|This weekend is Ashton Schaffer's Lady Ice Lions swan song. Photo: Allyssa Long|
No. 15 Penn State (2-6-1/2-4-1 ECWHL) vs.
No. 2 Adrian (12-2-0/8-2-0 CCWHA)
Friday, December 4th at 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, December 5th at 7:30 p.m.
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
PSU hosts a rematch of an October road series against national championship contender Adrian to close out the fall semester schedule
Ashton to Ashton, Dust to Dust: This weekend's games mark the end of Ashton Schaffer's legendary Penn State career, as the smart and tough Texan is set to graduate at the end of the month. It's simply not possible to capture the full scope of the fifth-year co-captain's impact on the Lady Ice Lions in one paragraph. Schaffer began her collegiate run as a member of the 2011-12 Lady Icers' ECWHL regular season championship team (she is the last active member of PSU's first ACHA women's team), then became a founding Lady Ice Lion as a sophomore in 2012-13. On squads always noted for defensive excellence - PSU had a team goals against average of 1.58 from 2012 through 2015 - Schaffer was a minute-eating cornerstone for the consecutive ACHA Division 2 runner-up finishes of 2013 and 2014, then for the Lady Ice Lions' first Division 1 national tournament qualifiers last season. The November 2014 winner of the ACHA's Great Skate Sportsmanship Award is extremely reliable (she has played in 73 of the 75 games in Lady Ice Lions history entering the weekend, missing only a series at Northeastern last year due to a scheduling conflict) and has been vital as a team leader, earning alternate captain status as a junior, then moving from the first to the third letter both last season and this season.
Power Rangers: Against Rhode Island three weeks ago, freshman Caitlin Costello scored a late-second-period power play goal that gave Penn State a 2-1 lead over the Rams. In doing so, she became fifth Lady Ice Lion to score on the advantage this year, joining team co-leaders Meghan Miller and Darby Kern (two PPGs each) as well as Schaffer and Riley O'Connor. In all, PSU is a ACHA Division 1-leading 38.9 percent (seven of 18) on the advantage, an obvious highlight of the season so far, particularly after an 12.5 percent effort (eight for 64) last season. Top-ranked Liberty has the second-best power play in ACHA Division 1, as the Flames have hit on seven of their 29 attempts, a 24.1 percent conversion rate.
Feels Like The First Time: Costello's former New Jersey Rockets teammate, freshman defenseman Liz Tuorinsky, also did something notable against URI in scoring her first career goal, on a trademark blueline rocket from the Lady Ice Lions' hardest shooter. Kelly Watson and Darian Dempsey are the only PSU non-freshmen still in search of a first college goal, while Sophie Paolizzi, Rachel Cole, Jordan Chiavacci (technically a junior, but a first-year player), Madison Dwyer and Rachel Lee are the rookies still looking to get on the board.
Rankings Rewind: Last week, the ACHA issued its second in-season ranking of 2015-16 and, despite evidence of Penn State improvement versus the first ranking period, the coaches and computers kept the Lady Ice Lions in 15th place. While it's certainly a less-than-ideal position for ACHA National Tournament qualification (the top eight in Ranking 4 at the end of February will be invited to Kalamazoo, MI in March), there is hope in the form of the team's upcoming schedule. The imminent series against No. 2 Adrian kicks things off, followed next semester by ten games against No. 5 Massachusetts, No. 13 Colorado, No. 1 Liberty, No. 14 Davenport and No. 6 Rhode Island (in addition to possible repeat meetings with UMass and URI at the ECWHL playoffs). Successfully navigating the remaining gauntlet should present a strong case for selection despite PSU's 2-6-1 start.
Give Blood, Play Hockey: Although this weekend's tilts are the final games of the fall semester, the Lady Ice Lions do have an official off-ice team event still to follow, in the form of an American Red Cross blood drive on Tuesday, December 8th at Beaver Stadium. Team members will be both donating blood and volunteering their time for administrative tasks between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., so be sure to show your support and offer a pint to potentially save a life if you're able.
Name: Adrian College
Location: Adrian, MI
Series History: Adrian leads, 2-0-0. The only meetings of the series, of course, took place in Michigan in October, with the Bulldogs skating to 4-0 and 5-1 decisions. Kaillie Hardy led eight different AC scorers with a pair of tallies, while Nicole Paradis (one goal, three assists) and Jessie Rushing (one goal, two assists) also starred that weekend. On the PSU side of things, Costello scored the sole marker of the games with a transitional bury against an out-of-position Bulldogs goalie, while Aimee Little was spectacular in defeat with 76 saves.
Since Last Time: The Bulldogs, since the end of October, have gone 6-0-0 to boost their overall record to 12-2-0. It hasn't been a soft road to that point either: every single AC opponent this season is rated in the top 15 nationally including, most recently, fellow 2015 ACHA semifinalist Grand Valley State and upstart Lindenwood-Belleville, teams that Adrian outscored 11-4 over four games. Defense and goaltending are always Bulldog hallmarks, as Alison Dungey and her 1.08 goals against average can attest, but balanced and timely production is a big part of their success as well. Hardy and Paradis are AC's co-leaders with 15 points each while Rushing's seven goals are second to Hardy's nine, but the team's 45 goals this year have come from 14 different players.
Trivia: Penn State and Adrian have formed an interesting partnership with a third ACHA D1 team, Midland. The Warriors' first-year head coach is Taylor Gross, best known as the first captain in the history of PSU's NCAA Division I team but who also played, briefly, for the Lady Icers in 2011-12. Assisting her is Emily Michelin, a 2015 Adrian graduate who starred between the pipes for both the school's NCAA Division III and ACHA Division 1 programs - she was an All-American with the former and a two-time All-Tournament pick with the latter. Gross and Michelin have made a huge difference: after Midland went 2-24-0 in its inaugural season last year (with the two wins both by forfeit), the Warriors are 5-15-1 so far in 2015-16, with the five wins all coming in the team's last seven games and including a result against defending D2 national champ North Dakota State.
Head Coach: Brett Berger
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.21
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.29
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