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Focus Turns to Tournament After Home Finale

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Senior weekend has come and gone, and the Nittany Lions find themselves in a similar position to where they were one week ago. They showed growth and improvement from the first to second game, but were ultimately unable to come away with a victory against Syracuse, dropping a 5-1 decision on Friday night and a 2-0 result Saturday.

On Friday, Penn State was never able to find an offensive rhythm, being outshot by the Orange, 29-17. The lone Penn State goal came from senior forward Amy Petersen early in the third period to cut the lead to 2-1 at that point. Laura Bowman and Bella Sutton picked up the assists. 

For Bowman, the assist was her 32nd point of the season, giving her the Penn State record for points in a single season.

Ultimately, the Nittany Lions were not able to mount the comeback.

"We just needed to buckle down," interim coach Dean Jackson said. "[Our defensive zone] is something we've been very solid with in the last month or so. A couple of mishaps here and there, and they capitalized. We clean up that, we don't give up the goals that we gave up today."

Not to be forgotten Friday night was the senior ceremony postgame, as Petersen, Bowman, Kelly Seward and Sarah Nielsen were honored for all they have contributed to the Penn State program in their four years on the team. 

That senior group led a strong effort Saturday, only surrendering two goals while limiting Syracuse to 23 shots. One of the two goals cannot be blamed on the defense, as it was an empty-netter late in the third period.

"Defense is something we wanted to focus on," Jackson said. "We brought it to the attention of the team postgame yesterday and then again today in the post-video session with the team. That was something we had been really strong at in the last little while and we wanted to make a point to get back to it."

Hannah Ehresmann put in a great effort in goal for Penn State as well, stopping 21 shots and only allowing one goal. She kept the Lions in the game, but in the end, they weren't able to put enough together on the offensive end to come out with a victory. 

"I thought we played extremely well, it's just one unfortunate event that got us down," Jackson said. "We had some opportunities and we executed the game plan really well. Give their goaltender credit, she made some big saves when we had those opportunities." 

The weekend's results, coupled with Mercyhurst's sweep at RIT, cement the Nittany Lions into the No. 4 seed in the upcoming CHA tournament. They will play No. 5 RIT on Thursday with an opportunity to face top overall seed Robert Morris if they beat the Tigers. 

The arrival of the tournament means a reset of sorts, as the only thing that matters from here on out is winning hockey games. If you win, you get to keep playing. 

"There are still a lot of positives. It's a reminder that we have an opportunity to play in the playoffs in this one game elimination. Anything can happen and we're in good shape," Jackson said. 

The first game of the tournament will be on Thursday at the HARBORCENTER in Buffalo. The time of the game is yet to be announced.

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