sense, as it's precisely where the team finished at the ACHA National Tournament back in March. It also equals the highest mark by a Penn State team in any ACHA national ranking, accomplished a total of 11 times by the Lady Icers and Lady Ice Lions (the national women's poll dates to the 2003-04 season). The top eight teams in the fourth ranking of the season, issued after the games of February 21, 2016, will be invited to the 2016 national tournament in Kalamazoo, MI - although automatic bids given to the playoff champions of the Central Collegiate Women's Hockey Association and the Western Women's Collegiate Hockey League could cut that number by one or two if the team(s) in question are not already in the top eight.

A Look Ahead: Penn State's schedule, like last year, is front-loaded with road games, starting this weekend and continuing on October 24th and 25th at 2015 ACHA semifinalist Adrian. After that, however, the team returns to Pegula Ice Arena for eight consecutive tilts, beginning with Northeastern on November 7th and concluding with Massacusetts on January 10, 2016.

The (First) Opponent

Name: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Nickname: Minutewomen
Location: Amherst, MA

Series History: Massachusetts leads, 3-1-1. Most recently, PSU and UMass skated to a 3-3 tie at the ACHA National Tournament back on March 5th, with the Minutewomen rallying from a 3-1 Lady Ice Lions lead (supplied by Fisk and Cara Mendelson) at the second intermission. The teams split overtime decisions at Pegula Ice Arena in January, with Mendelson's winner in game one answered by Amy Morin the next day. The UMass series advantage comes from a sweep in Amherst in October, 2014 by 3-0 and 1-0 counts.

About Massachusetts: Unlike the Lady Ice Lions, UMass is well established in their season after running to the ECWHL regular season and playoff titles, as well as an ACHA National Tournament bid, in 2014-15. The Minutewomen started off with routs of non-ACHA team Boston University (6-0) and ACHA Division 2's Connecticut (7-1) before opening ECWHL play with Vermont at home last weekend. While the first game of the series was more of the same - UMass pulled away from a 3-3 second-period tie to win 7-3 - the rematch resulted in an "upset tie" against the 15th-ranked Catamounts, 3-3. Brittani Lanzilli has been a force of nature, scoring seven goals and nine points in three ACHA games, while linemates Ally Perdios and Michaela Tosone each have seven points to tie for second on the squad. Freshman Meghan Lawler is also off to a promising start, while Bethany Welch and Sam Baturin have taken on the unenviable task of replacing graduated first-team All-ECWHLer Kasey Zegel between the pipes.

Trivia: Penn State and Massachusetts have a common player thread in the form of Paige Harrington, a 2015 UMass grad who played for the Lady Icers in 2011-12 before transferring to play the remainder of her college career in Amherst. On August 11th, Harrington became one of 72 players to sign with the National Women's Hockey League for the pro circuit's historic inaugural season. She and her teammates with the Buffalo Beauts (a group also including fellow ACHA alumna Hayley Williams) are set to open their campaign on Sunday against the Boston Pride.

Head Coaches: Bill Wright
Goals Scored Per Game: 5.75
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.75

Team Website:

The (Second) Opponent

Name: Northeastern University
Nickname: Huskies
Location: Boston, MA

Series History: Penn State leads, 4-0-0. In November 2014, the Lady Ice Lions took a pair of one-goal decisions in Boston, by 2-1 and 3-2 counts. The first required overtime, where a Madison Smiddy drive 40 seconds in settled things, while the second saw a pair of Claire Gauthier assists and another winner from a defenseman - this time Tara Soukup in regulation. On January 31st and February 1st in Pegula Ice Arena, Kern was much of the story, as she beasted her way to seven goals and two assists in the series, helping PSU win 11-1 and 6-1 blowouts.

About Northeastern: The Huskies got off to a discouraging start last weekend, dropping a pair of meetings with always-strong Rhode Island (currently ranked 5th) by 8-1 and 6-0 scores. However, Anne-Marie Dion has more than proven herself as one of the ACHA's better goalies, as she stopped 85 of 90 in last November's series at Matthews Arena and forced the Lady Ice Lions to eke out two tight wins. Although the Huskies are looking to replace lots of production from program legends Michelle Macchione and Kelsey Hickey, Estelle Ip has Northeastern's tally so far this year, and recorded points on both goals her team scored against Penn State in last season's series at Pegula Ice Arena. Kim Pfeifle, who played goal in that series with Dion unavailable, is the team's leading returning scorer as she gathered six goals and nine points as an out player in 2014-15.

Before facing Penn State on Sunday, Northeastern has two other games scheduled: Thursday against defending national champion Liberty and Saturday against Connecticut.

Trivia: Although the ECWHL boasts two of the ACHA's perennial best in Rhode Island and Massachusetts (with Penn State occasionally part of the group as well), it's Northeastern that claims the league's only national championship. In 2011-12, the Huskies defeated Minnesota in Wooster, OH to take the crown behind tournament MVP goalie Chelsea Dietz, who saved 128 of the 131 shots she faced at nationals. NU also won a Division 2 national title in 2009-10 before moving to D1 the following season and subsequently losing the 2010-11 title game to Michigan State.

Head Coach: Jeff Postera
Goals Scored Per Game: 0.50
Goals Allowed Per Game: 7.00

Team Website:

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