Women's hockey travels to third-seeded RIT for CHA first round

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Sixth-seeded Nittany Lion women's hockey opens its second season with a best-of-three series in the CHA First Round at third-seeded RIT beginning Friday night at Ritter Arena. Game two is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday, while a possible game three is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m.

CHA FIRST ROUND: Feb. 28-March 2, 2014 • Ritter Arena • Rochester, N.Y.
VENUE Ritter Arena (2,100)
STREAMING/STATS COVERAGE Live Video ($) | Live Stats
LAST MEETING Feb. 1, 2014; RIT 3-1 (at Penn State)
NEXT TIME OUT Possible CHA Semifinals March 7

• Penn State takes part in its second CHA First Round at RIT for second straight year
• The Nittany Lions look for their first win over the Tigers, who are 8-0-2 all-time
• RIT is PSU's most played foe with 11th, 12th meetings this weekend; possible 13th
• By Sunday, Penn State will have played at least 8 games at Ritter Arena, the third most played venue in the program's history behind Pegula Ice Arena, Greenberg Ice Pavilion
• Penn State fell in both games to Robert Morris last weekend, 5-2 and 4-0
• Line of Laura Bowman, Hannah Hoenshell and Amy Petersen lead the Penn State with 45 points collectively and 20 of the team's 47 goals (42.6%)

Penn State takes part in its second CHA Tournament and will once again be the No. 6 seed. In a repeat of last year, the Lions travel to RIT, the conference's No. 3 seed, as the two teams look to advance to the CHA Semifinals March 7 hosted by Mercyhurst. Last year, RIT took the series, 2-0, behind the strength of a 1-0 win the opener and a thrilling 3-2 OT win in game two.

Penn State and RIT are well acquainted with the two CHA rivals facing off for the second straight year in the CHA First Round best-of-three series. By the end of the week, the two teams will have played each other at least 12 times, possible 13 if a deciding game three is needed. The Tigers lead the all-time series 8-0-2, but this year's slate of games has featured tight contests.

In November, RIT needed a pair of third-period comebacks to win at Ritter Arena, 2-1 and 3-2. When the rivalry renewed at Pegula Ice Arena Jan. 31, Penn State once again saw a third-period slip away, but rather RIT winning, the two teams settled for a 2-2 tie. The next day, Penn State went ahead 1-0 in front of a record crowd of 1,795, but three straight RIT goals gave the Tigers three of the weekend's four points.

Penn State is in the unique position to close down multiple venues in successive years, a feat made more amazing by the team's existence of just two years. This weekend's series, coupled with RIT's men's Saturday night game, will be the final varsity games at Ritter Arena, Penn State's third-most visited venue. As expected, Penn State's Pegula Ice Arena has seen the Nittany Lions the most with 17 games followed by PSU's home during the 2012-13 season, Greenberg Ice Pavilion (15). Friday and Saturday will bring the total to eight games, with the potential for a ninth game on Sunday. Five other venues have seen Penn State play four games: Vermont's Gutterson Fieldhouse, Syracuse's Tennity Ice Pavilion, Robert Morris' 84 Lumber Arena, Mercyhurst Ice Center and Lindenwood Ice Center.

The third-seeded RIT Tigers (16-15-3) come into the CHA playoffs on a three-game winning streak with wins over No. 9 Robert Morris (1-0, Feb. 15) and a home-and-home sweep of Syracuse (3-1, 2-1 in OT last weekend). Over the past four games, RIT's defense has been outstanding, allowing just four goals including a shutout of the ninth-ranked Colonials at Ritter Arena.

Ali Binnington (12-9-2) has been the top choice in net most of the season with a 1.90 GAA and .937 save percentage. Binnington has been in net for all five of RIT's shutouts this season.

In front of her are four 20-point scorers in Marissa Maugeri (27), Kolbee McCrea (24), Erin Zach (23) and Kourtney Kunichika (20). McCrea leads the team with 16 goals followed by Celeste Brown (10), Maugeri (9) and Kunichika (9). Brown is a terror on the power play, registering six of her 10 markers on the extra-player advantage. RIT has a power-play conversion rate of 16.5, while killing off 84 percent of opposing team's power plays.

All-Time Series: RIT leads 8-0-2
PSU Streak: 1 loss
First Meeting: 10/25/12, RIT 4-1
Last Meeting: 2/1/14, RIT 3-1
Last PSU Win: n/a
Last RIT Win: 2/1/14, 3-1
Last Tie: 1/31/14, 2-2
Largest PSU Win: n/a
Largest RIT Win: 4-0, 2/16/12

2/1/14: L, 1-3 - H
1/31/14: T, 2-2 (OT) - H
11/16/13: L, 2-3 - A
11/15/13: L, 1-2 - A
Five of the last six meetings between the two teams have been decided by goal or less. Nevertheless, RIT holds a 5-0-1 record during that six-game span. RIT is Penn State's most-played opponent with 10 games entering the weekend. The total will reach at least 12, if not 13, by Sunday. All other matchups against CHA teams sit at eight games played vs. Penn State.

Penn State has had the fortune of multiple contributors on the offensive end. Twelve Nittany Lions have scored a goal this season, while 19 have registered a point. Sophomore Hannah Hoenshell's two assists at Robert Morris pushed her team-leading point total to 17. Following Hoenshell is linemate Laura Bowman (15) then a trio of Nittany Lions is tied for second with 14 points: Shannon Yoxheimer, Taylor Gross and Amy Petersen.

Hannah Hoenshell, Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen are three of PSU's five scorers with 14 points or more this season. They've been on the same line for the majority of the season and collectively account for 40 percent of the team's output with 45 of 115 points. In terms of goal scoring, the trio has notched 20 of the team's 47 goals (42.6 percent).

The addition of four freshmen: Laura Bowman, Amy Petersen, Sarah Nielsen and Kelly Seward have injected an instant bump in scoring production with 35 of the team's 110 points (31.8%). To prove the youth of the team, 88 of the team's 110 points (80.0%) have been collectively tallied by freshmen and sophomores. Nine of the team's top 10 point scorers are underclassmen.

Penn State was dropped by No. 9 Robert Morris, 5-2 and 4-0, in a regular-season sweep at 84 Lumber Arena over the weekend. RMU scored Friday's first four goals before Amy Petersen and Laura Bowman tallied third-period goals to sandwich a final Colonial goal in a 5-2 loss. Bowman's goal was her team-leading 10th of the year while Petersen pushed her mark up to fifth of the year. Four of Petersen's five goals have come during the second half of the season. Hannah Hoenshell assisted on both goals and now leads the team with 17 points.

Saturday's game followed a similar script as RMU raced out to a 2-0 lead after two periods and held on for a 4-0 win. For the weekend, Nicole Paniccia saved 69 shots, 40 on Friday and 29 on Saturday, conceding eight goals.

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Last Updated February 27, 2014