Penn State Ready For Important Early Rhode Trip to Face URI

Rhode Island native Meghan Miller (left) is set to battle URI leading scorer Casey McCormick and the Rams

Penn State (2-3-0/2-3-0 ECWHL) at
No. 11 Rhode Island (4-3-0/2-0-0 ECWHL)
Friday, October 28th at 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 29th at 4:00 p.m.
Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena
Kingston, RI
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions visit archrival Rhode Island in search of attention-grabbing results and a winning overall record

Game Notes

History Repeats Itself: While Penn State's 1-3-0 mark through its first four games might seem less than encouraging on the surface, it actually has a lot in common with the Lady Ice Lions' start to the team's outstanding 2014-15 season. As with this year, PSU began that campaign with a tight series at Vermont, including an overtime win in the second game. Two weeks later, and again much like this year, PSU was shut out in both games against a second-ranked Massachusetts team. The next significant games of 2014-15 took place at Rhode Island, where the WIHC pulled off a turning-point win over the No. 4 Rams. By the end of the year, the Lady Ice Lions had a 17-8-2 overall record including a historic win over defending national champion Miami and a bid to the 2015 ACHA National Tournament.

Shutdown Squad: Helping the idea that the team might be about to get hot, Penn State has already shown the potential of being better defensively than one year ago. After surrendering ten, nine, three and six goals to UMass in four 2015-16 meetings, the WIHC only allowed three in each end of this year's home series. Similarly, the four total goals allowed in the season-opening two-game series against Vermont compare with 15 over three games last season. Goalie Meg Lydick has helped lead the way with 32 saves per game and a 2.46 goals against average, both of which rank among the leading ACHA Division 1 starters. In front of Lydick, returning defensemen Cassie Dunne, Kelly Watson, Anna Marcus and Liz Tuorinsky have been complemented by several freshmen, primarily Trisha Cierniak and Kate Lombardozzi.

Conference Clustering: Due to a scheduling anomaly, PSU's fall semester is jam-packed with ECWHL opposition. The Lady Ice Lions have already played their only regular season series with Vermont and two of the four games against UMass of course, and are now about to take their annual trip to Rhode Island. Then, between November 18th and December 10th, Penn State will play an away series with the Minutewomen, a single away game at Northeastern and a home series against URI. At the end of it all, PSU will have completed its entire 2016-17 conference schedule by winter break, save for a regular-season-closing home series with NU in Feburary. The spring, of course, will see several non-league opponents, including Michigan, Michigan State, Liberty and NCAA Division III Lebanon Valley.

Ranking Redundancy: This weekend, the team is hoping to grab a couple wins over the 11th-ranked Rams, in part to jump back into the ACHA's top 15 for the first time since late last year. So far this season, Penn State has been just outside of the polls - the de facto 16th-ranked team, as the one with the most votes outside of the listed 15 - in each of the five tabulations taken. While the nature of a weekly ranking, new to women's ACHA this season after a quarterly ranking was used previously, makes valid historical comparisons difficult, PSU hasn't appeared in the top 15 since January 17th, the longest unranked period of time in team history.

A Free Win: This weekend was originally set as a three-game trip, with the series at Rhode Island followed by a Sunday tilt at Northeastern. However, NU's home Matthews Arena bumped the Huskies from the scheduled ice slot, resulting in a cancellation of the contest and a 1-0 forfeit win for the Lady Ice Lions.

The Opponent

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

Series History: Rhode Island leads, 7-1-0. Most significantly, Penn State and URI have met in the ECWHL playoff semifinals in each of the last two seasons, with both contests won by the Rams. The more recent affair, on February 20th in Amherst, MA, was a 7-0 Rhode Island win to complete a five-game season sweep of the Lady Ice Lions behind a goal and four assists from Kristen Levesque and 2-2-4 lines by both Sydney Collins and Monica Darby. PSU's sole win in the post-2012 era came at URI's Boss Arena on November 9, 2014, a 3-2 result over the No. 4 Rams. Marcus, Cara Mendelson and Riley O'Connor all scored as PSU built a 3-0 lead early in the second period before holding on through the finish line.

About Rhode Island: The Rams may have been hit harder by graduation than any other team in the ACHA after last season. URI lost several of the best players in their storied history, including All-Americans Collins and Brenna Callahan, as well as former World University Games selections Levesque and Alisha DiFilippo (both Collins and Levesque were drafted by the Canadian Women's Hockey League's Boston Blades in August, with the latter making the final roster).

Headlining the reinforcements from a vital freshman class has been Madison Balutowski - the all-time leading goal scorer in Rhode Island high school history - and Brynne Costa, a duo that has produced a combined 18 points in five ACHA games so far. A dangerous wave of forwards like Darby (Rhody's leading returing scorer with 33 points last year, including four in each of her last two games versus PSU), Casey McCormick and Lexie Stefekos also feature prominently, while Jackie Keable and Michelle Monet lead a big and physical defense corps. Abbey Torres has been the Rams' lead goaltender since midway through 2015-16, thanks in part to a pair of shutouts in three career outings against Penn State. URI's 4-3-0 overall record includes a pair of losses to NCAA Division I team Sacred Heart, one of which the Rams took to overtime. Most recently, the squad kicked off their ECWHL campaign with a decisive sweep at Vermont last weekend that included four goals by Balutowski in the first game and three by Darby in the second.

Trivia: Sandwich, MA, a Cape Cod town of just over 20,000 residents, has been fertile well beyond its population when it comes to hockey players. Penn State junior Claire Gauthier hails from there of course, as does URI's Christina O'Neil, who played with Gauthier on the Sandwich High School Blue Knights. Gauthier also played with fellow Sandwich native Levesque earlier in her high school career.

Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.71
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.00

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