Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All season long the Nittany Lions have showed an improvement at both ends of the ice, but this past weekend freshman forward Micayla Catanzariti (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.) exemplified what it means to give 100 percent effort at both ends.
Catanzariti and Penn State (7-19-1) came into the series versus No. 7 Mercyhurst (21-5-1) this past weekend with a belief that they could compete with anyone at the Division I level.
"I like our level of competitiveness," Penn State head coach Josh Brandwene said. "I like the fact that we're willing to take away space and be in battles and show some real togetherness and some real toughness against the best in the nation."
The California native was one player in particular that displayed all of what Brandwene alluded to following the series.
Throughout the weekend, Catanzariti provided a tremendous effort at both ends of the ice. At the defensive end, the freshman blocked four shots, bringing her total to 49 on the season, which leads the team.
"When anybody does it, I always try and make an effort to say thank you," said junior goaltender Nicole Paniccia. "Just because for us [goalies] it means so much especially for point shots when people are in front and you can't really see it, so it means a lot. I am so thankful. It's like the best thing."
While Catanzariti provides a lot for the Lions in their own zone, she also manages to lead Penn State on breakouts and into the offensive zone. So far this season, the forward has amassed 48 shots on goal, which ranks third on the team. When watching the freshman operate in the offensive zone it is evident that her stick skill and speed has made her into the high-energy offensive force she is.
"I don't know if I can give my move away," said Catanzariti. "I have a good one and it only works on one side of the ice. Normally, on the right side of the ice, I have a good one that I normally pull out and I save it for occasions, but I can't really talk about it."
Catanzariti is a very skilled player both offensively and defensively, but it doesn't keep the freshman from assuming the role of the 'tough enforcer' on the team. Prior to the Mercyhurst series, the 5-foot-4 forward had totaled 18 penalty minutes and this past weekend the story remained the same. Catanzariti committed four penalties this past weekend, all of which were of the checking or roughing variety.
"I think [Mercyhurst] got a little nervous and I think that's where it kind of started," Catanzariti said. "We had them on their heels for a bit and they started throwing their bodies and we aren't going to take it."
Despite falling to the Lakers by scores of 5-2 and 4-1 on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the Lions and Catanzariti showed a sense of fight and toughness against a top-ranked team. The Lions will look back on this past weekend to draw motivation moving forward. Penn State stood toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the country and had success in multiple areas of play.
As Catanzariti and the rest of the Nittany Lions move forward they will have a week of practice to prepare for their final home series of their inaugural season with fellow College Hockey America newcomer Lindenwood (3-23-2). That series with the Lions will be a series of matinees beginning next Friday at 2 p.m. at Greenberg Ice Pavilion.