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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Redemption won't be on the mind of the Penn State women's hockey team this weekend, at least not in the conventional sense. 

For the second year in a row, Penn State will take on Syracuse in the second round of the CHA playoffs. Last year, Syracuse knocked Penn State out with a 2-0 shutout victory. This season, Penn State is once again poised to clash with the Orange and although redemption isn't on the minds of the Nittany Lions, the drive to win is at an all time high. 

"Obviously we want to win," Shannon Yoxheimer said. "I don't know if redemption is the right word because we have put that loss behind us, but we definitely want to improve on our result from last year." 

Penn State is fresh off a series sweep of the RIT Tigers, who won the CHA playoffs last season as the sixth seed. The sweep has admittedly given Penn State a lot of momentum and also a lot of valuable experience. 

"That last game was pretty tight down the stretch," senior Jordan Pardoski said. "I think it gave us good experience to compete in that kind of situation and it will definitely prepare us for our upcoming game." 

The game will take place at the Harbor Center in Buffalo, New York. The Harbor Center is a new venue for CHA women's hockey and as Josh Brandwene explained, an exciting and fantastic location to spread the brand of women's hockey.

"I think the venue, from our perspective, is really exciting," Brandwene said. "Buffalo is a great hockey town. Were going to have great crowds and its going to be a great atmosphere. I think it's a great stage for our league to be on with how competitive it is."

The competition in the CHA is fierce no doubt and Syracuse is one of the high-powered opponents that Penn State is able to see regularly. The Orange boast three of the top five scorers in the CHA conference, so Brandwene said the focus on defense is a must for his squad.

"Team defense is always something that is very important," Brandwene said. "To put it very simply, team defense wins championships."

Despite Syracuse's skill, Penn State feels that they can combat them with the team speed that they have demonstrated all season. That speed was evident against RIT as Penn State was able to control neutral ice and both zones because of their skating ability.

"They work very hard and they are really good team no doubt," Yoxheimer said. "What I've noticed is that they don't like it when we come at them with speed so we just have to focus on that and skate harder than they do." 

Even though it is a new opponent and a new series, there are a lot of building blocks that Penn State can use from last weekends matchup to aid a strong performance this weekend. Brandwene says that the team played very well against RIT and therefore there are a lot of positive takeaways as well. 

"I was really happy with our decision making at both blue lines," Brandwene said. "We did a great job capitalizing on chances and burying them and those are things that we can use this week as well."

For Penn State, there is only one game separating them from the CHA finals. Much like last year, the stakes are high and the opponent is the same, all that needs to be different from a Penn State perspective is the final outcome. 

"We definitely want to come out with that win," Yoxheimer said. "I think the ultimate goal obviously is to do everything we can."

Puck drop is set for 3:30 p.m. on Friday as the Nittany Lions will try to make it to their first ever CHA playoff finals. 

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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.

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Playoff hockey is different. Ask anyone involved with the game of hockey and they will agree with that statement.

After a hard fought come from behind 2-2 tie last Saturday at Mercyhurst, Penn State earned a College Hockey America (CHA) conference third place regular season finish - its highest in program history.  This season will also mark the second year in a row that Penn State will host the first round of the CHA playoffs at Pegula Ice Arena.

"We've been saying for a while that there is nothing better than playoff hockey," said captain Shannon Yoxheimer. "To be able to play at home as well is a really big deal for us too. Knowing that the senior week series wasn't our last home game is nice and it is always exciting to have one more series here." 

The team is even more excited after the performance that they put forth against Mercyhurst, a team that is 14-4-3 in CHA conference play. Despite a loss Friday, the 2-2 tie on Saturday showed just how much this team has grown and improved since the calendar has turned to 2016.

"I think it was one of our best team games overall," said Laura Bowman. "We stuck with each other in that second game. One of the things were working on before the playoffs is stopping in front of the net so we can get those second chance opportunities."

Only a day separates the Penn State women's hockey team from their first game of the best of three against RIT. However, a lot separates regular season play from the postseason, as Yoxheimer and Bowman know well. 

"I think it's just the excitement of the playoffs," said Yoxheimer. "When it comes to this time of the year, it is an all out overall battle. During the season it is a battle but it is even more of a fight during the playoffs."

For head coach Josh Brandwene, he said he was very pleased with the grit that the Penn State team showed during their trip to Mercyhurst. As Bowman said, the Nittany Lions were skating hard and battling for every loose puck. Brandwene says that the type of grittiness that Penn State exhibited in the matchup this past weekend is exactly the kind of fight that they need heading into the playoffs.

"Grit with a capital G during the playoffs," said Brandwene. "It's something that this team has demonstrated all year and it's something that we have gotten better and better at as well. When it comes down to it, this is one resilient group."

Despite the added emotions of the playoffs and also the added game in the now best of three series, Penn State is keeping the mentality of one game at a time heading into Friday's matchup against RIT. For the seniors on the team, this is a matchup that they have now been in 20 times since they came to Penn State. With all that familiarity, there are no secrets between the two teams.

Bowman said, "If we can play our game and skate as well as we do, I have confidence that we can win. We are just focused on Friday."

Friday marks the start of the playoffs, not just another game. Although it may seem like it, being played by the same teams on the same sheet of ice, there is always something different about playoff hockey.

"If you think about it, logically nothing changes," said Brandwene. "At the same time, it's the most fun time of the year. Playoffs in any sport are exciting and the atmosphere you have in playoff hockey, nothing can compare to it."

Game one of the best of three series kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night. Game two is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday and if necessary game three will be Sunday at 2:00 p.m. 

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

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IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.

THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds. 

Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.


Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.

"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."

Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.

Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.


Check out the GoPSUsports.com extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.


Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

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Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, GoPSUsports.com spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.



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Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Football THON Explorers Event



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Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery



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Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery



9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery



4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @
GoPSUTony

VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Women's Hockey

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Goalie is arguably the most important position on a hockey team. For the Penn State Nittany Lions they have had a brick wall in net, in the form of Celine Whitlinger.

Whitlinger is part of the original group of Nittany Lions who have been with the team since it first started playing, four years ago. Whitlinger has steadily climbed her way through the ranks and the last two seasons has been a prominent figure in the net for a Penn State team that has stifled teams defensively. Whitlinger has been, and continues to be, a big part of that team defensive effort.

"We are all growing, individually and as a team," said Whitlinger. "Personally, Courtney [Drennen] has helped a lot with her coaching perspective both on and off the ice." 

Whitlinger hails from Garden Grove, California. She made the long journey to Penn State unsure of what the hockey program would hold, largely because there was still no program at the time she was being recruited, it was still an idea. Now, four years later, that same program and Whitlinger have grown leaps and bounds as they continue to assert themselves in the national spotlight.

When head coach Josh Brandwene recruited Whitlinger, he noticed the first thing that many people notice when they watch Whitlinger between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, how athletic she is, especially moving laterally.

"She has always been an incredibly athletic and thinking goaltender and you could see that in her ability back during her high school days," said Brandwene. "She is just tremendously successful, she always is competing for pucks and is very technically sound. If you put that combination together you are going to be very successful at the college level."

Whitlinger has indeed had success at the college level, but success can only come with growth at the higher levels of competition and growth is certainly something that Whitlinger has shown and exuded in her time at Penn State.

"She has grown tremendously," said Brandwene. "She has gotten better and better in her time here in every aspect of the game and it has helped her really succeed." 

For Whitlinger, she credits a lot of her success to assistant coach Courtney Drennen. 

"I think I have grown a lot," said Whitlinger. "Being a goalie, it is a very mental position and I think that Courtney has helped coach me and I have improved a lot in the mental aspect of the position." 

This season, Whitlinger is poised to set career highs in both goals against average and save percentage. With the playoffs just two games away, Whitlinger has a 1.55 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. In other words, her numbers are remarkable when it comes to goaltending norms. Brandwene attributes this outstanding season to all the hard work that Whitlinger puts in.

"She puts in the hard work," said Brandwene. "She deserves credit for everything that she is doing in puck stopping and she has great support around her. The d-core and the shot blocking forwards have been fantastic and we just continue to get better overall."

For Whitlinger, the senior goaltender does not want the season or her time here at Penn State to end. However, when it inevitably does, she will not only be remembered as one of the pioneers of Penn State hockey, but also as a consistent presence between the pipes for the Nittany Lions. 

"I think she will be remembered most for consistently competing and consistently improving," said Brandwene. 

The Nittany Lions are set to square off against Mercyhurst in a two game road swing to close out the regular season slate. Game one is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Seniors Shine on Home Ice

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was almost a storybook ending on home ice for the senior class that has led the Penn State women's hockey team since their inception as a program.

Despite a 23-15 shot advantage, Penn State fell to Lindenwood 1-0 in the final game of the series but did manage to put together a dominant 3-0 performance the night before to continue their strong play and send their seniors out with a hard fought split on home ice. For Penn State, the win on Friday marked their 10th of the season. Despite the loss Saturday, head coach Josh Brandwene was still pleased with the overall effort and praised his senior class for all they have done for Penn State as a whole.

"I am certainly very proud, and continue to be proud of this senior class for all of that they continue to accomplish and do for this program both on and off the ice," Brandwene said. "One of the things we've talked about in the locker room is the amazing job that they do representing Penn State in the work that they do."

That work that Penn State puts in, that is exemplified by the seniors and passed down through the ranks, is much more than just a work ethic on the ice. That grinding, hard-working mentality extends off the ice as well and Brandwene said he is equally, if not more proud for all that work.

"They work tremendously hard in the community, the classroom and I commend them for the tone that they have set in our program," Brandwene said.

The program has taken great strides through the careers of these seniors and Friday night was a great send off to a few of the main contributors who have been a part of the Penn State hockey family since day one.

Shannon Yoxheimer had two goals for the Nittany Lions. The senior is one of the team's leading scorers and has elevated her game down the stretch, propelling Penn State to a strong run in the last couple of weeks. Another senior who has had an equally influential impact is Celine Whitlinger and she was once again on her game Friday. Whitlinger stopped 23 shots for her sixth career shutout.

After the game Friday, Brandwene praised the hard working mentality that Penn State brought to the ice and that they regularly bring to every competition. 

"It was just a really solid business-like effort from us tonight," Brandwene said. "I'm very proud of our performance on both sides of the puck."

Six seniors were honored on Friday night from the class of 12, while the other six were honored on Saturday afternoon. For Yoxheimer and Whitlinger, they honored the school they have called home for the past four years the best way they could, with tremendous efforts on Friday. 

"It was pretty cool," Whitlinger said on her shutout. "It was special to be able to do that but it was also a total team effort." 

Even with all that was going on this weekend with the senior festivities and the possible emotions that came in to play, the mentality for Penn State's seniors was still the same, take care of business.

"This weekend is a very special weekend with it being senior weekend," said Yoxheimer. "For us it's just all about going out and competing every time we play but this was definitely really special for us."

Penn State will have one more regular season series against Mercyhurst next weekend before the beginning of the CHA playoffs. The Nittany Lions and their seniors are vocal that they don't want the season to end anytime soon. 

"We didn't want this to be our last home series," said Whitlinger. "I don't think we thought about that, we hope to be back here for the playoffs." 

Game one against Mercyhurst is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pioneers. That's how head coach Josh Brandwene describes the senior class for the Penn State women's hockey team.

After being the first group to set foot on the ice at Pegula Ice Arena in September 2013, the senior class is preparing for their final regular season home series against Lindenwood this weekend. And a milestone moment such as this is a cause for reflection and celebration.

Brandwene always speaks with high praise of all his players and regularly acknowledges what this senior class does and has done for the Penn State program. This week he took a moment to recognize what the senior class has meant to the Penn State program.

"They are pioneers with a capital P," said Brandwene. "When they committed to Penn State, where we're standing was still a blueprint, it was still just a dream. The program was still just an idea and this beautiful rink wasn't here yet. I can't even put into words how grateful I am to them for their commitment to Penn State and the hard work they have put in here."

That dedication to the program is exemplified by each and every senior. From captains Shannon Yoxheimer and Jordan Pardoski, to transfer senior Hannah Bramm, this Penn State senior class illustrates what it means to be a Penn State student athlete, according to Josh Brandwene.

The concept of family is always preached in the program's culture, and that remains a big part of this senior class' legacy. For Bramm, who transferred to Penn State two seasons ago, says that was the best decision she made and that she has felt like a part of the program from the second that she stepped on campus.

"This program is really special for me because it kind of gave me a second chance," said Bramm. "Joining a new team and a new culture is sometimes tough but with this team it wasn't. I think that is what separates this program from others is that it's always team first, everyone loves each other and every one works hard for each other. That's the thing for me that has really stood out and made a big difference."

Senior Hannah Hoenshell echoed Bramm's sentiment about the family atmosphere. Hoenshell said, "For me Penn State represents family. I'm proud to forever be a member of a community that exemplifies passion, loyalty, and unity."

Celine Whitlinger, another four-year senior, says that her favorite moment as a member of the Nittany Lion women's team was the very first time she donned the blue and white for an actual collegiate game - a history making 5-3 win over the University of Vermont on October 6, 2012.

"I would have to say our first game was the most memorable," said Whitlinger. "We played Vermont my freshman year and it was just a really big moment for us and the program and it was just cool to be out there for the first game."

As special as the first game was, the first time the team stepped into the Pegula Ice Arena may have been just as special for Whitlinger.

"When we first walked into the rink it was an eerie feeling," said Whitlinger. "It was dead silent and every time we play in this amazing facility with our fans it's a great experience."

Brandwene echoed Whitlinger's sentiments about the atmosphere at Pegula Arena this weekend. "To me it's an opportunity to compete and celebrate all at the same time. This group is a bunch of competitors, they love to play the game and to be able to play in front of the great crowds we have had recently is just going to be a great experience for all of us."

The Nittany Lions, along with their 12 seniors, will take the ice at home for one final regular season series, with puck drop set for Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Following each game Penn State will honor six seniors during Senior Weekend.

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Winning is always the goal in any level of sport, however there is something to be said for playing a complete game, regardless of the result.

For Penn State, going up against the second ranked team in the CHA conference in Syracuse, the Nittany Lions compiled two nights of solid hockey, falling just short on both occasions. Despite a 3-2 loss in overtime and a 2-1 regulation loss the following day, Penn State showed why they may be peaking at the right time.

"I think with four games left, every single one is important," said Amy Petersen after Saturday's game. "We played well this weekend but I think the goal is to obviously still get better and peak during the playoffs. We are going to use these next four games to get better each and every game."

The 2016 calendar year has been particularly kind to the Nittany Lions. The team has certainly stepped up their level of play and have remedied their biggest issue of capitalizing on scoring chances.

"I think things have really started falling in to place more," said Petersen. "We have been sticking to our game plan and we have really been working on finishing pucks because in the first half of the season we couldn't get a puck to fall, now we have started to get those bounces."

For every team, the goal is to obviously play your best hockey come playoff time. However, this is a lot easier said than done for most teams. It is hard to plan exactly when you are going to start playing your best, you just have to hope that it comes at the right time to kick-start a long playoff run. For Penn State, with four games left, the emphasis is on getting better every game so that come the CHA playoffs, they will be ready to go.

"I don't think we feel any added pressure to get better just because the playoffs are close," said Laura Bowman. "We are going to use each of these next games to try and get better."

In the playoffs the compete level of each team is ratcheted up that much more due to the increased importance placed on each game. It is extremely hard to recreate this level of intensity in anything other than a game-like setting, however the Nittany Lions have said they have increased the intensity at practices so that they are more ready come playoff time.

"We have started to work really hard," said Bowman. "Every practice has been really intense, we've certainly competed very hard and I think that has helped our play on the ice." 

The effort in game one against Syracuse was good, but according to head coach Josh Brandwene, game two was that much better, again showing that the Nittany Lions are certainly starting to figure things out and while they may not have hit their peak yet, they certainly are heading in the right direction.

"We played better today," said Brandwene. "We played much better in all periods than we did yesterday so there is just so much to build on moving forward."

For the Nittany Lions, moving forward they have only four games left in the regular season. Two are at home against Lindenwood and their final regular season series is on the road against Mercyhurst. The team's final home series and will be this weekend against Lindenwood, puck drop will be 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every game down the stretch of a season is important. For the Penn State women's hockey team, their last six regular season games come against conference foes, making them even more meaningful with CHA Playoffs are right around the corner. While the weekend series against Syracuse is an important league weekend, the games hold added meaning for other reasons as well.

For Penn State, the game on Friday is the annual "faculty and staff appreciation" game, that honors the commitment and the service of the faculty and staffers who aid the Penn State women's hockey team. All faculty and staff receive special deals on tickets if they choose to attend. For the team, it is a great chance to give back to all of the workers behind the scenes. According to Shannon Yoxheimer, it is something the team always looks forward to each year.

"I think that without faculty and staff we really couldn't be a team," said Yoxheimer. "You know you really need all the faculty and staff because they do a lot of small things that go unnoticed and so it's a really good night to just recognize all the hard work that they put in."

From the equipment managers to the workers at Pegula, the entire process is a total team effort. As Yoxheimer said, the team wouldn't be able to do what they have the ability to do without all the aid of the faculty and staff. Head coach Josh Brandwene agreed with what Yoxheimer had to say and added that the excellence of the faculty is university wide and doesn't just start or end with the women's hockey team.

"This is a great community," said Brandwene. "When you talk about one team in Penn State athletics, that's not just the 31 sports but it's the entire community. It's the faculty and their amazing support for our student athletes. It's the staff and all they do to support Penn State and its mission; it's tremendous that we get the opportunity to play for all of them."

For Penn State, the weekend festivities do not end with the faculty and staff game. The following afternoon on Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take part in the Skate for the Cure game. All fans who wear pink to that game will receive free admission and also receive the opportunity to skate with the team post-game. Not only that, but just the opportunity for the Penn State team to skate in support of breast cancer research is a huge honor according to Bella Sutton. 

"It's really an honor to give back," said Sutton. "The pink game is a huge game for us just to be able to show our support in the way that we can and being able to play for everyone effected is really cool just to be a part of.

Brandwene echoed Sutton's sentiment and added that the game on Saturday, though obviously important in the standings, is more than just a normal hockey game due to the cause that they will be playing for.

"That just transcends the game," said Brandwene. "What we do, we work really hard at, but nothing is more important than health. To have the opportunity to support cancer research and the opportunity to help find a cure for this horrible disease is just a reminder of the bigger picture and how grateful we have to be for our health." 

Penn State's action packed weekend will begin at 7pm on Friday against the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be the Skate for the Cure game with puck drop at 2:30 p.m. 

 

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