By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the second year in a row, the Penn State women's hockey team swept their way through the first round of the CHA playoffs.
The team swept two-time defending champion RIT with a 2-0 win on Friday and a 3-2 thriller on Saturday. Both games got off to a strong start for the Nittany Lions; two of their best opening periods of the season.
"I was very happy with our start on Friday," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "I was even happier with our start today, in some aspects it was better and it was great to get that goal from Laura Bowman to start us off."
Bowman netted her 15th and 16th goals of the season in the series, tying her own program record set last season. Also, with her goal on Saturday, she became Penn State's sole leader in goals scored in her career, with 42. Captain and senior Shannon Yoxheimer then netted her 42nd goal of her career as well, late in the second period to tie Bowman for the program lead.
"I have to give all the credit to my line-mates," said Bowman. "Amy [Petersen] has been my line-mate for almost 10 years and she has always been so good at setting me up. [Hannah] Bramm has been awesome this year as well, she is kind of the perfect third piece to our line, so it's really been a lot of work from them to get me to where I am."
For Yoxheimer, her unassisted goal was her eighth of the season, tying her at the top as her and Bowman now share the all-time goals scored title for this young program.
"It feels good to just contribute and to be able to be a part of this program and help it grow like it has, it's a nice feeling," Yoxheimer said.
Brandwene also had high remarks for both players who have been intricate in Penn State's success as a program.
"They are just consummate team players and competitors," said Brandwene. "I can tell you for sure that the thing on their mind is the W today and they are all about team success."
Penn State put together two solid nights of play, starting with a win Friday behind yet another stellar goaltending performance from Celine Whitlinger. Whitlinger, who ranks top 10 in the nation in both goals against average and save percentage, stopped all 20 shots she faced en route to a shutout.
"The game started kind of slow for me," said Whitlinger who only faced two shots in the first period. "I like having more work as a goalie so when they started throwing more shots on net it was fun for me to be able to step up and help my team out."
In game two, the squad turned to Hannah Ehresmann in net. Ehresmann was backed by a strong start, which featured three goals in the first period and a half. In the third RIT came out firing, netting two early goals before Penn State called a timeout. After the timeout, the Nittany Lions settled in and got into a great rhythm to finish the game and earn the series sweep.
"Thrilled with our response after the timeout," said Brandwene. "Credit to RIT, that's a world class program there and they showed a lot of fight. Any time you can knock off the two time defending CHA champions, it's a pretty nice feeling."
Penn State is now set for another semi-final showdown against the Syracuse Orange. Syracuse defeated Penn State 2-0 last year in the semifinals to end the Nittany Lion's season. The rivalry has accelerated rapidly over the past two seasons as eight of the last nine meetings with the Orange have been decided by one goal or less.
"It's always competitive and always entertaining," said Brandwene of the match up. "We can't wait to get after it, it's going to be a lot of fun."
That CHA semi-final contest will take place this upcoming Friday, at Harbor Center in Buffalo, New York.