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Lady Ice Lions Honor Seniors, Celebrate Season at Annual Banquet




The Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club's annual postseason banquet, held on Saturday afternoon at The Atherton Hotel in State College, probably doesn't differ substantially from similar events held by almost every team in organized sports.

There are several standard bullet points on the itinerary: remarks from the head coach and captains, presentations of team awards, parting gifts for the graduating seniors and a standard hotel buffet spread involving salad, something with meatballs and cheesecake. And, to be fair, the Lady Ice Lions' season celebration always hits each of those.

What separates PSU's event from others, though, is that the team has developed separate traditions unique among Banquet Saturdays.

One are the team's paper plate awards - a practice dating back to the Lady Icers era - in which each player is given a paper plate by their teammates with honors like "most likely to kidnap a child and claim it as her own" and "most likely to get injured playing intramural soccer," generally including a humorous drawing to match the title.

Another is an annual video prepared by Nina Elia and generally referred to as the "off-ice highlights." Elia's camera is ubiquitous throughout the season on road trips, team social events and impromptu pregame locker room dance parties and the payoff is always a thoroughly entertaining reminder that there's no real value in laying out the money and time commitments involved in playing hockey if fun isn't part of the return. With Elia graduating, her video series is unfortunately at its end, but sophomore Riley O'Connor looks ready to take the reins if her often funny and occasionally emotional senior tribute video that came next is any indication.

Familiarity was also the operative word concerning the formal team awards, as both the Maurice H. Stroemel Most Valuable Player and Billie S. Willits Player's Player Awards went to repeat winners in Darby Kern and Jackie Saideh, respectively. Kern, of course, just completed a career that saw 107 points in only two seasons as well as back-to-back ACHA All-American nods. The latter distinction makes Kern only the second Penn Stater ever to be on the national first or second team twice, following Lady Icer great Katie King in 2001-02 and 2002-03. Saideh, who served as both club president and team captain this season, has always been someone who does whatever the organization needs, on or off the ice. From regular position changes to her high-effort style of play to putting the team's hotel bill on her personal credit card while waiting for Penn State club sports to clear the payment and prepping the banquet's centerpieces, the senior's contributions will be missed in numerous ways next season.

Meghan Miller was voted as the Kyle Rossi Rookie of the Year. The well-rounded Rhode Island native won a tight vote thanks to being a steady performer able to pivot scoring or checking lines with equal effectiveness. She posted nine points for the season, including a pair of power play goals to tie for second on the team in that category as the Lady Ice Lions' had their best season in team history on the advantage.

The team also instituted a new award this year, given to the freshman with the best fall semester grade point average: Rachel Cole and her 3.94 for the 2015-16 opening term. The honor will also be given retroactively to would-have-been past winners Devon Fisk, Lucy Yeatman and Claire Gauthier.

The Lady Ice Lions will lose five seniors for 2016-17 but return much of the team's core, including O'Connor (already the fourth best scorer in team history) and Kelly Watson, each of whom have won Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League and/or ACHA awards, as well as others like Miller, Cole and Gauthier. Those players, along with a recruiting class expected to add tons of skill and depth to the roster, will attempt to win PSU's first-ever national championship in women's hockey next year.

Previous Lady Ice Lions Team Award Winners
Season
Maurice H. Stroemel
Most Valuable Player
Kyle Rossi
Rookie of the Year
Billie S. Willits
Player's Player
2012-13
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Mandy Mortach
Carly Szyszko
2013-14
Katie Vaughan
Devon Fisk
Geneva Wagoner
Carly Szyszko
2014-15
Darby Kern
Riley O'Connor
Jackie Saideh
2015-16
Darby Kern
Meghan Miller
Jackie Saideh

Season
Freshman Academic
Achievement Award
2012-13
Devon Fisk
2013-14
Lucy Yeatman
2014-15
Claire Gauthier
2015-16
Rachel Cole

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