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Penn State Hockey Legend Stroemel Steps Down as Ice Lions Coach

Mo Stroemel led Team USA to a bronze medal at the 2013 World University Games



Ice Lions head coach Mo Stroemel has stepped down from his post to pursue retirement options, Penn State's ACHA Men's Division 2 team announced on Saturday.

His impact, as most around Penn State hockey know, was hardly limited to that team. Stroemel, quite simply, is one of the most important figures in PSU's ACHA and women's hockey history. He spent the last 23 years working with one of four separate squads, always moving wherever circumstances required and doing exemplary work.

He took over the Lady Icers program in 2007, arriving to find a team in dire straits. The success of four ACHA National Tournament bids and five conference championships between 2000 and 2004 had faded, and what remained was a bit of a mess. Stroemel inherited a roster of just nine players and an organization that ran out of money and had to forfeit its trip to the ECWHL playoffs at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Had the West Chester, PA native not stepped in when he did, the team may very well have folded. And had that team folded, today's Women's Ice Hockey Club may not exist either.

Stroemel went on to coach the Lady Icers for four seasons with a 38-63-3 overall record. While the team took its lumps in the first two years of his tenure, by 2009-10 he had a full roster ready to compete for a national title. Led by second team All-American goalie Heather Rossi and a by-then-deep roster including Alicia Lepore, Dana Heller, Michelle Clarke, Chelly Deiling, Sara Chroman and Lindsay Reihl, Penn State finished seventh in the rankings and returned to the ACHA championships in 2010. They then picked up what remains PSU's most recent nationals win at the Division 1 level, 1-0 over Liberty.

The long-time technical theatre faculty member in Penn State's School of Theatre and avid musician subsequently recruited many of the players who would become the core of the first Lady Ice Lions teams that made consecutive appearances in the ACHA Division 2 championship game. That list includes Carly Szyszko, Allie Rothman, Katie Vaughan, Elizabeth Denis, Ashton Schaffer, Mary Kate Tonetti and Sarah Eisenhut. Patrick Fung, the only head coach the current team has ever known, began his women's hockey career as a Stroemel assistant with the Lady Icers.

Stroemel, as Lady Icers coach in 2009, with a 13-year-old Riley O'Connor

USA Hockey tabbed him to coach the first two versions of the U.S. National University Women's Team that competed at the biennial World University Games tournament, in 2011 and 2013. The first of the two groups included four Lady Icers (Rossi, Vaughan, Reihl and Denise Rohlik) and finished fourth in Erzurum, Turkey. Two years later, Stroemel brought Vaughan to Trentino, Italy and the pair made history by winning the bronze medal, thanks to key wins over Russia and Japan. Until Team USA again won bronze in 2017, the two finishes with Stroemel in charge were the two best by the American women or men in the modern era (the U.S. re-entered World University Games in 2001 on the men's side).

The $102 million donation of Terry and Kim Pegula to build the ice arena that bears their name and bring NCAA hockey to Penn State shifted Stroemel's role. In 2011-12, the final season of the Lady Icers, he was an associate head coach for Josh Brandwene, the man brought in to eventually lead the varsity team. He stepped away from the bench and was the director of operations and video coach for the NCAA team during the 2012-13 season.

The Lady Ice Lions' annual most valuable player award is named in his honor, as recognition for his numerous contributions to the program. Both he and his son Tom have remained involved with the team as their schedules allow, and his family also includes wife Joan and daughter Sarah.

Much of Stroemel's career, of course, was also spent in men's hockey, primarily through two separate runs with the Ice Lions program.

He first joined the Ice Lions in 1994, shortly after the team's formation, and was an assistant to Vinnie Scalamogna for three seasons. In an odd bit of foreshadowing, Stroemel transitioned to the head coaching role as Scalamogna became the first coach in Lady Icers history, in 1996-97.

That year was also significant for the men's team, which advanced to the championship game at the ACHA National Tournament for the first time in history. Stroemel would coach the squad through 2003-04, while posting a 131-62-11 record. He was the ACHA Men's Division 2 Northeast Region Coach of the Year in both 2002-03 and 2003-04. The latter season resulted another final four run at nationals, ending with a crushing 1-0 overtime loss to powerhouse New York University in the semifinals.

Stepping away from coaching will allow Stroemel more time to pursue his passion for music

His many players during his first decade with the Ice Lions included Fung and goaltender Brian Gratz, now head coach of the New York Rangers-affiliated Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.

From 2004 through 2007, Stroemel was an assistant coach for Penn State's former ACHA Division 1 men's team, the Icers, under both Joe Battista and Scott Balboni. During his time on that staff (which also included now-New York Islanders assistant Matt Bertani), the Icers rolled to a 85-22-5 record while appearing in the ACHA national title game to close each of the three seasons.

Following his six seasons in women's hockey, Stroemel once again took the reins of the Ice Lions under circumstances at least partly similar to those surrounding the Lady Icers in 2007. While the team remained healthy off the ice and successful on it, the coaching job had become something of a revolving door - including two stints by Ryan Behnken, and one each from Matt Morrow and Josh Hand over a four year period. In 2014, Stroemel resumed his old post and stabilized things for the last three seasons. The team won three consecutive Mid-Atlantic College Hockey North Division regular season championships, qualified for the ACHA D2 Southeast Region's tournament each year, and returned to nationals in 2015-16. This past year's regionals saw PSU fall one win short of a repeat trip, in overtime against Miami.

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