|Photo: Allyssa Long|
No. 15 Penn State (2-4-1/2-2-1 ECWHL) vs.
No. 5 Rhode Island (7-4-2/6-1-1 ECWHL)
Friday, November 13th at 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, November 14th at 9:00 p.m.
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
Rejuvenated Penn State seeks to claw back into national consideration against the nine-time ECWHL champion Rams
Goaldigging: The Lady Ice Lions' goaltending situation this year, to put it mildly, has been a madhouse. Aimee Little, the projected starter headed into the season, has missed five of the team's seven games due to commitments with Penn State's women's rugby team (which won the Big Ten championship last weekend, thanks in part to Little's try in the semifinals). Sumire Clevenger started PSU's ill-fated opening road trip to Massachusetts and Northeastern. Little was then available for the trip to third-ranked Adrian, playing spectacularly in defeat. Allyssa Long has been injured, with her projected return sometime around winter break. The latest entry in the category is Hanna Scanlon, a practice player who stepped in against Northeastern last weekend and laid down two shutouts with a combined 39 saves - the Lady Ice Lions' first consecutive bagels since December 7-8, 2013 by Mary Kate Tonetti against Delaware under similar emergency circumstances (recall that Tonetti, in the middle of a two-year stretch playing forward, had to return to the crease while Katie Vaughan was at World University Games). With rugby now finished for the fall semester, things should stabilize a bit for the time being, although the position certainly remains under close watch.
Red Hot Hockey: Another team concern has been the ability to build depth through the forward lines. Still, while it's maybe not the ideal situation, it's hard to take issue with the amount of production PSU has received from its Red Line (named for the color of its practice jerseys), consisting of Darby Kern, Riley O'Connor and Caitlin Costello. October ACHA/Sher-Wood Freshman Spotlight winner Costello led the way last Saturday with a pair of goals, while 2014-15 All-American Kern exploded for four on Sunday. Small but fearless O'Connor has been remarkably consistent between the two, with her 10 points (two over the weekend) already more than halfway to passing her 17 during her team rookie of the year campaign in 2014-15.
Texas Forever: Ashton Schaffer has never been known for offensive production, serving instead as a rugged, positionally-sound blueliner who has been on the most-heavily-used pairing for one of the nation's top defensive teams over the last two seasons. Still, her start to this year has been noteworthy: one goal (a power play marker at UMass) and two assists (both from solid shots on goal resulting in a deflection and a rebound last Saturday) in seven games. For perspective, had a 1-5-6 line in 25 games last season, and 2-8-10 in 39 games at the Division 2 level from 2012-14. Unfortunately, the world won't find out how the start translates to a full season, as Schaffer only has four games left before her December graduation.
Special at Specialization: PSU's special teams units have continued to be one of the squad's highlights. Thanks to a Kern power play goal on Sunday, the Lady Ice Lions went 1-for-3 over the weekend to set the season total at a national-leading 6-for-13 (46.2%) after an 8-for-64 (12.5%) effort last season. On the other side of things, Penn State killed all four of its penalties against the Huskies to bring that season mark to 12-for-15 (80.0%). Kern and Meghan Miller have two PPGs each, which Schaffer and O'Connor have chipped in one.
Name: University of Rhode Island
Location: Kingston, RI
Series History: Rhode Island leads, 2-1-0. The first truly noteworthy win of the Lady Ice Lions' time in Division 1 came on November 9, 2014 when Cara Mendelson, Anna Marcus and O'Connor staked PSU out to an early 3-0 lead, with PSU hanging on for an eventual 3-2 result against then-fourth-ranked URI. The Rams took the first game of that series 3-1 behind a goal and an assist by Cassie Catlow and 25 Kayla DiLorenzo saves. Most recently, Rhode Island bested the Lady Ice Lions 4-1 in last season's ECWHL semifinals thanks largely to two third-period Kristy Kennedy goals, a contest that was seen by many (incorrectly, as it turned out) as deciding the final bid to the ACHA National Tournament.
About Rhode Island: URI was expected by many to be in a transitional season after losing players like former Zoe Harris Award winner Catlow, Kennedy (50 points last year, third only to Kern and Liberty's Carrie Jickling during the ACHA Division 1 regular season) and DiLorenzo, a former first-team All-American. However, the Rams currently stand fifth in the rankings thanks to results like a 4-3 win over No. 4 Massachusetts on October 24th and a 3-2 loss to top-ranked defending national champ Liberty on October 10th. Last weekend, Rhode Island competed at the ACHA Showcase in Amherst, MA and came away with a 1-1-1 record after a scoreless draw with No. 7 Michigan and a 5-2 victory against No. 11 Colorado State. Versatile Sydney Collins, who has moved to wing this season after being a potent blueliner (and even a brief stretch in goal) last year, leads all of D1 in scoring with 29 points, 16 on goals, in just 13 games, while Alisha DiFilippo (20) and Kristen Levesque (18) also reside in the top five. Brenna Callahan and Jackie Keable anchor a rebuilt defense group, while Katelyn Bucior and Abigail Torres have split goaltending duties so far.
Trivia: The Rams - until last season - had qualified for 11 consecutive ACHA National Tournaments, dating to 2003-04 and presently tied for the second-longest string in history. Since the first ACHA National Tournament in 2001, Michigan State has qualified most frequently, 13 of the 15 times. That's followed by Massachusetts with 12, then URI, Michigan and Robert Morris all tied at 11, and Minnesota and Lindenwood both with eight. Penn State has seven total trips at the D1 level (2001-04, 2007, 2010, 2015). Rhode Island, Michigan State and Robert Morris had all qualified for every tourney from 2004 until last year when none of them did.
Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 4.23
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.92
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