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Rhode Island Natives Star For PSU, But URI Takes Weekend Sweep

Meghan Miller collected a point in each game against her home-state school



Despite measured improvement on both sides of the puck, the Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Club continued to struggle with old nemesis Rhode Island this past weekend, as the Rams swept a Friday-Saturday series at their home Brad Boss Ice Arena by 6-1 and 3-2 counts.

With the defeats, the Lady Ice Lions dropped to 2-5-0, both overall and within the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League. Additionally, PSU has now lost eight straight matches to URI, and nine of ten overall since the team moved to ACHA Division 1 in 2014.

Penn State enjoyed its most potent offensive surge of the still-young season early in Saturday's game, as the Lady Ice Lions opened the scoring through Katelyn Trask, who scored her first collegiate goal 3:09 after the opening faceoff.

"Rachel Cole had a nice battle in the corner and passed it up to the point," Trask said. There was a nice shot on net with a bunch of players in front. The puck came right to me off of a rebound and I pulled it across to my right and pushed it back side. The first thing I yelled was 'That was my first goal!' It was such a rush and an exciting feeling."

Trask's tally gave Penn State what, technically, was its first lead of the season, as the team's sole win so far in 2016-17 was a come-from-behind overtime effort, against Vermont on October 1st. It was also scored against the Coventry, RI native's home-state flagship school, a fact not lost on the freshman.

"It was nice to have my parents and grandma there to see my first goal, especially since they have have been there for me since the very beginning of my hockey career. Also, I have some old high school rivals on the URI team," the La Salle Academy graduate continued, "so it was nice to be able to show them that I can still play with them."

"Putting Trask back on our purple line was a good combo, with Cole and rotating Madison Dwyer and Sophie Paolizzi on the other wing," head coach Patrick Fung added. "It was good to see Katelyn's first goal, which should be the first of many."

After the Rams' Monica Darby tied things at one just 1:12 later, PSU got back to work following quick penalties to Lexie Stefekos (cross checking) and Michelle Monet (interference), creating a long 5-on-3 advantage. Cassie Dunne was able to cash in the power play, fed by Meghan Miller, to restore the lead.

"We had much better jump from the onset today with no bus trip and a good night's rest," Fung said. "We're finally generating some good creative offense in transition and in zone, and that's when this game really gets fun."

Penn State's strong start chased URI starting goalie Lizzy Bell at the first intermission in favor of Abbey Torres, with the entry of a goalie who had allowed just five goals in four career starts against PSU (including two shutouts) perhaps standing as the afternoon's first bad omen.

Surely enough, the Rams managed to erase the lead early in the second period, as Jill Holden finished off a rebound from notorious Penn State killer Janessa Courtney.

The tightly-contested meeting needed only one more goal to decide things, and it went to the Keaney blue-clad hosts, courtesy of Monet's drive from the line 1:35 into the third period.

"The game winner was an unfortunate shot that popped straight up and landed behind Meg [Lydick] and into the net," Fung said. "Bad result in a game they deserved to win."

Lydick finished with 26 saves and was backed by the Trask and Dunne goals, although PSU came up empty on a pair of power play tries subsequent to the Dunne tally, including another 5-on-3 attempt in the third period.

Katelyn Trask, who previously played at Providence's La Salle Academy, scored her first PSU goal on Saturday

In Friday's series opener, the Rams jumped out to a 3-0 lead, thanks largely to a heralded freshman class that would go on to drive the play for much of the weekend. Although returning stars Stefekos and Darby combined for the first period's only goal, a rebound stuff by Stefekos, rookies Brynne Costa (assisted by classmate Tea Williams) and Madison Balutowski (on a feed from senior Courtney) went next to put the Lady Ice Lions in what turned out to be an insurmountably deep hole midway through the game.

Penn State's lone highlight came when URI's Sam Evans took an interference call with five minutes remaining in the second period. Two seconds after the penalty expired but before the Rams' numerical strength could translate to their defensive zone, Liz Tuorinsky found Miller down low for a power play goal, in effect if not in fact. Miller's second tally of the year gave PSU some life headed into the final period.

"Liz and I had been passing back and forth, once a lane opened up Liz took a great low shot on net," Miller said. "The puck eventually popped out and I put it back on net and it luckily ended up in the back of the net.

"It was a gritty team effort," she continued. "Those are the kinds of goals I love, the 'trash' goals because that really shows that we were working hard."

"Meghan Miller always plays well here," Fung said of the Rhode Island native, "and she carried her line on her back."

However, that momentum was quickly snipped by another three-goal run from Rhode Island, as the Rams cruised to the finish line. Courtney made the score 4-1 roughly seven minutes into the third period with assists going to the dangerous freshmen Costa and Balutowski. She was followed less than two minutes later by Stefekos' second, from Casey McCormick. McCormick added a late power play marker for the final result, with Costa picking up a secondary assist to cap a three-point evening.

"They were a very opportunistic team," Fung said of Rhode Island. "They seemingly always capitalize on chances against us, especially on turnovers, and we still aren't taking care of the puck as well as we should.

"But, final score aside, I'm not upset with the way we played."

The Lady Ice Lions' last best chance to mount a comeback came midway through the final period of the then 5-1 game, when consecutive penalties to Stefekos and Evans gave Penn State 3:36 of consecutive power play time, including 24 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage overlap in the middle. However, URI goalie Torres (32 saves) and the PKers in front of her held strong. PSU finished 0-for-3 on the power play, while Rhody had the McCormick goal in three tries of their own.

Despite the setbacks, Penn State did manage some measure of consolation in picking up a forfeit win due to the cancellation of a game at Northeastern originally scheduled for Sunday following the URI series. However, the mostly-unearned win did little to change the squad's plans as another trip awaits, this time to Adrian, an ACHA semifinalist last season, on November 4th and 5th.

"We'll get back to work this week with a physical week in preparation for a tough Adrian team," Fung said.

Friday Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (Monica Darby), 12:10.
Penalties
1. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (2:00 hooking), 8:15; 2. Rhode Island, Brynne Costa (2:00 cross checking), 7:31.
Second Period
Scoring
2. Rhode Island, Brynne Costa (Tea Williams), 17:30; 3. Rhode Island, Madison Balutowski (Janessa Courtney, Jackie Keable), 9:35; 4. Penn State, Meghan Miller (Liz Tuorinsky), 2:51.
Penalties
3. Rhode Island, Sam Evans (2:00 interference), 4:53; 4. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 hooking), 2:11.
Third Period
Scoring
5. Rhode Island, Janessa Courtney (Brynne Costa, Madison Balutowski), 13:13; 6. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (Casey McCormick), 11:23; 7. Rhode Island, Casey McCormick (Monica Darby, Brynne Costa), 4:58.
Penalties
5. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (2:00 hooking), 10:22; 6. Rhode Island, Sam Evans (2:00 cross checking), 8:46; 7. Penn State, Sophie Paolizzi (2:00 body checking), 6:16.
Goaltending
Penn State: Meg Lydick: L, 34 saves/40 shots; Rhode Island: Abbey Torres: W, 32 saves/33 shots.

Saturday Box Score


First Period
Scoring
1. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (unassisted), 16:51. 2. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (unassisted), 15:39; 3. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (Meghan Miller), 13:33 (power play).
Penalties
1. Rhode Island, Lexie Stefekos (2:00 cross checking), 15:08; 2. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 interference), 14:51; 3. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 hooking), 11:50.
Second Period
Scoring
4. Rhode Island, Jill Holden (Janessa Courtney), 15:31.
Penalties
4. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (2:00 hooking), 12:42; 5. Penn State, Darian Dempsey (2:00 tripping), 7:21; 6. Penn State, Anna Marcus (2:00 interference), 5:48.
Third Period
Scoring
5. Rhode Island, Michelle Monet (unassisted), 18:25.
Penalties
7. Rhode Island, Monica Darby (2:00 hooking), 11:33; 8. Rhode Island, Brynne Costa (2:00 hooking), 10:15.
Goaltending
Penn State: Meg Lydick: L, 26 saves/29 shots; Rhode Island: Lizzy Bell: 5 saves/7 shots; Abbey Torres (20:00 2nd): W, 17 saves/17 shots.

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