Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions' break midway through their season has come to a close and the team has begun to prepare for their next opponent, Chatham University. The 2013 season will kick off this weekend in Happy Valley with the squad first home contest since Nov. 11.
The Penn State women's hockey team (5-12-1) ended the first half of the team's inaugural season a little behind where they would have liked, dropping seven of their final eight games before leaving Happy Valley for the Holidays. The Nittany Lions faced some tough competition along the way in teams like Mercyhurst, Robert Morris and St. Lawrence and will look to get back on track against the Cougars.
Team captain Taylor Gross said the team used the break to its' advantage to gather some much needed rest and to get back into the weight room. The Lions also used the time to reflect on the first half of the season and don't plan on taking their series with Chatham lightly.
"We are handling this week as a normal game weekend and practice week," said Gross. "I feel like we kind of underestimated teams earlier this season, especially with Sacred Heart. We learned that it doesn't matter who you're playing, you have to respect everybody."
The Cougars (3-8-0) will provide Penn State with a good test to kick things off for the second half of the season. Chatham has struggled offensively this season, scoring just seven goals thus far while allowing 41 markers to their opponents. This stat is great news for a Penn State offense that struggle to put goals on the board down the stretch in 2012.
Fine-tuning the offense and defense out on the ice will be something to watch for this weekend, but also expect the Lions to make adjustments within their special teams units to work out some kinks that appeared during the first half of the season. The Lions have performed well on the penalty kill thus far, only allowing 22 goals on 81 penalties, but the team should have help this weekend as Chatham is only three of 29 on the power play this year.
Penn State is ready to get back out on the ice and finish their inaugural season on a high note. The Blue and White will also eye a run towards the College Hockey America playoffs in early March. The Lions currently sit in a tie for last place within the conference, but are just four points behind fourth-place RIT in the standings. The Lions could move up the standings with a strong showing in 2013 and can improve their seed entering the postseason.
While the Lions do want to finish as high as they can within the conference, Gross says the team won't let the standings dictate this season.
"Obviously we want to (finish) as high as we can (in the conference)," said Gross. "The most important part is just constantly improving out on the ice and in the end the outcome will take care of itself."
Penn State will begin the second half of its inaugural season against Chatham with the first game of a two-game series beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Fri., Jan. 4.