By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind five different goal scorers and terrific goaltending, the Penn State women's hockey team (3-12-1) had a successful weekend against Lindenwood in which they earned their first College Hockey America victory of the season.
"I think what I'm most proud of is how incredibly well the team has grown through dealing with adversity," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "They made themselves better as individuals and most importantly better as a hockey team as a whole moving forward from here."
The Nittany Lions struck first for the fourth and fifth straight games during their road trip to Wentzville. On Friday, the Blue and White were unable to maintain their early first period lead as they fell to the Lions 2-1 after two Lindenwood goals in the second period went unanswered.
On Saturday, four different student-athletes put goals up on the board en route to a 4-1 victory and the team's first conference win of the year.
"I love the quick start we got off to and that's been a real plus for us in recent games," Brandwene said. "They came out fired up and enthusiastic and they demonstrate that they are incredibly well prepared to play as a team."
Prior to Saturday's victory, Penn State had scored first in four straight games but relinquished the early lead each time. A consistent scoring attack, strong defensive efforts and a successful penalty kill helped the Nittany Lions flip the script and deny any chance for a comeback on Saturday.
The shutdown goaltending and defensive efforts of Brandwene's squad on Saturday were headlined by 18 blocked shots from the defense and 36 saves from sophomore goaltender Celine Whitlinger. Seven different Nittany Lions registered two or more shot blocks, relieving some of the pressure off Whitlinger.
Whitlinger has now upped her win total to three, as she has been in net for each of the team's victories. Senior Nicole Paniccia got the start on Friday and despite 33 saves and only two goals allowed, the team fell, 2-1, to the hosts.
"It was a really good game with a total team effort and Celine [Whitlinger] played amazing," said senior captain Taylor Gross, who contributed defensively with three blocked shots on Saturday.
Penn State held Lindenwood scoreless on their power play throughout the whole weekend, and that penalty killing effort, along with a 44-32 faceoff battle advantage, helped the team overcome the 37-31 shot deficit on Saturday and led them to the big victory.
"We had great production from a number of players, our penalty kill was outstanding and we got a big power play goal on Saturday, as well," Brandwene said. "I'm really pleased with the overall effort from the entire team."
The conference win was a huge step forward for the team, as they have come up shorthanded in several close CHA contests this season.
For a program still in its infancy, it is wins such as this one that will help the team continue to build on their success and create a standard of winning.
"That was such a big win for our program moving forward," said assistant captain Jenna Welch. "We look forward to building off of it as we work hard to prepare for the competitive opponents we have in the next couple of weeks."
The Nittany Lions will take a brief break from CHA action when they host Maine on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena. The following week the team will dive back into conference action when they travel to Erie, Pa. to take on Mercyhurst in a two-game series.