The University of Rhode Island women’s ice hockey team defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 4-1 in their semifinal matchup on Saturday before falling to University of Massachusetts 7-2 in the Eastern Collegiate Women’s Hockey League Championship on Sunday.

It was announced yesterday that Rhode Island finished at no. 8 in the rankings for the season, which would normally qualify them for the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Tournament. However, since the University of Minnesota won their conference tournament and finished outside the top-8, they knock the Rams out of the competition with their automatic bid.

It is the first time in the program’s 16-year history they have failed to qualify for the national tournament.

“We had some chances and we’ve got to clean up some stuff in our own zone and play a little smarter, but UMass is a good team and came out today and beat us,” Rhode Island head coach Ashley Pagliarini said. “I’m proud of our girls. It’s not because of lack of effort, everyone was working hard and we wanted to win but we just didn’t have it today, we came up a little short.”

In Saturday’s semifinal, Penn State’s Riley O’Connor scored unassisted at 8:38 for the first goal of the afternoon.  Freshman Jill Holden was called for tripping at 13:18 but Penn State could not cash in on the power play to extend their lead.

In the second period, senior Kristen Levesque put the Rams on the board, finding the front right corner of the net at 2:54.  She was assisted by senior Cassie Catlow.

Kristy Kennedy provided the go-ahead goal by scoring from the slot on a rebound from Jacquelyn Keable.  Levesque also received an assist.

Kennedy faked out goaltender Mary Kate Tonetti to tally another goal at 18:12 with Brenna Callahan assisting.

With 45 seconds remaining, sophomore Janessa Courtney scored an empty-netter with help from Sydney Collins and Alisha DiFilippo to seal the win.

In the ECWHL championship game, the Rams received an early power play opportunity as Alli Houde was penalized for tripping, but the Rams could not take advantage.  This set the tone for the game as the Rams had another unsuccessful power play six minutes later following a tripping call on UMass’s Cara Mendelson.

Brittany Lanzilli struck first for the Minutewomen, scoring in a 2-on-1 at 12:29 in the first.  Senior Sydney Collins evened the game by scoring from the left circle off the feed from senior Alisha DiFilippo at 13:44.  UMass’s Mallory O’Brien scored in the high-stick side to once again put UMass on top.

In the second period, senior Cassie Catlow cut across the front of the net and fired a wrist shot to for the equalizer at 7:23 with Levesque providing the assist.  Two minutes later Caleigh Labossiere put the Minutewomen back in control, scoring unassisted at 9:29.  O’Brien and Amanda Abromson also netted goals for UMass in the period as the Minutewomen continued to seize the momentum and exploit scoring opportunities while the Rams failed to do so.

UMass continued to pull away as Lanzilli scored high-glove side one minute into the final period.  Junior Brenna Callahan was penalized for body checking at 11:09, allowing a UMass power play in which Michaela Tasone scored the game’s final goal and the Minutewomen took the ECWHL championship. It was their second in three seasons.

Following the game, Collins was named to both the All-Conference First Team and All-Tournament Team.  Senior Kristy Kennedy was also named to the All-Conference First Team.

“I think we need to calm down with the puck in the defensive zone.  We gave them the puck a lot and we gave up possession, which caused the turnovers and caused those goals.  We just need to win the smaller battles and hold on to the puck and have more desire,” Collins said.

The Rams now stand at 19-7-1.  They will next face the New Hampshire Wildcats of the Independent Women’s Club Hockey League in their final two home games on Saturday and Sunday.  The Wildcats are currently 8-7.