The inaugural Three Rivers Classic brought warranted attention to local college hockey programs.

Three Rivers Classic success should draw attention to local women’s hockey


by Larry Snyder

The triumph of men’s college hockey at the Three Rivers Classic marks the beginning of the second half of the 2012-13 season around the City Of Champions reading area. I thought it was time to take the beacon from the hockey lighthouse and shine it on the women’s hockey programs around the region.

The Robert Morris University Colonials, the Penn State Nittany Lions, and the Mercyhurst University Lakers from Erie, Pa., all play women’s NCAA Division 1 hockey in the College Hockey America conference. There are currently 35 schools playing D-1 women’s hockey across the country.

The Chatham University Cougars play NCAA Division 3 women’s hockey in the Western Division of the ECAC conference. There are currently 54 schools across the country playing D-3 women’s ice hockey. Three of our four teams will be dropping the puck this weekend, as they are all coming off their Christmas holiday break.

COLONIALS CLIPBOARD: Robert Morris is in second place in the CHA, and their record for the first half of the season is 5-1 in the CHA, and 9-3-2 overall. The Colonials have put together an .833 winning percentage in the conference in the first half of the season.

Paul Colontino is in his second season as the head coach of the Colonials. His leadership helped RMU break its team record for wins by the end of January last season, and the Colonials finished the season with 19 victories, an amazing 13-win improvement from the prior season. It was the largest year-to-year win improvement in D-1 women’s hockey in 2011-12.

RMU also captured its first-ever CHA conference championship last winter. Coach Colontino’s efforts earned him the U.S. College Hockey Online (USCHO.com) National Coach of the Year honors.

RMU sophomore Rebecca Vint is a bona fide star in Division I women’s college hockey. (Photo: RMU Athletics)

Players to Watch: Sophomore forward Rebecca Vint, in the 14 games played this season, leads the team in goals (10), assists (10) and points (20). The Ontario native earned consecutive CHA Player of the Month honors in November and December. Senior forward Kelsey Thomas has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in 14 games.

Senior goaltender Kristen DiCiocco in the first half of the season has registered a 2.06 goals-against average, a .926 save percentage and a winning percentage of .692. Kristen’s overall record is 8-3-2, and 4-1-0 in the CHA. She ranks in the top 10 in the nation in save percentage and winning percentage. Rebecca was also named Goaltender of the Month for December by the CHA.

The Colonials go into this weekend with a pair of games against the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Tigers, at 84 Lumber Arena at the RMU Island Sports Complex. The puck will drop at 7:05 p.m. on Friday night, and at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

NITTANY LIONS NOTES: It is the inaugural season for Penn State women’s hockey under head coach Josh Brandwene. Coming out of the holiday break, the Nittany Lions are 5-12-1 overall this season, and 1-8-1 in the CHA. The young hard-working team has 17 freshmen and five sophomores on its inaugural roster of 27 players.

Junior forward Taylor Gross is the program’s first team captain. Senior defenseman Lindsay Reihl and junior forward Jenna Welch are the assistant captains.

Players to Watch: Freshman forward Shannon Yoxheimer leads the team with goals (10) and in points (20). The native of Jackson, Mich., was named the CHA’s Rookie of the Month for November, and added a Player of the Week honor back on Oct. 22. Junior forward Taylor Gross has four goals and 12 assists for 16 points in 18 games. Junior goaltender Nicole Paniccia has 554 saves and a 3.48 GAA in 15 games.

The Nittany Lions will host a two-game series this weekend at Greenberg Ice Pavilion against the Chatham University Cougars. The puck will drop on Friday night at 7:30, and at 7 p.m. on Saturdy. Both games will be carried live on AmericaOneSports.com.

LAKERS LINKS: Mercyhurst University is in first place in the CHA; their record for the first half is 6-2 in the CHA and 14-3-1 overall. Mercyhurst is ranked No. 7 in the last USCHO.com and USA Today/US Hockey Magazine polls.

Head coach Michael Sisti has been with the women’s program since day one back in March of 1999. In 12 seasons  Sisti has turned the Mercyhurst program into one of the premier powers in Division 1. The Lakers have won over 300 games, captured 10 straight conference titles and have made seven consecutive trips to the national tournament.

Christine Bestland leads the powerhouse Mercyhurst Lakers in scoring. (Photo: Mercyhurst Athletics)

Players to Watch:Junior forward Christine Bestland leads the team in goals (13), assists (27) and points (37). Freshman forward Emily Janiga has 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points in 18 games. Sophomore defenseman Molly Byrne has contirubted seven goals and 16 assists for 23 total points. Senior goaltender Stephanie Ciampa has put together a 1.10 GAA and a .944 save percentage; her overall record is 9-1-0, 4-1-0 in the CHA.

Mercyhurst will host Syracuse on Friday, Jan. 11 at 3 p.m. and again the next day at 2 p.m.. These games are part of back-to-back doubleheaders with the men’s team. The Lakers are 18-0-1 against the Orange, with the only “blemish” occurring Jan. 7, 2012 when the two teams battled to a 1-1 overtime tie in Syracuse.

COUGAR CLAWS: The Chatham University Cougars are 0-6-0 in the ECAC Women’s Western Division in the first half of the season, and 1-7-0 overall. The Cougars also have two exhibition wins over American College Hockey Association (ACHA) club teams, the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks and the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcans.

Jason Evans is in his third season as head coach of the Cougars. He came from Robert Morris University where he served as the head coach of the men’s ACHA D-1 club team. During Jason’s tenure, the Colonials compiled a 117-71-3 record and 3 trips to the ACHA Division 1 National Tournament. Coach Evans’ Cougars are a young and improving team with six freshmen, five sophomores, five juniors, and two seniors on the roster.

Players to Watch:Junior forward Morgan Becer from Ligonier, Pa., has two goals and two assists in eight games played this season. Sophomore defenseman Gina Abrego has a goal and three assists in seven games. Sophomore goaltender Megan Buchanan has 322 saves in eight games, plus a .904 save percentage.

Chatham will hit the road for a a two-game series this weekend against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Greenberg Ice Pavilion. Times are listed above.

(Editor’s note: Larry and Matt Gajtka recorded recent Gospel of Hockey interviews with Chatham’s coach Evans and Penn State assistant coach Casey McCullion.)

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