Over and Out: Penn State Closes Season with Consolation Game Loss

Kelly Watson scored a second-period power play goal on Sunday morning

Consolation games are one of the tougher realities in sports - they're games nobody wanted to or planned on playing.

Sometimes they can have some consequence attached to them, as happened last year when the Lady Ice Lions topped Vermont 4-1 in the ECWHL third-place game - a result that, possibly, gave PSU those last couple thousands of a rankings point needed to sneak into the ACHA National Tournament field.

This year had none of that. It was the game in its purest form: 60 minutes and zero relevance to any sort of big picture. Win or lose, it was the end of the 2015-16 line.

So, in the aftermath of Vermont winning the consolation rematch 7-2 on Sunday afternoon in Amherst, MA, it's easy to shrug and say "we'll work hard this offseason and do better next year." It was an ugly loss, sure, but in the grand scheme of a 5-20-2 season, its only tragedy was in being an awful way to send off graduating program cornerstones Nina Elia, Jackie Saideh and Darby Kern. It was decidedly different from the gut-ripping nature of the 2014 Division 2 title game or the "I can't believe this is actually over" feel of departing nationals after a tie last year. It was a different selection from the infinite spectrum of types of sadness: they deserved better.

Not surprisingly, Emily Ford was once again the primary culprit. Ford, who is (fortunately) also a senior, scored four times in a series at Pegula Ice Arena late last month and added four more in a single game this time around. The show began just 23 seconds into the game on a dangle in and wraparound follow-up. Her second was a power play strike early in the middle period that made the score 3-1.

Ford's hat trick tally, though, was the backbreaker. With the score still 3-1, UVM's Kaly Gonski was tagged for a major penalty and a game misconduct for a headshot on Rachel Cole (who was down for a bit but quickly returned to action). Penn State's always-potent power play struck once more through Kelly Watson, who went bar and in from the left point from a D-to-D pass by Anna Marcus. With the margin back to one and more than half of the time left on Gonski's penalty, things looked pretty good - until Ford singlehandedly generated a shorthanded goal just over a minute later to negate it.

The fourth was a tally as inconsequential as the game itself, to close the gamesheet out with 3:46 remaining.

A Jennifer Deso putback with 1:19 left in the first period was possibly Vermont's second most important goal of the morning, as it came 29 seconds after Kern beasted the ice one more time, undressing both Catamount defensemen before shelving on Meghan King to tie the game at 1-1. The left winger closes her career with 59 goals, 48 assists and 107 points, all team records that will likely stand for quite a while, even considering Kern's abbreviated two-year ACHA career.

That goal, at least for 29 seconds, seemed as if it was about to turn the tide of things as PSU, despite the early Ford strike, dominated play early, outshooting UVM 15-9 in the first period en route to 43-31 for the game. It was false hope however as King, named an All-ECWHL second teamer prior to the game, was up to most of it, making 41 saves. Allyssa Long stopped 24 on the other end.

Box Score

First Period
1. Vermont, Emily Ford (Nicole Beaudoin), 19:37; 2. Penn State, Darby Kern (unassisted), 1:48; 3. Vermont, Jennifer Deso (Erin Turner, Josey Crosby), 1:19.
1. Penn State, Darian Dempsey (2:00 tripping), 12:22; 2. Vermont, Emily Ford (2:00 roughing), 7:35; 3. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 interference), 5:25.
Second Period
4. Vermont, Emily Ford (Nicole Raccuia, Carly Tashman), 17:21 (power play); 5. Penn State, Kelly Watson (Anna Marcus, Jackie Saideh), 14:35 (power play); 6. Vermont, Emily Ford (unassisted), 13:02 (shorthanded); 7. Vermont, Bethany Kelly (Sarah White, Lilly Henjes), 4:45 (power play).
4. Penn State, Darian Dempsey (2:00 hooking), 18:28; 5. Vermont, Kaly Gonski (5:00 major, game misconduct), 16:53; 6. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 body checking), 6:44.
Third Period
8. Vermont, Nicole Raccuia (Haley Grigel, Lilly Henjes), 18:23; 9. Vermont, Emily Ford (Nicole Beaudoin, Katrina Menard), 3:46.
Penn State: Allyssa Long: L, 24 saves/31 shots. Vermont: Meghan King: W, 41 saves/43 shots.

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