Seniors Deliver, But Liberty Completes Regular-Season-Closing Sweep

Captain America Cassie Dunne's strike pulled PSU within one on her senior night

For every team's Senior Day, there is a very simple and specific narrative that, it is hoped, plays out: led by key contributions from the soon-to-be-graduates, the home side delivers a big win.

On Saturday night in Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State got a little taste of it - midway through the contest, it was engaged in a 3-2 hockey game with top-ranked Liberty, thanks to goals from seniors Darian Dempsey and Cassie Dunne. But, as is typical of a building team, the horsepower just wasn't there to see things all the way through, as the Flames pulled away late for a 7-2 final score.

Rachel Gibson delivered a goal and three assists for the vistors, while Alex Smibert tallied twice with a helper.

It was Smibert, along with Mackenzie Carroll, who staked the Flames to a 2-0 late in a chippy, penalty-riddled - nine minors were called in the first 20 minutes alone - opening period. Then, with the teams skating four on four during calls to Dunne and Deena Birney, Dempsey managed to tap home a loose puck in front for her third of the season.

The momentum was brief, however, as Smibert deflected home her second of the evening off of Gibson's third assist, via a high, center-point drive, to make the score 3-1 just 37 seconds from the break.

The Lady Ice Lions still had a bit more to say in the contest, thanks to Dunne.

In her second game back after helping Team USA to the bronze medal at the World University Games, the alternate captain trimmed the deficit back to one on her favorite play, after taking from Riley O'Connor: circling the zone into the high slot, then firing a low, effective drive

At that moment, with 8:47 left in the second period, the narrative had started to take hold. Penn State, for all of its hardship over the last two seasons, had a team with national championship aspirations on the ropes thanks to goals from seniors. Then the whole thing collapsed on itself.

Coverage breakdowns in the last two minutes of the frame allowed quick goals to Tara Lee and Aly Morris to pump things out to 5-2 and more or less shatter the notion of a history-making upset.

Gibson and C.J. Tipping rounded out the scoring in the third period, while Meg Lydick made 66 stops despite the seven goals against. That count boosts her to 788 on the season, eclipsing Katie Vaughan's team record of 769 in 2011-12.

The Lady Ice Lions will enjoy their first off weekend since mid-January next week before heading to the ECWHL playoffs at the University of Massachusetts from February 24th through 26th. The

Box Score

First Period
1. Liberty, Alex Smibert (Aly Morris, Rachel Gibson), 6:15; 2. Liberty, Mackenzie Carroll (Rachel Gibson, Chelsey Greenwood), 5:28 (power play); 3. Penn State, Darian Dempsey (unassisted), 2:51; 4. Liberty, Alex Smibert (Rachel Gibson), 0:37.
1. Liberty, Chelsey Greenwood (2:00 high sticking), 11:14; 2. Liberty, Rachel Gibson (2:00 slashing), 9:37; 3. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (2:00 slashing), 9:37; 4. Liberty, C.J. Tipping (2:00 body checking), 8:59; 5. Penn State, Darian Dempsey (2:00 slashing), 7:03; 6. Liberty, Emily John (2:00 holding), 7:03; 7. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (2:00 slashing), 6:28; 8. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (2:00 high sticking), 4:31; 9. Liberty, Deena Birney (2:00 slashing), 4:14.
Second Period
5. Penn State, Cassie Dunne (Riley O'Connor, Meghan Miller), 8:47; 6. Liberty, Tara Lee (Courtney Gilmour, C.J. Tipping), 1:26; 7. Liberty, Aly Morris (Alex Smibert), 0:08.
10. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (2:00 cross checking), 14:36; 11. Penn State, Katelyn Trask (2:00 hooking), 5:21.
Third Period
8. Liberty, Rachel Gibson (unassisted), 13:02; 9. Liberty, C.J. Tipping (Katie Comeau), 2:38.
12. Penn State, Liz Tuorinsky (2:00 cross checking), 6:48.
Penn State: Meg Lydick: L, 56 saves/63 shots; Liberty: Kelly Hutton: W, 22 saves/24 shots.

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