Mercyhurst College and Girard native Jen Schoullis, a redshirt junior forward at Minnesota, aren’t playing in the NCAA Women’s Division I Frozen Four this weekend at Tullio Arena.
But ticket sales still stood at 3,800 on Thursday, said Ron Sertz, the local operating committee’s executive director. So he hopes the total for the three-day tournament reaches 4,000, which would greatly exceed the NCAA’s initial goal of 2,500.
“It was definitely not something we had hoped for,” Sertz said of losing the Lakers and Schoullis, which might keep what Sertz called “Erie event fans” away. “From the beginning, I thought if things fall our way we could jam the place. Things just didn’t fall our way. But I think we still have a good event.”
* Friendly battle: Senior forwards Meghan Duggan and Kelli Stack have been close friends since representing the United States in the Vancouver Olympics last year. But in Friday’s opening semifinal, they will be on opposite sides of the ice – Duggan with Wisconsin, Stack with Boston College.
“We know each other pretty well,” said Duggan, who roomed with Stack during the U.S. team’s pre-Olympic tour. “It should be an exciting matchup. Hopefully we don’t kill each other out there.”
Duggan and Stack also join Mercyhurst senior forward Meghan Agosta as finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, which honors the best women’s college hockey player in the nation.
“Just to be in that company is an honor in itself,” Stack said.
* Bouncing back: Wisconsin, the 2009 national champion, finished the 2009-10 season with an 18-15-3 record and out of the NCAA Tournament field because of the absence of Duggan, junior forward Hilary Knight and coach Mark Johnson. They represented the United States at the Vancouver Olympics.
Their return to the Badgers sparked a run to a 35-2-2 record, No. 1 ranking and top seed in the NCAA playoffs. But Johnson has been impressed with the team’s overall effort this season.
“Our process started last April,” he said. “These kids put a lot of time and energy into becoming better players and trying to become a better team. It makes it real satisfying as our coaching staff watches this group come together. But as all the coaches will tell you, there is still work to be done.”
* Bouncing back, Part II: Boston University has rebounded from losses to BC in the semifinals of the Beanpot Tournament, a prestigious Boston-area event, as well as to Northeastern in the Hockey East Tournament semifinals to reach the Frozen Four for the first time in the program’s 6-year history.
“We knew that wasn’t the end of our journey,” senior forward Lauren Cherewyk said. “We just said we’re going to take this (adversity) and move forward and prepare ourselves for what’s to come.”
* Bouncing back, Part III: Junior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta, who led Cornell past Mercyhurst and into the national title game last season, missed 16-of-34 games this season with a high left ankle sprain, according to USA Hockey’s website. Freshman Lauren Slebodnick posted an 11-1-1 record, 1.15 goals-against average, .942 save percentage and five shutouts in her place.
Yet coach Doug Derraugh didn’t hesitate to insert Mazzotta back in net down the stretch.
“After the way Amanda had started the year, (and) also after what she did for us in our run through the playoffs (last season),” he said, “I wanted to see her back in the net.”
Through her work ethic, Derraugh said, “it seems like she never took a day off.” Mazzotta has a 16-1-0 record, 1.00 GAA and .949 save pct. and five shutouts in 18 games.
* Feeling at home: Stack is a native of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb. So she feels at home in Erie because, she said, “it kind of reminds me of home, which I like a lot.”
However, her first skate at Tullio Arena seemed a bit strange – in a good way. “We’re not used to playing in such a homey place like this,” she said. “We’re used to bright lights and huge stands (like in Conte Forum, BC’s home rink). So I think it’s going to be pretty exciting to play out there.”
* Chilly reception: But at least one player – Cornell senior forward Amber Overguard – was dissatisfied with ice conditions. “It’s kind of a bit iffy,” she said. “We’ve just got to be ready for that.”
Yet no team will have a home-ice advantage, Overguard said. “So we’re just going to have to deal with it,” she said. “We’ve seen the ice now. We’ve just got to be ready for that. We’ll be prepared.”
– Victor Fernandes