Pure Michigan: Penn State Heads West To Battle Big Ten Rivals

MSU's Kelsey Jaeckle will oppose PSU's Cassie Dunne before the two unite on Team USA. Photo: Mackenzie Smith

Penn State (3-11-0/3-9-0 ECWHL) at
No. 11 Michigan (4-6-0/3-2-0 CCWHA)
Friday, January 20th at 9:45 p.m.
Arctic Coliseum
Chelsea, MI
The Lead
Penn State opens the spring semester with a fresh start and a fresh opponent in perennially-strong Michigan

Penn State (3-11-0/3-9-0 ECWHL) at
No. 9 Michigan State (5-7-1/3-4-1 CCWHA)
Saturday, January 21st at 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 22nd at 12:15 p.m.
Saturday: Suburban Ice - East Lansing, MI
Sunday: Munn Ice Arena - East Lansing, MI
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions close the final overnight road trip of the regular season looking to pick up their first top-ten win since January 9, 2016

Game Notes

Season Reset: The Lady Ice Lions re-take the ice this weekend, a full six weeks removed from their last game action on December 9th and 10th against Rhode Island. Despite the abnormally-long winter break, not a ton has changed since then. Penn State remains third in the Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League, and although the team is locked out from moving any higher in the standings this year, a strong finish and holding on to that third position would at least ensure that the team receives a bye past Friday's first round of the ECWHL playoffs for the first time since entering the league in 2014. If PSU remains third, it would open in Saturday's semifinals against the second-place team (presently URI), while fourth and fifth place (presently Vermont and Northeastern) square off on Friday for the right to face first place (presently Massachusetts) in the opposite semifinal. On the national level, the Lady Ice Lions have repeatedly flirted with the ACHA's top 15 this season, but now have a great opportunity to claw their way in for the first time in 2016-17 with this weekend's opponents ranked 11th and ninth, respectively.

Great Lakes Skate: Although both Michigan and Michigan State are well known to Penn Staters as Big Ten rivals in most sports and despite both U-M and MSU standing among the ACHA's elite women's teams since the women's division's earliest days, on-ice meetings between those schools and Penn State are fairly rare. The Lady Ice Lions swept four contests with the Spartans' separate ACHA Division 2 team in 2012-13 and 2013-14, but PSU has faced MSU at the Division 1 level just 11 times over the years and has played the Wolverines just six times. The most recent tilts with either team came on February 5th and 6th, 2011 when eventual national champion Michigan State rolled to 6-1 and 9-0 decisions against the visiting Lady Icers, with PSU's already-tough odds in those games made just about impossible by the fact that both of the team's goalies were in Erzurum, Turkey with the 2011 World University Games team. Forward Lindsey Shuler took the crease in both matchups, while Kirsten Evans scored the blue and white's only goal.

Blue and White to Red, White and Blue: Speaking of World University Games, Penn State's selection to the 2017 edition of the tournament, senior defenseman Cassie Dunne, will be playing her final PSU games this weekend before heading to Almaty, Kazakhstan to compete for the U.S. National University Team. Joining her on that squad will be two of this weekend's opponents: Michigan State forward Maddie Wolsmann and Spartans forward/defenseman Kelsey Jaeckle, with Jaeckle notably partnered with Dunne on defense for a majority of the Team USA selection camp last month. Penn State's leading goal scorer this season, who is also tied for the team records in single season and career power play tallies, will miss series against Liberty (January 27th and 28th) and NCAA Division III's Lebanon Valley College (February 3rd and 4th) before returning home for senior weekend against Northeastern and the ECWHL playoffs.

Unlikely Reunions: Despite the general separation between the geographic circles usually occupied by Penn State and this weekend's opponents, there will still be a degree of familiarity between the players on opposing sides beyond Dunne and her fellow Team USA players. Michigan State junior forward Shelby Weaver is a Pittsburgh native, and previously played in the Steel City Selects organization with Rachel Cole and Tarika Embar (Weaver and Cole actually skated with each other in an SCS alumni game over winter break). Meanwhile Penn State's lone Michigander, senior Darian Dempsey, grew up playing alongside U-M's club president, senior Jenna Trubiano. Michigan State goalie Hannah Johnson faced off against the Lady Ice Lions as a freshman on MSU's Division 2 squad, dropping two decisions to a PSU team featuring current players Dunne, Lucy Yeatman and Anna Marcus. Yeatman, in fact, scored her first career goal on Johnson on October 20, 2013.

Where the Rubber Meets the Goalie: While having a busy goaltender is not necessarily something that a team sets out to accomplish, Meg Lydick is possibly en route to becoming the most prolific single-season netminder of the post-2012 era. The freshman has played all 774:37 of PSU's crease time this season over 13 games and has made 407 saves. Those numbers are both already good for fourth in team history, behind a pair of seasons by Katie (Vaughan) Pucci '14 and one by Mary Kate Tonetti '15. With a likely 11 games remaining, Lydick is on pace to finish with 751 saves and 1430:03 of time, good for second and third ever. The projected save number, which has more upward flexibility of the two, is within striking distance of Pucci's top mark, from her sophomore year, 769. Even if Lydick's minute count ultimately falls short of the record, she still has a chance to become the first modern goalie to play all available goaltending time over the course of a season.

For the Kids: The team is still seeking donations for this year's final push to benefit Penn State's Dance Marathon, set for February 17th through 19th. To support the world's largest student-run philanthropy and help the Women's Ice Hockey Club continue to exceed its fundraising goals in the fight against pediatric cancer, click here.

The (First) Opponent

Name: University of Michigan
Nickname: Wolverines
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0.

About Michigan: The Wolverines are one of the ACHA's most storied franchises, including a record-sharing (coincidentally, with Michigan State) 13 appearances at the ACHA National Tournament in the 16 years that the ACHA has sponsored women's hockey. So far his season, however, the two-time CCWHA champions have played just ten ACHA games, with the obvious highlights being a 4-3 victory over No. 3 Liberty at a showcase in Amherst, MA back on November 4th, followed up this past weekend by a sweep of No. 13 Robert Morris, for U-M's first consecutive wins of the year. Despite a broken leg suffered by former All-CCWHA pick Jenna Trubiano at the aforementioned showcase (but not until after scoring twice in that Liberty game), Michigan remains formidable thanks to a tough, battle-tested roster featuring goal scorers like Mercedes Reyes, Morgan Baird and Karrie Inman. Tall defenseman Lia Harrington scored two times in the RMU series, recalling another towering opposing blueliner named Harrington, unrelated UMass alumna Paige. Bailey Hamill has been UM's lead goaltender, and has routinely excelled against tough competition, including allowing just one goal to second-ranked Adrian back on October 28th.

Head Coach: Joe Kolet
Goals Scored Per Game: 2.30
Goals Allowed Per Game: 3.50

Team Website: http://www.michiganwomenshockey.com/

The (Second) Opponent

Name: Michigan State University
Nickname: Spartans
Location: East Lansing, MI

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0.

About Michigan State: The 2003 and 2011 national champions, as mentioned, have 13 appearances at nationals to their name, but have missed each of the last two seasons after running off all 13 bids consecutively from 2002 through 2014. MSU, at ninth in the rankings, looks primed for a possible run back to the tourney though, with a couple big wins already banked and numerous needle-moving opportunities dotting the remainder of their schedule. Minnesota-native freshman Maddie Wolsmann, a World University Games selection and an All-American candidate, leads the squad with 16 goals and 21 points, but is far from alone in powering a squad that also includes nine-goal scorer Kelsey Cross. An extremely deep defense, led by heavy-shooting Ashley Astor, Elise Plancon, Andrea Uglietta and Sherine Diffendal, is a team strength - to the point where Kelsey Jaeckle made the U.S. National University Team as a defenseman, yet plays forward for the Spartans (and is the team's third-leading scorer with nine points). Hannah Johnson is one of the ACHA's top goalies, as evidenced by her being one of just three nationally invited to try out for the WUG team. She carries a stellar 2.50 goals against average and 0.917 save percentage, despite six of her eight starts coming against teams presently ranked in the top eight.

Head Coach: Rob Blackburn
Goals Scored Per Game: 3.23
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.69

Team Websites:

Penn State Lady Ice Lions: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram