By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As the season draws closer to a conclusion, we take a look back at some of the bright spots that have shined throughout the year. One of those top performers on the women's hockey team this year is sophomore forward Meike Meilleur, who has stepped into a prominent role in 2017.
After not netting a goal in her first season with the Nittany Lions, Meilleur has consistently stepped up in big moments for the team in 2016-17. She has tallied six goals so far in her sophomore season to go along with four assists.
"I think [the key] is coming back here and knowing the ropes," Meilleur said. "Every year, the girls go as a team and you get a lot of help from the coaches. I think it's just building on confidence and overall in practice getting better every day."
The second time around is almost always a time for vast improvements, as student-athletes are past the adjustment period and can now focus on bettering every aspect of their craft. A second year of experience also helps to solidify that sense of familiarity within a program in order to take that next step in development.
"It's a lot better, coming back and knowing the 'dos and don'ts' of everything," Meilleur said. "Knowing what you're expected of, coming to the rink and just trying to get better every year."
Teammates and coaches are taking notice as well, as Meilleur has started to find her groove, which has significantly increased her confidence.
"She's really grown a lot this year, she's become a little goal scorer," senior forward Amy Petersen said. "That's great, we need that on this team. She's really found her role on the team and I think she's going to have a great next couple of years here."
"Meike is having a great year, certainly someone you can rely upon for sure," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "It's good that she's having a breakout year, but that's what you expect of your players. Each year, it's another year of development and experience."
Jackson also touched on the second year as being one without as many questions as the players settle into every aspect of the college game.
"When you come back in your second year in particular, there's no mystery as to who your opponent is going to be, what the speed of the college game is going to be, what the environment is going to be like," he said. "There's a lot of familiarity there so it allows you to be comfortable within the confines of that game, that weekend."
Meilleur and the rest of the Nittany Lions have a critical stretch of six games coming up before the CHA tournament, including four away from Pegula Ice Arena. As they prepare for the final stretch, the message is simple: Keep grinding.
"We're just sticking to the basics, getting back to our game plan," Meilleur said. "We'll fine-tune everything and we're very excited. We've got a lot going for us this week."
The Nittany Lions also took advantage of having last week off in order to have that little extra rest and recuperation time as the last stretch is so vital.
"There's definitely a jump in their step," Jackson said. "It's always going to be a fun and exciting time when you have that break. It doesn't matter what level you're at, when you have that break, it gives you an opportunity to take a step back and take some of that pressure off."
Play resumes this weekend as Penn State travels to Missouri to take on Lindenwood Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.