Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lion offense found its rhythm this past weekend amounting 14 goals while sweeping the Sacred Heart Pioneers in a two-game set.
Penn State's offense was led by freshmen forwards Shannon Yoxheimer and Hannah Hoenshell, who both found the back of the net three times and the youthful Lions also found productivity in new places, as six Nittany Lions registered their first goal of the season over the weekend. Junior forward and team captain Taylor Gross, who tallied four-points against Sacred Heart, said this past weekend should provide this young team with a boost offensively.
"I think it gives us a little more confidence on offense," said Gross. "Moving forward it helps because we are able to move the puck really well, so just the overall chemistry on the ice has improved."
Team chemistry is always an issue with a program in its inaugural season, but the Nittany Lions have come a long way. Despite having 17 freshmen on the roster and very few upperclassmen leaders, Penn State has developed a solid team harmony with the various lines coming together and forming their identities. Sophomore forward Jess Desorcie believes this past weekend was a big weekend in terms of progress for the various lines.
"I think this past weekend our lines really came together," said Desorcie. "We're starting to move the puck around really well and cycle in the zone and we're getting a lot more shots and it's generating a lot more offense for our team."
Along with Desorcie, forwards Yoxheimer and Gross round out the first line for the Blue and White. The first line for the Nittany Lions, in particular, is where most of the team's offense is stemming from as they have produced 121 total shots on goal between the three of them. Their line has really come alive in recent weeks, as each of them has managed to tally a point in the past three games. The lines success is the product of each individual player having certain skills that tie together well and lead to production on the offensive end.
One stat that has helped the offense improve for the Nittany Lions is the team's ability in the faceoff circle. Overall, Penn State improved its season faceoff win percentage to just over .500 this past weekend versus Sacred Heart. Desorcie has been the primary leader in face-offs for the Lions so far this season going 22-9 this past weekend. The sophomore forward believes that winning in the face-off circle is a key part to gaining momentum on offense.
"For me, face-offs are one of the biggest parts," said Desorcie. "I know when I win a face-off and tie up the other center it gives my wings and defensemen a chance to go on the offensive right away. I know for the other centers, as well, we try and generate offense as much as any of us, so winning the puck right off the faceoff is a really great way to start the offense."
While the first line has produced on the scoreboard, the second line for the Lions has produced by providing energy and speed. The second line consists of three freshmen Birdie Shaw, Micayla Catanzariti and Jill Holdcroft. Shaw describes her line as having three of the same players out on the ice at the same time.
Gross echoed Shaw's thoughts by describing the second line as the line that comes in to take care of the dirty work and wears the opponents out with its speed.
"All three of them, Birdie, Micayla and Jill, are a bunch of grinders," said Gross. "They kind of do all of the dirty work in the corners and eventually pucks will start bouncing their way and they will score."
Penn State's offense came alive this past weekend and the team will hope to improve on its recent play and continue to add to its current two-game winning streak. Desorcie believes with the momentum the team gained last weekend, they're confident heading into this weekend.
"Getting the sweep at home this past weekend felt really good and getting our first wins and outshooting the opponent by a lot that was really good for us," said Desorcie. "I think it brings a lot of momentum into this upcoming weekend because we know what we can do and what we are capable of and we are ready for Robert Morris."
With each passing game, the lines for the Nittany Lions will continue to gain experience and form chemistry. Penn State (4-5-1), especially the offense, will look to build on its momentum as it welcomes CHA conference and in-state opponent Robert Morris (3-2-1) to Greenberg Ice Pavilion for a weekend series consisting of two matinee games on Saturday and Sunday at 2 pm.