By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
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.