The post in which IcersGuy attempts to recap the end of seasons for three hockey teams.
Although the NCAA men's team finished their season (on a high note) back in February, the remaining three teams each had a few more games to play. The NCAA women attempted to close the season with a positive note at the CHA Tournament; the ACHA D2 WIHC made their way to nationals to win a championship in their first year of existence; and the ACHA D2 Ice Lions looked to capture their own national title to cap a solid season.
I've tried to split each team's recap into two sections - the long, detailed version of the games, and the short-and-sweet recap of the action.
Women's NCAA D1:
The Director's Cut: The first game was a goaltending battle, as both goalies played extremely well to keep it a low-scoring affair. RIT scored the game's lone goal midway through the first period and held on from there. The two teams traded control of the final two periods, as a couple of PSU penalties allowed RIT to control more of the 2nd period. The roles reversed in the third, with Penn State getting chances to tie the game thanks to two RIT penalties in the period. But RIT's goalie stayed strong, helping the Tigers take the first game 1-0, and pushing Penn State's first NCAA season to the brink.
Interestingly, the second game of the series had RIT dominating more of the game, but Penn State making more of their scoring opportunities. PSU let the Tigers know early that they weren't ready to close their season just yet, with Taylor Gross giving Penn State the lead midway through the first period. A few minutes later, RIT would counter and tie the game at 1-1 heading into the 1st intermission. Very early in the 2nd period, RIT took the lead and with it, the offensive momentum for the period. To no surprise, Paniccia came up huge throughout the period to keep it a one-goal game. Early in the third period, the Penn State offense would come alive again, as Hannah Hoenshell tied the game at 2-2 less than a minute into the period. Towards the end of the period, RIT started to gain offensive control, but Paniccia made sure the game at least made it to overtime. In the overtime period, RIT continued where they had left off, finally knocking home a rebound just 47 seconds into the period, and ending Penn State's season after two very hard-fought games.
Season Record: 7-26-2 Overall, 1-21-2 CHA
The Short, Short Version: RIT sweeps Penn State in two very close games, 1-0 and 3-2 (OT), to end the Nittany Lions' season.
Women's ACHA D2:
The Director's Cut: The ACHA WD2 tournament is setup as such - 8 teams play 3 games, with the top 4 teams record-wise moving onto the semi-finals. Penn State entered the tournament as the 4th seed in the east, meaning they played the west's top seed, Alaska-Fairbanks, in the first game. Inaugural season? Top-seeded opponent? The PSU WIHC fears not these things. Allie Rothman gave Penn State the lead halfway through the first period, thanks to some shaky goaltending, but the 1-0 lead belonged to PSU. Devon Fisk made it 2-0 in the 2nd period with a great individual effort to steal the puck, pick-up the loose puck, swing behind the net, and beat the goalie on the other side. As would be a theme for PSU over the tournament, penalties made things difficult for the WIHC, and UAF would close the gap in the 3rd period on one of their powerplays. But Katie Vaughn stayed strong for the rest of the 3rd, helping give Penn State a 2-1 lead and an important opening-game win.
The next day, it was a game against the west's 2nd-seed, Wisconsin-Stout. The ladies kept their momentum going, with Fisk giving Penn State the lead in the first period, and Mandy Mortach adding two goals in the 2nd period to make it 3-0, PSU. UW-Stout would cut the lead to 3-1 midway through the final frame, and Penn State would hold off a late 6-on-4 advantage to take the second game by a 3-1 margin, ensuring a spot in the semifinals. Later that day, Penn State took on North Dakota State to close out the opening round. Perhaps showing a bit of fatigue of playing a 3rd game in two days, NDSU jumped on top with a goal in the first minute of the game. Penn State would calm things down, and later in the first, Elizabeth Denis tied the game at 1-1. That same story played out in the second, with NDSU taking an early 2-1 lead, and Carly Szyszko tying it at 2-2 before the end of the period. The third period saw Penn State jump out to the lead, as Denis scored her 2nd of the game. But less than 2 minutes later, North Dakota State tied the game at 3-3. That would remain the score through the remainder of the 3rd period and the OT period, giving Penn State a 2-0-1 record in the opening round and making them the top seed heading into the semifinals.
The semifinal game was a rematch from the day before, with Penn State and UW-Stout facing off again. This time, it was Stout taking the early lead, beating goalie Katie Vaughn in the first period. A scoreless second led to do-or-die time for the WIHC, and Devon Fisk made sure there was still more hockey to play. Midway through the 3rd, Fisk scored her 3rd goal of the tournament, tying the game at 1-1. A Penn State penalty late in the period, made for a dicey couple of minutes, but the ladies stood tall, forcing overtime. In the first (short) OT period, another PSU penalty gave UW-Stout some chances to finish the game, but Vaughn and crew kept it a 1-1 game. Early in the 2nd OT period, well that's when unsung heroes come through. After Devon Fisk and Elizabeth Denis were both stopped by the UW-Stout goalie, it was freshman forward Nina Elia putting home the loose puck, scoring her first ever goal and putting Penn State through to the championship game.
In the finals, it was another rematch, this time against in-state foe West Chester. In the first period, Mandy Mortach and Elizabeth Denis propelled Penn State to a quick 2-0 lead. But then it became the Becky Dobson show for WCU. Dobson closed the lead to 2-1 shortly after Denis' goal, and then gave West Chester the lead in the 2nd with two early goals to complete her natural hat trick. 2nd period penalties killed any momentum Penn State would try to build, and WCU extended their lead to 5-2 in the period. The WIHC would push hard in the 3rd period, but it wouldn't be enough as WCU would win the game, 5-2, giving the PSU WIHC a very impressive 2nd place finish in their first season.
For a team in their first season, without a limited roster of players (which is not uncommon at the ACHA D2 level, but hey who's counting), and playing a very limited schedule, finishing in 2nd and playing impressively in each game is a damn fine accomplishment. I'm certainly looking forward to more players, more games, and more success from this team going forward.
The Short, Short Version: PSU WIHC goes 2-0-1 in the opening round robin, beats UW-Stout in the semis in an exhilarating double-OT win, but falls to West Chester in the finals (5-2) to finish an impressive 2nd place in their inaugural season.
Men's ACHA D2:
The Director's Cut: Well, I'm even going to shorten things a bit here. The Ice Lions lost to Virginia Tech in the MACHA tournament, after beating Temple (3-1) and Rider (3-2) in the opening two rounds. However, winning the national tournament is the bigger prize and the focus for the Ice Lions. The ACHA D2 tournament is made up of 16 teams in 4 4-team pools. A 3-game round robin determines the pool winner, and the pool winners are moved into the semis. For the Ice Lions, their pool consisted of Marist, Illinois State, and Weber State.
Things didn't start out well for the Ice Lions against the Illinois State Redbirds. A PSU penalty halfway through the first period opened the door for ISU to take the 1-0 lead. It was more of the same for the Ice Lions in the second period, with ISU extending to 3-0 with goals early and late in the period. With goals against being one of the tiebreakers for pool play, Penn State was looking to do all they could to score goals in the 3rd, even if a win was out of reach. But it was the Redbirds who would score again, taking the first game 4-0 and severely hurting Penn State's chances of a national championship.
It was a must-win game for Penn State, as they hoped to rebound against the Weber State Wildcats. A less-than-hopeful start saw Weber State take a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Mike Broccolo countered late in the period to make it 1-1 after the first 20 minutes. In the second, the Wildcats jumped out quickly, scoring two early goals to put Penn State in a big 3-1 hole. Penn State would counter, as Max O'Malley found the back of the net on the powerplay, cutting the lead to 3-2. Later in the period, Penn State found themselves on the wrong side of a 5-on-3 advantage. Not only did PSU kill the 2-man advantage, but a bad turnover by WSU's goalie gave Ryan Urban an easy (if very rare) 5-on-3 shorthanded goal, tying the game at 3-3. Special teams continued to be good to Penn State, as Broccolo gave PSU their first lead of the game, scoring on the powerplay late in the 2nd period. The third period belonged to Penn State. Fredrik Linge extended the lead to 5-3, and Niel Laessig and Mac Winchester added further insurance, helping the Ice Lions rebound with a 7-3 victory.
The Ice Lions needed help in the final day of group play to win Pool C. A high-scoring win for Weber State over Illinois State was just as necessary as Penn State beating Marist while allowing minimal goals. The first period for Penn State saw both teams take a number of penalties, with neither team being able to score. The scoreless draw came to an end in the second period, when Mac Winchester scored two powerplay goals in the period, to make it 2-0 PSU. With that being the score heading into the third period, Penn State extended to lead to 5-0, with goals from Taylor Vincent and Mike Broccolo (and a 3rd "mystery" player that the Ice Lions' twitter failed to mention). Marist would get one back on the powerplay, but Creek Lewis capped the scoring late in the period, giving Penn State an important 6-1 victory to close their season. In the other game, ISU and WSU skated to a 3-3 tie, making ISU the winner of Pool C, and bringing an end to the Ice Lions' season. It was another fantastic season for the Ice Lions, but unfortunately one that falls just short once again of making the semifinals. Our best to a great group of seniors - goalies Ryan Demuth and Kevin Lowthert; former-Icers Mac Winchester, Mike Broccolo, and Joe Zitarelli; and defenseman Tyler Starn. While a lot of talent is graduating, a lot of talent returns, including the 4 top scorers on the team (3 sophomores and 1 freshman).
The Short, Short Version: At the ACHA D2 national tournament, the Ice Lions 4-0 loss to Illinois State in the first game of group play ends up being the difference. Penn State beats Weber State (7-3) and Marist (6-1) in the next two games, but ISU wins Pool C, ending the Ice Lions' season.