New Squad Mercyhurst Awaits Penn State's Weekend Visit

Penn State will play in Erie, once a staple of early Lady Icers schedules, for the first time since 2002

Penn State (0-4-0/0-0-0 ECWHL) at
Mercyhurst (3-3-1/CHE affiliate member)
Saturday, October 28th at 1:45 p.m.
Sunday, October 29th at 12:30 p.m.
Mercyhurst Ice Center
Erie, PA
The Lead
The Lady Ice Lions take a quick break from ACHA competition for an in-state series and growth opportunity against new, non-affiliated team Mercyhurst

Game Notes

CHEcking the Old Digs: This weekend's games will provide an odd bit of symmetry with the past for Penn State's program. For starters, Mercyhurst is playing this season as an affiliate member of College Hockey East (with the intent of joining as a full member next year). CHE was, of course, PSU's conference in 2013-14, when the Lady Ice Lions won the league's regular season championship.

The circuit has grown quite a bit from those four-team days. Familiar foes Delaware, West Chester and California (back in action this year after a brief hiatus) are still around, and are now joined by Navy, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Liberty's ACHA Division 2 team, Maryland and RIT. Navy and Buffalo have both been among Penn State's Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League rivals at different points in history, while Maryland and Pitt were also league opponents in days long past, back in the old Mid-Atlantic Women's Collegiate Hockey Association of the early 2000s. The newly-resurrected Panthers, incidentally, currently include former Penn State players Katie Pucci (Katie Vaughan during her legendary PSU career from 2010-14) and Emma Embar. Liberty is a past Lady Ice Lions opponent as well - in fact, they were involved in the first intercollegiate hockey game in Pegula Ice Arena history, on September 27, 2013.

Prior to this weekend, Penn State's last regular season road series played within the state of Pennsylvania took place while a CHE member, a tie and win at West Chester on January 18th and 19th, 2014.

Forged in the Steel City: Similar connections also extend to the individual level. Mercyhurst goalie Katie Hill, along with forwards Maddy Kessy and Megan Young, are products of the Steel City Selects program, where they played with Penn Staters Rachel Cole and Sydney Foy (Tarika Embar is also a former SCS player, but a couple years older than most of that group).

ACHA Division 1 competition won't be entirely unfamiliar to Young, a transfer who played at Davenport last season and helped the Panthers to a final ACHA ranking of 14th, one spot ahead of Penn State. She was not yet at DU when the team visited PSU late in the 2015-16 season. Other Steel City alumni have proven to be very strong ACHA players, including the Lady Ice Lions' trio, of course, and also Shelby Weaver at Michigan State and Zoie Amatore at Davenport.

Development Camp: This weekend's games won't officially count towards any ACHA statistics or rankings tabulations, but are nevertheless a valuable growth opportunity for Penn State's young team. The first order of business: score a goal. PSU has opened the season without one in four games, the bulk of a drought that totals 244:00 when including the time following the team's final goal of last season's ECWHL consolation game to close the year. The program's previous record dry spell was a 213:55 span between November 13, 2015 and January 9, 2016, before it ended with a bang during the Lady Ice Lions' overtime win against UMass on that latter date.

Beyond that simple, but sometimes luck-affected, task is the opportunity for the roster to continue to hone its execution of rookie head coach Jeremy Bean's systems, without the immense pressure of trying to do it against a national champion-caliber opponent. Goaltender Emma Shannon, undoubtedly, is also welcoming the chance to improve her stat line, which is a bit unattractive through four games and belies her occasionally-very-strong play.

Any positive steps taken this weekend will be of great help next weekend, where three solid ACHA opponents in Young's former Davenport team, Michigan and Liberty await at the UMass Showcase.

The Opponent

Name: Mercyhurst University
Nickname: Lakers
Location: Erie, PA

Series History: Tied, 0-0-0.

About Mercyhurst: It's not particularly easy to slot Mercyhurst as an unaffiliated team for this season, but early results indicate that they approximate a top team from ACHA Division 2, which roughly translates as a top 15 squad in Penn State's D1. The Lakers already boast a win and a tie against perennial ACHA National Tournament team Delaware, as well as a one-goal loss to Buffalo, another regular nationals squad and the reigning CHE champions. Hurst is 3-1-1 against ACHA competition, with the other two wins arriving via blowouts of CHE doormat RIT this past weekend.

Due to their lack of full ACHA or CHE membership, and the corresponding eligibility rules that status includes, Mercyhurst is essentially able to roster just about anyone they would like, even if the player is not enrolled at the university. Beyond the Lakers' contingent of Steel City Selects alumni (one of whom, Kessy, actually attends Penn State Behrend in Erie and could theoretically join the Lady Ice Lions in the future), other players to watch include defenseman Sarah Ochterski, a commit to the new NCAA Division III team at Trine University, and forward Hayley VandePol, who has a deep background playing for the Aurora Panthers, a noted Canadian youth organization.

Head Coach: Tom McKinnon
Goals Scored Per Game: 6.71
Goals Allowed Per Game: 2.71

Team Website: http://mercyhurstachahockey.com

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