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PSU Closes ECWHL Regular Season Schedule with Northeastern, URI

Allyssa Long has taken over as the Lady Ice Lions' primary goaltender



No. 15 Penn State (3-14-2/3-6-2 ECWHL) vs.
Northeastern (1-13-3/0-11-2 ECWHL)
When
Friday, February 5th at 7:00 p.m.
Where
Matthews Arena
Boston, MA
The Lead
As a tough season hits the home stretch, the Lady Ice Lions seek a win against the opponent for two of their three this season (and three of their five non-losses), Northeastern.
Live Video
None

No. 15 Penn State (3-14-2/3-6-2 ECWHL) vs.
No. 7 Rhode Island (13-10-3/10-2-2 ECWHL)
When
Saturday, February 6th at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 7th at 11:00 a.m.
Where
Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena
Kingston, RI
The Lead
Penn State closes the weekend with a series at Rhode Island, seeking to upset the nine-time ECWHL champions for a fourth consecutive ECWHL season with PSU participation (including Lady Icers campaigns of 2010-11 and 2011-12).
Live Video
None

Game Notes

ECWH-Oh Well: When a team is 3-14-2, it's hard to identify any single loss as crippling. The 14th though, this past Sunday to Vermont, holds a spot slightly more damaging than others. With it, the Lady Ice Lions became locked into fourth place in the league standings, behind third-place Vermont, as well as Rhode Island and Massachusetts in first and second. While the best possible scenario (PSU winning its three remaining league games this weekend while UVM loses its two, both at UMass) would result in Penn State and Vermont each having 0.500 marks in the ECWHL, the Catamounts now own the head-to-head tiebreaker. That means that PSU will face fifth-place Northeastern in a play-in game at the conference playoffs in Amherst, MA on February 19th. A win there would draw the ECWHL top seed the next day for the semifinals (URI leads that race, but UMass and UVM are both still in the running), while second and third place play on the other side of the bracket. The championship game, as well as a third-place match, will be played on Sunday, February 21st.

O'C and the Bear: One of the bright spots for the team this semester has been the play of Riley O'Connor and Claire Gauthier, united as regular linemates after generally playing on different units as freshman and during the first half of this year. The small but quick and talented duo has unbelievable chemistry while also developing the confidence to be, for example, more aggressive in transition. It's starting to become rewarding offensively as well: O'Connor played arguably her best game of the season on Sunday in posting a pair of goals with an assist (an output that pulled her equal on points with her 2014-15 total), while Gauthier has six points in her last eight games after just two during a fall that closed on an eight-game drought.

Rachel Cole, Merry Old Soul: Last Saturday evening, Pittsburgh-native freshman Rachel Cole recorded her first collegiate point, a second-period assist of Darby Kern. It was a nice numerical reward for an underappreciated player whose role and ice time has grown through the season, as she presently centers PSU's Purple Line, generally in between Tarika Embar and Nina Elia.

Others who have recorded their first point and goal this year include Meghan Miller, Darian Dempsey and Liz Tuorinsky, while Kelly Watson scored her first goal after three assists a year ago. Sophie Paolizzi, Madison Dwyer and Jordan Chiavacci are the only presently-rostered players still waiting to get on the scoresheet.

14th Century: One player closer to lasts than firsts is senior forward Kern, who registered her 50th career goal last Thursday to set a new program record. While she's unlikely to finish with every PSU scoring record (both season and career game-winning and power play goal marks remain in the hands of Carly Szyszko, Madison Smiddy, Devon Fisk and Geneva Wagoner, for example), Kern does have one major milestone left well within reach: 100 points. Her four last weekend pushed her to 92 for her career, with at least six games remaining in her run.

PSU's struggles this season have deflated individual stats in many cases, but the next player up for a major milestone may be one who, as mentioned, hasn't deflated: O'Connor. She now sits on a 15-19-34 career line, and with a strong close to the season can be well on to the final countdown to 50 points when 2016-17 opens. In just two years, the former Princeton Tiger Lily is already fifth on the team scoring charts, trailing only Kern, Fisk (84 points), Szyszko (43) and Cara Mendelson (37). O'Connor also rates sixth in goals and seventh in assists.

The (First) Opponent

Name: Northeastern University
Nickname: Huskies
Location: Boston, MA

Series History: Penn State leads, 6-0-1. This season, the Lady Ice Lions have gone 2-0-1 against the Huskies, all within a five-game stretch in October and November. The latter two of those games produced consecutive 5-0 shutouts by Hanna Scanlon, as well as two goals from Caitlin Costello and two assists from Ashton Schaffer in the first of those bagels. Kern took over in the series capper with four goals, and Cassie Dunne had the other score to go with an assist. A 6-6 tie at Matthews Arena on October 11th involved PSU overcoming deficits of 0-3, 3-5 and 5-6 behind three more tallies from Kern.

Since Last Time: There's really no way around it: the Huskies have struggled this season. Their one win in 17 games came against non-ACHA team Boston University, although their most recent action on the road against Vermont produced a pair of tight losses (1-2 and 0-2) that showed NU as more than capable of playing competitive hockey with tough teams. Like Penn State, they've been hit with in-season departures of good players - Katherine Walsh, Kim Pfeifle and Sarah Wilczynski to name three - but will rely on Hong Kong national teamer Estelle Ip and Clara Karastury (a combined 10 of the team's 16 ACHA goals this year) for offense, and talented but often-besieged goalie Anne Marie Dion to keep opponents at bay.

Trivia: Northeastern has a bit of an ACHA-to-the-show story in former coach Nick Carpenito. Carpenito - while simultaneously playing for NU's men's ACHA team - led the Huskies to the ACHA Division 2 national title in 2009-10, as well as the ECWHL title and a D1 runners-up finish in 2010-11 (NU would go on to win the D1 championship in 2011-12, obviously thanks in large part to his foundation). After graduation, Carpenito then jumped to NCAA Division III power Elmira as an assistant coach for two years before moving to NCAA DI and Union College in 2013-14. For the last two seasons, he's been back at his alma mater as an assistant with Northeastern's varsity women's team.

Head Coach: Jeffrey Postera
Goals Scored Per Game: 1.47
Goals Allowed Per Game: 4.88

Team Website:
http://nuwomensicehockey.weebly.com/

The (Second) Opponent

Name: University of Rhode Island
Nickname: Rams
Location: Kingston, RI

Series History: Rhode Island leads, 4-1-0. Even with the founding of a new ACHA team in 2012 and the successes that followed, Penn State hasn't been able to shake its historic struggles with URI. At Pegula Ice Arena in November, the Rams took 5-2 and 3-0 wins, with Alisha DiFilippo notching a hat trick in the first game and Sydney Collins following suit the next day. Abbey Torres also starred in the second matchup, thanks to a 35-save shutout.

Since Last Time: Unbelievably, there was a point where URI seemed a possibility to miss the ACHA National Tournament for a second year in a row as, following their sweep of PSU, the Rams suffered a loss to Vermont, followed by four- and six-goal defeats to No. 3 Miami to drop to a precarious seventh in the rankings. Rhody battled back though, taking an overtime win and a tie from a series at archrival UMass last weekend (both in come-from-behind fashion) and now occupies the driver's seat in the ECWHL regular season title chase. Their success is no great secret. Even with Collins, the number two scorer in D1, on the squad, URI boasts remarkable balance. A stacked top six also generally includes DiFilippo (31 points), Kristen Levesque (23) and Monica Darby (19). Casey McCormick, Marykate Stimpson and Janessa Courtney also tend to play well against Penn State. Torres and Katelyn Bucior are probably the conference's best goaltending tandem, while Brenna Callahan, Michelle Monet and Jackie Keable headline what might be its deepest defense corps.

Trivia: Senior forward Levesque - a member of the 2015 U.S. National University Team - was one of seven ACHA players or alumni invited to at least one free agent camp hosted by the professional National Women's Hockey League last summer, prior to its inaugural 2015-16 season. Specifically, Levesque skated at camps hosted by the New York Riveters, Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale alongside players like former Lady Icer Heather Rossi and former Robert Morris and Miami star Hayley Williams, who ultimately signed with the Beauts.

Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.15
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.50

Team Website:
http://uriwhockey.pointstreaksites.com/

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