Showtime: Penn State Set to Open with Defending Champ Miami

Crosby Deliman is among the Penn State freshmen expected to make an immediate impact

Seven Lady Ice Lions freshmen and one junior transfer - literally 40 percent of the team's roster - will receive a baptism by fire of sorts in making their Penn State debuts Friday at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

The opponent for the opening series? Defending ACHA national champion Miami University. The RedHawks, in fact, have won three of the last four, with 2014 and 2016 crowns preceding the most recent win. Essentially, there's no greater challenge available on the ACHA schedule at the present time.

It could be argued that Penn State's rookie class is without peer as well, whether rating it within the annals of team history or across the nation this season. Three of them - Pens Elite and Shady Side Academy product Crosby Deliman, Tabor Academy's Sarah McGillicuddy and the Junior Flyers' Erin Bonner - are expected to immediately step into top six forward roles. Freshmen will also be the starting goaltender (Emma Shannon, from Downingtown East High School) and two of the top six defensemen (Mikaela Walker and Sydney Foy, from Tier 2 powers Reston Raiders and Steel City Selects, respectively).

Those players, combined with a healthy dose of veteran leadership from returners like forwards Riley O'Connor, Meghan Miller, Tarika Embar and Rachel Cole, along with defensemen Trish Cierniak, Kate Lombardozzi and Rachel Kapoian, are central to the hopes of an improved season from the blue and white, which was ranked 15th in the ACHA's preseason ranking.

One more new face for Penn State, of course, is head coach Jeremy Bean, who takes over for five-year boss Patrick Fung and promises an up-tempo, fun-to-watch style in Happy Valley.

Second-ranked Miami is not without their own form of upheaval. The RedHawks graduated one of the most decorated classes in ACHA history, a group that was central to all three MU national championships, including Kaley Mooney (who is now serving as one of Scott Hicks' assistants), Rachael Booth and Katie Augustine, the only player to win both of Team USA's recent bronze medals at World University Games, in 2013 and 2017. MU therefore, will also be heavily-reliant on freshmen, including forwards Darby Edmondson and Emily Sloan, defenseman Lexi Russell, and new starting goaltender Erin Sparks. Another newcomer, one familiar to Penn State already, is sophomore transfer Jenn Davis, who played PSU four times while at Massachusetts last season.

Many of those players came to the fore in Miami's first two games of 2017-18, a pair of routs over ACHA D1 newcomer Aquinas last weekend. Edmondson had a goal and an assist in each game, Sloan added two goals in each, while remaining veterans like hard-working forward Alyssa Visalli and blueline standout Nicole Matthews offered their usual contributions.

Penn State won the only previous meeting between the squads, a 4-3 stunner of the top-ranked, defending national champions in Oxford, OH late in the 2014-15 season. The result, among the biggest in Lady Icers or Lady Ice Lions history, played a large role in PSU's qualification for the ACHA National Tournament that year.

A repeat of that outcome, without a doubt, would establish that the names aren't the only thing new in central Pennsylvania.

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