Thursday, May 16, 2013

Women's Games Revealed Against Syracuse, UNH

Taylor Gross and PSU will look for a first win vs. Allie LaCombe and Syracuse on November 9th

With 2013-2014 men's hockey schedules across NCAA Division I coming out almost daily and officially taking their first choice of dates and times at their schools' arenas, it seemed only natural that women's schedules would start to follow at some point. Welcome to "some point."

College Hockey America rival Syracuse - which I suppose didn't have to wait for the men, as the school has no NCAA men's program - released its 2013-2014 schedule on Wednesday. This, of course, also revealed 20 percent of Penn State's conference schedule:

Saturday, November 9, 2013: Syracuse at Penn State
Sunday, November 10, 2013: Syracuse at Penn State
Friday, January 24, 2014: Penn State at Syracuse
Saturday, January 25, 2014: Penn State at Syracuse

Last season, the Orange swept the season series from PSU, spoiling the Nittany Lions' first NCAA-era home games with a 10-0 weekend shutout before taking two more at the Tennity Ice Pavilion in January. SU finished a sturdy 20-15-1 overall and 13-6-1 in the CHA, good for second place in the league standings, and beat RIT 2-1 in overtime in the conference tournament semifinals before falling to Mercyhurst in the championship game. Leading scorer Holly Carrie-Mattimoe and ten-goal defender Jacquie Greco have departed, but the rest of the team, including Shiann Darkangelo (third in the CHA with 16 goals last season), Akane Hosoyamada (named the CHA's best blueliner for 2012-2013) and Kallie Billadeau (1.56 goals against average, 0.940 save percentage, all-CHA first team honors), returns. Without a doubt, Cuse will be title favorites entering the season alongside, as always, the Lakers.

In addition to the PSU-SU games, the Syracuse schedule announcement also shared the dates of the 2014 CHA Tournament. From February 28th through March 2nd, the sixth and fifth place teams will travel to play, respectively, the third and fourth place teams in a pair of best-of-three quarterfinal series. The two winners will then play the first and second place teams on the ice of the CHA's regular season champion on March 7th, with the winners of those semifinals meeting for the championship the next day.

Beyond Syracuse, and according to USCHO message board poster Hux (who is credible enough in my assessment for me to run with this news), Hockey East's New Hampshire will visit Pegula Ice Arena on Saturday, October 26th at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, October 27th at 2:00 p.m.

In UNH, the Nittany Lions will welcome (arguably and depending on the rest of the schedule, of course) the highest-caliber non-conference opponent to visit PSU so far. The Wildcats program has been around since 1977 and won the first women's national championship ever in 1998, sanctioned by the American Women's College Hockey Alliance ahead of the NCAA's involvement beginning in 2001. From 2006 through 2010, New Hampshire qualified for five straight NCAA Tournaments, and the program has won ten Hockey East regular season or tournament championships since 2004. While the Wildcats have fallen off of that form a bit in the last couple years - they went 14-16-4 overall and 10-8-3 in Hockey East in 2012-2013 - they'll look move back towards the top of DI behind sophomore defender Alexis Crossley and junior goaltender Jenn Gilligan, both of whom earned all-conference honors this past season.

High-powered Alexis Crossley will lead New Hampshire into Pegula Ice Arena in October

Crossley, in fact, has at least three biographical details in common with Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby: a hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, a stop to play at Shattuck-St. Mary's and a gold medal-winning goal from a major international competition while wearing the maple leaf. In Crossley's case, that last distinction came from the 2012 Women's U18 World Championships, where she opened the scoring in a 3-0 shutout of Team USA to take the tournament. Not quite as dramatic as Crosby's OT-er at the Vancouver Olympics, but impressive nevertheless.

The major downside? The Saturday game more or less runs directly opposite the men's game against Vermont at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, as well as the football team's game at Ohio State. Still, this will be an intriguing enough matchup and benchmarking opportunity to consider spending that evening with Josh Brandwene's squad.

Connecticut transfers Taylor Gross, Nicole Paniccia and Jenna Welch, incidentally, all have experience against their former league opponent while the trio played for the Huskies from 2010 through 2012. Welch played in all six games against UNH during her two seasons in Storrs, going 3-3-0 and potting a goal in a 6-3 UConn win on February 5, 2012. Paniccia made 20 saves in that contest to collect the victory, but backed up Alexandra Garcia in each of the other games. Gross was already a Lady Icer by that point, but she won twice against the Wildcats in three 2010-2011 meetings, assisting on the game's only goal on November 13, 2010 and scoring herself in a 2-1 triumph the next day.

As these are the first six confirmed 2013-2014 dates for the women, I've updated the W Schedules/Results page and will continue to do so until Penn State announces the full slate.

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