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Nittany Lion Offense finds Rhythm as the Team Gains Momentum

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By: Sean Flanery, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -The Penn State women's hockey team (4-5-1) had yet another weekend full of firsts as the team recorded its first home win in program history on Friday night with a 6-0 shutout victory over the Pioneers of Sacred Heart (1-6-0) and followed that with an 8-2 triumph on Saturday.

Coming into the weekend series, the Lions had recorded 16 total goals through eight games, but the youthful Nittany Lions struck for 14 goals over the weekend. Freshman forward Hannah Hoenshell recorded the first hat-trick in Penn State history on Friday night in the team's shutout victory. Penn State head coach Josh Brandwene said Hoenshell's great week at practice and her discipline on the ice led to her great game.

"She was terrific and she also had a good week at practice," said Brandwene. "Her line played really well. Her, [Emily] Laurenzi and Katie Zinn really did a great job together. Hannah really had a nice balance of patience, discipline with zone entry, and using those moves at the right time and the right place and she got rewarded for it."
Freshmen forward Shannon Yoxheimer stretched her goal streak to six straight games by tallying three goals over the weekend, giving her nine on the season. While Yoxheimer continued to produce for the Lions, the Blue and White also received offense from new places this weekend. Six Nittany Lions registered their first goals of the season over the weekend, one of which was sophomore forward Jess Desorcie.

Desorcie's goal was timely, coming just minutes after Sacred Heart cut the Penn State lead to 4-2 on a power play goal with 6:06 remaining in the second period on Saturday. The Connecticut native's goal put Penn State back up by three goals with 4:34 left in the period. Desorcie's goal proved to be even more vital as the Blue and White took two penalties late in the period that handed the Pioneers a two-player advantage for just over a minute. However, the Nittany Lions held strong in their own end regaining all the momentum they had once lost during the period.

Head coach Brandwene said despite letting in a couple goals in the second period, the team did a nice job of responding both mentally and on the scoreboard.

"Resiliency is a really important skill and a really important thing not only individually, but also collectively as a hockey team," said Brandwene. "When there are moments of adversity how you respond is really important and they did a good job of that today."

The Nittany Lions displayed an intensity and confidence throughout both games over the weekend, never letting up on the Sacred Heart defense. The Blue and White were constantly dumping pucks deep into the Sacred Heart zone and maintaining pressure and puck possession while at that end of the ice. While possessing the puck for most of the weekend, the Lions outshot the Pioneers 130 to 43 in the two game series. Coach Brandwene credited the success of the Nittany Lion offense to assistant coach Gina Kearns and the rest of the coaching staff.

"Credit to Gina Kearns," said Brandwene. "We spent a lot of time this week deliberately working on face-offs, and she spent a lot of time in individual instruction and we are starting to reap some of the rewards of that in terms of the hard work the kids are putting in and the hard work our coaching staff is putting in."

All of the hard work the team put in throughout the week certainly paid off as the Nittany lions dominated the face-off circle winning 97 of 145 face-offs. Assistant team captain and junior forward Jenna Welch said dominating in the face-off category is a huge boost for the team both offensively and defensively.

"It's huge, I know Kendra on my line won a lot of face-offs today and it's huge," said Welch. "It just gives us the extra advantage and it really helps a lot with our offense getting it going and in our defensive zone, once we get possession and get a good clear, it really helps us."

While the Nittany Lions' offense found a spark over the weekend, the play of junior goaltender Nicole Pannicia and the rest of the Nittany Lion defense were just as stellar. Pannicia earned the victory in both contests, improving her individual record to 4-3-1, while only letting in two goals throughout the series.

Not only did Penn State earn its first home victory, it also strung together consecutive wins for the first time in the history of the program. With this two game winning streak and with the way in which the team went about accomplishing it, the Nittany Lions have earned a lot of momentum going forward into the heart of their conference schedule.

Next weekend, Penn State will welcome conference foe Robert Morris to Happy Valley in a series consisting of two matinee games beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Head coach Brandwene believes this team has accomplished a lot in the past few weeks, establishing a team attitude that has created a lot of momentum as the team continues to strive to get better as the season progresses.  

"This is such a team atmosphere that these kids have going," said Brandwene. "I think it's a statement and a credit to them just how when anybody scores. They're so enthusiastic for their teammates and that's really the collective atmosphere that they've created. It starts with our leadership, we've got great captains, and we've got other people really stepping to the plate in terms of contributing, in terms of being enthusiastic in the locker room and when you have a group that honors and rewards the little things that each other does it really can create a lot of momentum and a lot of enthusiasm."



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