Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lady Icers, Ice Lions Close Seasons

The Lady Icers came home from Rhode Island Sunday with a fourth place finish in the ECWHL playoffs, although head coach Mo Stroemel was less than enthused about it.
“We didn’t play very well. We had trouble moving the puck out of our zone and we just weren’t getting the puck to the net at the other end of the ice. I just felt like we weren’t doing a lot of the things that we worked on and that we do in practice."

“We kind of just didn’t do them. You know, the net result was a lot of running around and not really playing [with] consistence or the way that we were trying to play.”

“We didn’t play well, and we didn’t play with a lot of heart [Sunday]. That result is you are giving up a lot, when you don’t use those two things.”
Take a step back to eleven days ago when PSU was inexcusably snubbed from nationals, and it's pretty easy to understand the whole motivation thing. I won't rehash that debacle (feel free to click the link if you don't already know), but needless to say, this season probably didn't end the way anyone envisioned.

Following that and a home split with Liberty on February 18th and 19th, things got pear-shaped pretty quickly against Rhode Island in the ECWHL semifinals Saturday though, despite the close early score.
The Rams dominated puck possession in the early part of the first period, outshooting Penn State 19-1 in the first eight minutes.

Junior forward Danika Korpacz scored the first goal of the game on the power play to put Rhody on top 11 minutes in.

Penn State tied the game nine minutes into the second period on a hard shot that rang both goal posts before going in.

Senior defenseman Amanda Tassoni regained the lead for the Rams 1:15 later off a strong set up pass from junior forward Kayla Robidoux.

The Rams went up 3-1 with 1:22 remaining in the second period. Freshman forward Lauren Lanoie had her pass blocked by a defender and the puck was picked up in front of the net and fired home by junior forward Johanna Leskinen.

Rhody finally began converting on the high number of chances they were getting throughout the game in the third period.
Man, that is a horribly-written paper. I'll let a better one handle the next game.
During the consolation game on Sunday, UMass scored with 1:16 remaining in the first. The Lady Icers pulled senior goalie Heather Rossi in the third for an extra skater, and the Minutewomen scored again with about 25 seconds left.

“I think that it was a very even game, and [UMass] got lucky with their shot that went in, and we had a lost of missed opportunities for goals,” [assistant captain Michelle] Clarke said. “There were so many close calls for us to get into the net, but we just didn’t finish.”

Unlike Saturday, shots on net were pretty even on Sunday for the Lady Icers who had 25 as UMass recorded 28.
The loss to UMass had an extra twinge of disappointment, as they were one of the two teams that jumped the Lady Icers in the polls to push PSU out of nationals. A win certainly would have offered some vindication on that front.

Meanwhile, the ACHA Men's Division 2 Ice Lions also saw their season end just short of nationals and with a bitter defeat in their conference tournament. A 4-3-1 spring semester record, including a 5-3 Senior Night defeat of rival Pitt, was good enough for the No. 7 slot in the final ranking of the Southeast Region. In Division 2, the teams finishing first and second in each of the four regions earn an automatic trip to nationals, while the teams ranked third through tenth play off until two teams are left to join them, for a total of four teams from each region. In other words, it was off to the regional playoffs in Philly for Penn State.

First up at regionals - Southeast No. 6 Virginia Tech.
Final Game of the opening day pitted two MACHA members VT coming off their Southern MACHA championship against Penn St . Having a tie and one goal game during the year made little secret that this was going to be a barn burner....and it didn't disappoint. Ice Lions broke the scoreless tie in the second only to find the Hokies tie it in the third . Then with 1:54 remaining Penn St manged to squeeze a goal to win 2-1.
With the win, PSU advanced to face perennial D2 power and Southeast No. 3 Maryland-Baltimore County for the right to go to nationals in San Jose (apologies for the awful write-up with the opponent slant).
Showing their ability to adopt their playing style to their opponent - the Sunday game saw UMBC focus on team defense.  Strong forechecking, backchecking, clearing passes, and goaltending would result in a 2d game in which UMBC would prevent their opponent from scoring with the game clock running.  A funny bounce on a penalty shot would result in Penn State's only goal of the game - making the score 2 -1 in favor of UMBC about halfway through the game.  UMBC had gotten on the scoreboard early in the first and again on a power play early in the second.  Those 2 goals would be all that UMBC would need as the entire team turned in a strong defensive performance - anchored by goalie P.J. Carmack - in turning back each rush the Ice Lions made down the ice.  The final minute would see Penn State pull their goalie - but the Dawgs would block shots and clear the puck to seal the victory...in the process earning their 2d consecutive trip to the National Championship.
Senior Ice Lions forward Bill Connelly battles UMBC's Alex Post for the puck. Photo: UMBC official site

The weekend before regionals saw another narrow defeat for the Ice Lions - this one a double-overtime heartbreaker to Temple in the MACHA semifinals on February 19th. PSU held a 2-1 lead in the third period on the strength of a pair of Ryan Gannon goals before Temple's Chris Johnson scored with 15:21 left, ultimately sending the game to overtime. 39 minutes and 51 seconds of extra hockey later, with just nine seconds left in the second overtime, George Rutter reached hero status among the Owl faithful with his winning snipe.

Congratulations to both the Lady Icers and Ice Lions on fantastic seasons!

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