|Liz Tuorinsky and company will try to snap an eight-game skid against Lexie Stefekos and Rhode Island|
Penn State (3-9-0/3-7-0 ECWHL) vs.
No. 10 Rhode Island (11-6-0/6-2-0 ECWHL)
Friday, December 9th at 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 10th at 8:00 p.m.
Pegula Ice Arena
University Park, PA
The Lady Ice Lions finally return home for just the second series this season, to close the fall semester against rival Rhode Island
Sumire Send-Off: Saturday's contest will mark the final Women's Ice Hockey Club turn for goaltender Sumire Clevenger, who is graduating this month with a kinesiology degree. The Wallingford, PA native arrived at the University Park campus for the 2014-15 season after spending two years with the men's ACHA Division 3 team at Penn State Brandywine. As a Lady Ice Lion, Clevenger picked up her first career win against Slippery Rock on November 14, 2014, but saw her most significant action last season when a series of personnel and injury issues meant that the avid Boston sports fan was the team's most reliably available goalie during the fall semester. Clevenger will long be remembered long after she graduates for her endless enthusiasm for the game and dedication to the team. Her departure will create a somewhat tenuous situation in net for the rest of the season, as the rostered-but-unofficially-retired Allyssa Long is the only netminder with the team beyond regular starter Meg Lydick.
Power Broker: Although Penn State has stuggled offensively at times this season, one positive storyline concerns the power play exploits of senior defenseman Cassie Dunne. Although she entered this season with just one career goal on the advantage, Dunne has added three this year, all in big situations (one came in overtime at Vermont, one opened the scoring at Rhode Island, one was a key strike in a rally at Massachusetts). Not only does she presently lead the Lady Ice Lions in overall goal scoring on that mark, the alternate captain has begun to take her place among program greats: her next power play goal will tie her with Carly Szyszko and Madison Smiddy for the all-time team lead, while also tying the single-season mark shared by Smiddy and Darby Kern.
Feels Like The First Time: Another milestone was hit in Penn State's last game, at Northeastern on November 20th, when Rachel Cole scored a late winner on a power play redirection against the Huskies for her first career goal. In finally getting on the scoresheet, long overdue considering her strong play this season, Cole left sophomore classmate Madison Dwyer as the only non-freshman still in search of her first. Rachel Kapoian deflected in her first college goal on Massachusetts the day before Cole scored, joining Katelyn Trask (at Rhode Island on October 29th) as freshmen who have broken the seal.
ECWH-Oh Well: This weekend's series against Rhode Island, in addition to closing out the fall semester, also closes out Penn State's regular season series with the Rams and leaves only a February home series against Northeastern remaining among the team's ECWHL games this season. At 3-7-0 in the league, PSU has already been eliminated from the regular season title, assisted by the perfect 10-0-0 league mark of first-place UMass. URI sits second at 6-2-0 entering this weekend and would need to go, at best, 2-6-0 the rest of the way (likely including a Lady Ice Lion sweep this weekend) for that position to be in play for Penn State. PSU is then third, just ahead of fourth place Vermont, which is 2-6-0.
Should the WIHC at least hang on to third, it wouldn't represent an entirely terrible position, as it would allow the team to skip a Friday first-round game at the ECWHL playoffs in late February and advance directly to the semifinals against the second-place team on Saturday. It would be the first time PSU avoided a third playoff game as an ECWHL member in the post-2012 era; in 2014-15, Penn State finished third but had to open against sixth-place Navy under the slightly different format of the then-six-team league, while last season PSU finished fourth and played fifth-place Northeastern in the first round.
Wonder Twin Powers Activated: Despite the Lady Ice Lions being away from action last weekend, it was nevertheless a busy one for at least one former player. Emma Embar, who spent 2014-15 and 2015-16 at PSU (her twin sister is, of course, junior Tarika Embar), tranferred to the University of Pittsburgh this year and joined the school's first-year ACHA Division 2 squad. Embar's Panthers visited conference rival RIT last Friday and the former Penn Stater wasted little time in giving her new team a 1-0 lead by burying a 2-on-1 from linemate Marissa Oakley 2:56 into the game. It was Embar's first Pitt goal (although not the first of her career overall, as she scored once for the WIHC), and helped the Panthers to an eventual 3-2 win over the Tigers, for the first victory in program history.
And Finally: The WIHC is hosting a fundraiser at Cold Stone Creamery, 321 East Beaver Avenue in State College, tonight from 5:00 until 9:00 p.m., with a percentage of sales during the four hours helping to support the team. If in town, please consider coming out for some ice cream and helping alleviate the club's significant expenses, including ice and travel bills.
Name: University of Rhode Island
Location: Kingston, RI
Series History: Rhode Island leads, 9-1-0. There's really no easy way around it: Penn State has struggled more with the Rams than any other team in the ECWHL. While it hasn't quite reached the point of URI's 34-2-1 against the Lady Icers when both were league members between 2003 and 2012, Rhody has done its best to get there with eight straight wins in the present series, including twice in the conference semifinals. The most recent pair, of course, came back in October at Brad Boss Arena when URI took 6-1 and 3-2 results, the latter coming on Michelle Monet's early third-period goal to foil what had been one of Penn State's best efforts of the season.
Since Last Time: The beat has mostly gone on for URI, despite the heartbreak of a tight sweep by archrival UMass one month ago which saw the Minutewomen string together late rallies to break open tight contests. On the other side of the ledger, the Rams have chipped off impressive wins against Michigan and Michigan State (in addition to expected results against Northeastern and Division 2's Boston University). Monica Darby, one of the nation's most underrated players, continues to lead the way with 14 goals and 26 points, while freshman superstars Madison Balutowski and Brynne Costa have combined for 16 goals and 24 assists. Senior Janessa Courtney always seems to save her best for Penn State, with 12 points in eight career games against the blue and white, while Casey McCormick offers leadership and additional production. Reliable goalie Abbey Torres is fronted by a veteran defense corps including Monet, Jackie Keable and Caitlin McGuirl.
Head Coach: Ashley Pagliarini
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.80
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.27
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