|Meghan Miller seeks to continue her strong freshman season against the Minutewomen|
No. 15 Penn State (2-8-1/2-4-1 ECWHL) vs.
No. 5 Massachusetts (11-1-2/6-1-1 ECWHL)
Saturday, January 9th at 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 10th at 12:45 p.m.
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
After four weeks off, the Lady Ice Lions return to action after winter break with a tough home series against defending ECWHL champion Massachusetts
Zero Dark Three: When dissecting Penn State's struggles this year - the team's eight losses already match last year's total, as well as the combined total of the two seasons at the ACHA Division 2 level from 2012-14 - offensive production is one obvious culprit. After a successful opening weekend involving 16 goals in three games (10 in two against this weekend's opponent, UMass), the Lady Ice Lions have scored just 13 times over the last eight games. A rough situation officially hit crisis mode over the last three games, which saw three consecutive shutouts by powerhouses Rhode Island and Adrian. Although PSU has been shut out in consecutive games seven times in the combined history of the Lady Icers and Lady Ice Lions (most recently by the Minutewomen on October 10 and 11, 2014), three consecutive bagels is a record. In all, the drought spans 203:45, dating to Caitlin Costello's power play goal late in the second period against URI on November 13th.
Ins and Outs: Upon the squad's return to campus, the Lady Ice Lions' roster will look a little different than it did for its last game action in early December. Ashton Schaffer and Devon Fisk, of course, graduated at the end of the month, and they were joined in departure by freshman Caitlin Costello, who is taking the spring off from school. Rachel Lee, similarly, is taking the semester off from hockey, although not from the academic side of things. On the other side of the ledger, Anna Marcus returns to the team after studying abroad during the fall semester. The smart and versatile junior can play both forward and defense (although she's been primarily a forward at PSU, she is expected to play as a blueliner to begin the back half of this season) and has scored seven times among her 18 points over 2013-14 and 2014-15. Goalie Allyssa Long, out all season with injury, was finally cleared to play over break and is expected to be in the lineup this weekend. The senior from Emmaus, PA will provide much-needed stability to the team's highly-volatile crease situation.
It's a Nice Day for a Blue and White Wedding: Other than the mostly-expected player transactions winter break was, for the most part a quiet one on the news front. However, it was punctuated by a pair of Lady Ice Lions engagement announcements. First up, on December 22nd, alumna Kim Badorrek (a 2015 graduate) received a proposal from boyfriend Will Boger. Not to be upstaged, the very next day saw head coach Patrick Fung put a ring on girlfriend Alyssa Knarr. Congratulations to Will and Kim, as well as to Coach and Alyssa!
A Look Ahead: Despite everything behind Penn State's 2-8-1 record, a tough upcoming schedule still offers plenty of opportunity to crawl back into contention, beginning this weekend against the fifth-ranked Minutewomen. Next weekend sees a trip to Lynchburg, VA and a game with defending national champion and current No. 1 Liberty, along with two against No. 13 Colorado. Ranking 3 will be tabulated following those games, and the subsequent ranking period will see contests with No. 14 Davenport, Vermont, Northeastern, No. 6 Rhode Island and a rematch with Liberty before the ECWHL playoffs. Ranking 4 - the one that determines bids to nationals - will be released following the games of February 21st.
Name: University of Massachusetts
Location: Amherst, MA
Series History: Massachusetts leads, 5-1-1. Most recently, the Minutewomen swept the Lady Ice Lions by 10-5 and 9-5 scores in a season-opening series in Amherst on October 9th and 10th. Brittani Lanzilli starred for UMass with six goals and four assists over the two games, while Darby Kern gave her best effort at balancing things out with a 2-5-7 weekend line. Massachusetts went 3-1-1 against PSU over the 2014-15 season, capped off by a 3-3 tie at the ACHA National Tournament behind a pair of Cara Mendelson goals.
Since Last Time: UMass has given every indication that it will be one of the final eight teams standing when nationals bids are handed out late next month, possibly with another league title in hand. Their 11-1-2 overall mark includes the usual split against fellow ECWHL powerhouse Rhode Island, as well as a 2-0-1 showcase weekend against always-strong Michigan, Michigan State and Colorado State teams. The success of the Minutewomen isn't much of a secret: Lanzilli is ACHA D1's leading scorer with 25 goals and 35 points, while linemates Michaela Tosone (22 assists, 29 points) and Ally Perdios (17 assists, 24 points) rank third and fourth. Freshman Katy Turner is second in team goal scoring with eight, although UMass' production drops off sharply from there. Vicki Bortolussi and Tatum Schulz lead a defense corps still rebuilding from the departures of long-time stalwarts Caleigh LaBossiere and Paige Harrington, while Sam Baturin and Bethany Welch split goaltending duties.
Trivia: As one might expect with a team from a hockey hotbed like Massachusetts, only three of 24 Minutewomen hail from outside of the Bay State. One is foward Kelly Dolan, from Knowlton, NJ. Prior to UMass, Dolan played for the prestigious New Jersey Rockets program along with, among others, Lady Ice Lion Liz Tuorinsky. The duo helped the Rockets qualify for the USA Hockey national championships in 2015.
Head Coach: Bill Wright
Goals Scored Per Game: 5.57
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.36
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