By: Sean Flanery, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After falling in two games this past weekend to Rochester Institute of Technology, the Nittany Lions are preparing for the final series of their inaugural season.
Last weekend the Lions' offensive woes continued, managing to find the net only once in their two game series at RIT and they will look to right the ship this weekend. Penn State (7-22-2) will travel to Neville Island, Pa. to do battle with in-state foe Robert Morris (11-14-3) in the final series of the regular season.
"I think it has to start in the defensive zone to create more offense," said freshman forward Shannon Yoxheimer. "We have to have good breakouts, get the puck out quickly and transfer momentum from the defensive zone into the offensive zone."
Penn State's defense, despite this past weekend, has played well in the second half of the season. The Blue and White have allowed just 2.6 goals per game, in comparison to its season average of 3.1 goals allowed. The improvement in their defensive zone has been apparent, but at the offensive end of the ice continues to search for their footing.
The team has managed just 10 goals in its last 11 games, which does not bode well for being on the right end of the scoreboard. However, the team has endured some tough competition of late in playing teams such as No. 7 Mercyrhust, Syracuse and RIT, which makeup the top of the College Hockey America standings.
"It's definitely key to keep playing better in the defensive zone and get [the puck] out," said sophomore forward Jess Desorcie. "Keep moving it around the offensive zone and don't get caught up in just taking shots. You have to keep moving [the puck] around and getting it up to our points a lot more."
Getting the puck out has been a problem for the Lions as of late and Yoxheimer accredits the team's recent struggles to not focusing enough on the simple things and clearing pucks out of their own zone. Both Yoxheimer and Desorcie said that the team has used this final week of practice before their last regular season series at Robert Morris to address that very issue.
"We've been working a lot in practice on getting the puck out and getting clears rather than hanging on to the puck in our end," said Yoxheimer, "especially when it's near the blue line. I think that's a big thing that we're going to focus on this weekend as a group."
There is plenty of work to be done as the Lions gear up for the last series of their inaugural season and their first ever College Hockey America tournament in the first week of March.
"Going into this last weekend we just want to be really positive and finish off the season on a good note," said Desorcie. "Even though we have had our rough patches through the year, we have definitely learned a lot. We just want to wrap up the regular season on a high note this weekend before heading into playoffs."