Kern Joins Century Club, But Penn State Can't Finish Comeback vs. URI

Darby Kern scored her 100th career point on Sunday

A brutal first period, a great second period, and a flat third period.

When you're building, the only consistency is inconsistency.

The Lady Ice Lions showed glimpses of potential in rallying from a 4-1 first-intermission hole to 4-3 after two, but couldn't finish the comeback on Sunday, falling 6-4 to new ECWHL regular season champion Rhode Island.

The situation, of course, bears some similarity to Saturday's 7-4 loss, where Penn State was down 3-0 early and 5-1 a bit later, before creeping within 5-3 early in the third period. At the very least, a message of PSU resilience, it is hoped, has been delivered to a URI team that stands a good chance of facing the University Parkers in the ECWHL semifinals in two weeks.

One player who certainly doesn't need much building: Darby Kern. The senior put up a three-point contest to earn the 98th, 99th and 100th of her legendary career.

Her 98th came on an assist just 55 seconds into the game. On the play, Rhode Island won a faceoff in the Penn State zone, but bobbled the puck at the line. That opening created a 3-on-1 rush, with Riley O'Connor finishing behind URI goalie Katelyn Bucior, from Claire Gauthier. It was the lone bright spot in a disastrous opening 20 minutes.

Rams forwards Monica Darby and Lexie Stefekos - a pair of sophomores on URI's senior day - took over from there. From behind the goalline, Stefekos fed Darby for two fantastic looks just outside of the blue paint, both off of Penn State turnovers, and both before the five-minute mark.

Even after that, thorough Rhody domination was the order. By the end of the opening frame, Kiki Levesque and Brenna Callahan had added tallies, just two of the home team's 24 shots on Allyssa Long, compared to only three the other way.

After a locker room gut check with several players airing their thoughts, the story took a drastic turn.

Penn State started to build up chances - Rachel Cole and Kern had notable ones - and O'Connor finally found the payoff, scoring her second in front off of an assist from her team-scoring-record-holding right wing with 11:41 remaining. Kern's 100th point, appropriately, came on her 57th goal - a power play blast from the right circle late in the second. PSU finished with that tally in four tries on the advantage.

In a stark reversal, the team flew into the second intermission break. Then, frustratingly, nothing.

Stefekos and Darby quickly got back to work to stem the rally 2:55 into the third period, this time with center Darby hitting Stefekos on a similar setup to the first two goals the pair generated. Alisha DiFilippo, who scored three times on Saturday, added a 6-3 marker six minutes later, halfway through a Cassie Dunne interference call.

PSU had one more replay in the barrel 1:21 later, as Gauthier finished in front for her fourth point of the series, from O'Connor's fifth, a deft helper that got Bucior down and out. It was enough to get her side at least in position to give pulling the goalie a stab, but not enough to go any further. If nothing else, it meant that the blue and white has scored four or more goals in seven of 11 games this semester (and three in two others), a far cry from the team of two months ago that went nearly four full games without denting twine.

Long finished with career-best 48 saves on 54 URI shots, including a late-second-period denial of a DiFilippo shorthanded breakaway that kept the score at 4-3 and would've proven a pivotal moment, had Penn State finished the game well.

The Lady Ice Lions, now 4-16-2, return home for their final Pegula Ice Arena games this season next weekend, against No. 1 Liberty. Puck drops are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13th and 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, February 14th. After that, the team will head to the ECWHL playoffs in Amherst, MA, with a first-round game against Northeastern set for Friday, February 19th and, with a win, another collision with Rhode Island the next day.

Box Score

First Period
1. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Claire Gauthier, Darby Kern), 19:05; 2. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (Lexie Stefekos, Michelle Monet), 18:01; 3. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (Lexie Stefekos), 16:11; 4. Rhode Island, Kiki Levesque (Sydney Collins), 8:53; 5. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (Kiki Levesque, Alisha DiFilippo), 1:03.
1. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 hooking), 0:53.
Second Period
6. Penn State, Riley O'Connor (Darby Kern), 11:41; 7. Penn State, Darby Kern (Anna Marcus), 3:08 (power play).
2. Rhode Island, Sydney Collins (2:00 body checking), 3:17; 3. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 cross checking), 2:20.
Third Period
8. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (Monica Darby, Casey McCormick), 17:05; 9. Rhode Island, Alisha DiFilippo (Brenna Callahan, Monica Darby), 10:54 (power play); 10. Penn State, Claire Gauthier (Riley O'Connor), 9:23.
4. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 interference), 11:49; 5. Rhode Island, Brenna Callahan (2:00 slashing), 5:08.
Penn State: Allyssa Long: L, 48 saves/54 shots. Rhode Island: Katelyn Bucior: W, 12 saves/16 shots.

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