Penn State (1-1-0/1-1-0 ECWHL) vs.
No. 2 Massachusetts (5-0-0/2-0-0 ECWHL)
Friday, October 14th at 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, October 15th at 5:30 p.m.
Friday: Pegula Ice Arena; University Park, PA
Saturday: Galactic Ice; Altoona, PA
Penn State faces its biggest challenge of the early season, a measuring-stick series against second-ranked and two-time defending ECWHL champion UMass
Big Toona: Saturday's game, scheduled for Galactic Ice in Altoona, will be the first time the Lady Ice Lions have played in Blair County since the 2013-14 season. However, the team does have a spotless record at that rink, an adjective that extends beyond a 3-0-0 record, as Penn State has yet to even surrender a goal at Galactic. The first home game of the post-2012 era was played there, an 8-0 win over Slippery Rock on December 9, 2012, with Katie Vaughan and Sarah Eisenhut combining for the goose egg. Eisenhut took the whole game on September 28, 2013 when PSU defeated Liberty's Division 2 team 7-0. Most recently, Mary Kate Tonetti blanked Delaware 4-0 on December 8, 2013. Visiting UMass and their eight goals per game so far this season will certainly present the stiffest challenge yet to that run. Another wrinkle to the contest is the fact that the likely next goalie to attempt keeping the home net empty is Meg Lydick, who frequently played at Galactic as a member of the Altoona-based Mid-State Mustangs program.
World Class: The selection process is underway for the U.S. National University Team that will compete at the 2017 World University Games in Almaty, Kazakhstan in February. Presently the team's coaches are scouting players, with the intention of inviting finalists to a camp including exhibition games in December before making the final cuts. Penn Staters hoping to get a look for the team including all-around defensive stalwart Kelly Watson, speedy and fiery Cassie Dunne, small but productive and gritty center Riley O'Connor and physical and hard-shooting Liz Tuorinsky. PSU has had at least one player selected to each WUG team - six in all - since the U.S. began sending a women's team to the biennial tournament in 2011, with Vaughan bringing home a bronze medal in 2013.
Slaying Some Demons: Dunne's overtime strike two weeks ago, of course, gave the Lady Ice Lions their first win of the season at Vermont, but it was fairly significant on a broader scale as well. Since defeating the Catamounts in the ECWHL third-place game on February 22, 2015, Penn State had gone 5-11-3 in its previous 19 games against conference opponents (including 0-3-1 against UVM). Four of the five wins, for the sake of additional context, came against last-place Northeastern, which only won a single game in or out of the ECWHL during the 2015-16 season. The fifth win - a topical one this week - came through 28 Allyssa Long saves in her first career start and Darian Dempsey's first two career goals (the second in overtime), as PSU defeated No. 5 Massachusetts at home on January 9th.
D-Cisive: Penn State's defensive group has always been stout in its own end, but they're increasingly becoming a vital part of the team's scoring as well. Watson leads the team in goals through two weekends, while Tuorinsky's pair of assists have her tied with her frequent partner for the team scoring lead. Throw in the Dunne winner, and blueliners have accounted for three of PSU's four goals so far this season. With those three and other gifted players like senior Anna Marcus and freshmen Kate Lombardozzi and Trisha Cierniak generally making up the top six, the Lady Ice Lions' best offense may very well be defense all season long.
Roar and Rally: As part of a class project, junior forward Claire Gauthier is selling rally towels for $5 each. The towels gained a good deal of celebrity this past week when they were featured on the Instagram account of Penn State's football team, and are still available by clicking here.
Name: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Location: Amherst, MA
Series History: Massachusetts leads, 6-2-1. In both of Penn State's present-era ECWHL seasons so far, the series pattern with UMass has been more or less the same, with the Minutewomen sweeping an early-season series at the Mullins Center. Then, a January series at Pegula Ice Arena has involved a PSU overtime win over a top-five UMass team (with the decider scored by Cara Mendelson on January 10, 2015 and, of course, by Dempsey last season) followed by the Minutewomen holding off a Lady Ice Lions rally to earn a split. The tie required a departure from the regular home venues and scheduling dates, as the teams battled to a 3-3 draw at the ACHA National Tournament in York, PA on March 5, 2015.
About Massachusetts: UMass has bolted out to arguably the most impressive start in the ACHA, using primarily a high-powered offensive attack to build a 5-0-0 record. While four of the five wins have come against weaker opponents - Division 2 Connecticut and a struggling Northeastern program - the fifth decidedly did not. Last Saturday, the Minutewomen jumped on perennial title contender Liberty early and got a third-period winner from Joanna Olson after the Flames rallied for a 5-4 result that has helped define the early-season landscape. Olson, who scored 16 points in 29 games last season, already has eight goals and 14 points this year. The rest of the scoring has come from some pretty familiar names: returning Zoe M. Harris Award winner Brittani Lanzilli (nine assists, 14 points) and Meghan Lawler (ten points) chief among them, although Michaela Tosone, Ally Perdios, Tatum Schulz and Katy Turner also supply plenty of offense. Amber Greene and Sam Baturin have split goaltending duties so far, although Greene got the puck in Liberty game and excelled, making 44 saves.
Trivia: Greene will be in very familiar territory this weekend, as she spent the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons with Penn State's NCAA team, although she did not appear in any games as a third goalie behind Celine Whitlinger and Hannah Ehresmann. She is a product of Kingswood Oxford School, where current NCAA and former Lady Icers coach Josh Brandwene was employed prior to coming to PSU in 2011.
Head Coach: Bill Wright
Goals Scored Per Game: 8.00
Goals Allowed Per Game: 1.40
Team Website: None
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