Recently in Women's Hockey Category

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The beauty of sports lies in the unpredictability. That is to say, the game is not decided until the final whistle blows. This was the case Sunday for the Nittany Lions, who scored four goals in the third period to force a 4-4 tie against RIT after a 3-0 victory on Saturday.

"To make a comeback and play as hard as we did from a four-goal deficit, to squeeze out a tie is something very exciting and something the team can be proud of," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "You're down 4-0 with 20 minutes remaining, it just showed what kind of characters we have in that locker room."

After three RIT goals in the first period, Jackson made a change in net for the Nittany Lions. After pitching a shutout on Saturday, Hannah Ehresmann relieved Daniela Paniccia and made 21 saves on 22 shots.

 "It's definitely hard to stay focused since you're not really into the game at first," Ehresmann said. "But in between periods, I was able to work on concentrating and getting loose again."

Victoria Samuelsson scored the first goal of the third period for the Nittany Lions, flicking in a shot that deflected off a stick and into the net. The goal came on the power play, one of two Penn State goals on the man advantage.

"I think the moment we scored that first goal, we knew they were all going to start falling," Laura Bowman said.

And they certainly did start to fall later in the third period as Kate Rydland was able to slice through the defense and put one in the back of the net just after the halfway mark of the third period. 

"It's so cliche, but 0-0 mentality," Jackson said. "We hit that first one, you never know. We got that second one and we knew we were in great shape. You can just see it in their eyes and the momentum they were picking up from shift to shift and the pressure we were putting on RIT." 

Freshman Brooke Madsen made it a one-goal game with under four minutes remaining on a shot from a tough angle that found its way between the pipes.

A charging penalty on Tori Haywood with 2:04 remaining set up Bowman's game-tying goal. Bowman was able to sneak the puck past goaltender Terra Lantaigne with less than one minute to play in regulation, thus forcing an overtime period.

 "We kept with the game plan, our coaches were really supportive," Bowman said. "They said 'hey, they're going to start falling', and they started falling in the third. Four fell thankfully. I think I hit [the fourth goal] and it went under her arm, but I'm just glad. It was a team effort, everyone was buzzing and getting the puck. Right before we went out, Coach Jackson said we will not lose one battle and I don't think we lost a battle the entire time we were out there."

Jackson decided to take further advantage of the late power play by pulling Ehresmann in favor of an extra forward and a two-man advantage, something that was indicative of the toughness and aggression of Penn State throughout the entire third period. 

"The power play has been very strong for us," Jackson said. "It kept us in games and won us some games. We've had success and we are a threat five-on-four. Having that extra attacker, two minutes left, trying to tie it; had to do it. The message was that we were not going to lose a one-on-one battle or a loose puck battle. There was no reason."

Notable Numbers:

Bowman's late goal on Sunday gave her 97 points for her Penn State career, now only three away from the century mark.

Three points (now a total of 12 in conference play) kept the Nittany Lions in third place in the CHA, currently trailing only Robert Morris and Syracuse in the standings with just about a month remaining in the regular season. 

The Nittany Lions host Mercyhurst at home next weekend before a week off.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the second semester begins, so does the second wave of conference play for the Nittany Lions. The team travels to Syracuse this weekend after a stretch of four games over the break against some of the top programs in the country outside the CHA.

"Any opportunity, you take it as a chance to grow," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We want to keep getting better every day. Turning the page and getting towards conference play, we've gotten better in so many aspects of the game this year. We're excited for the next steps."

"Especially in the middle of the season, you want to keep yourself moving at a high speed and I think that's what playing higher-skilled non-conference teams really helps us do," senior Laura Bowman said. 

The Lions certainly hope to build off their non-conference experience as they take on a new mentality with every game meaning so much more in terms of the CHA standings. The Nittany Lions currently sit in third-place, one point behind second-place Syracuse.

Speaking of Syracuse, the return to conference play represents a return to familiarity in more ways than one. Freshman Abby Welch has three older sisters who play or have played college hockey, and one of those sisters, Madison, is currently a sophomore goaltender for Syracuse. Welch is one of two players from New York, along with senior Kelly Seward.

One area the coaching staff has stressed since the beginning of the year has been special teams, and the Nittany Lions have certainly had their success in those areas throughout the first half of the season. 

"The hard work that this team puts into special teams, both power play and penalty kill, is something that they are consistently getting rewarded for," Brandwene said. "Right now, we've got the top power play in conference and our [penalty kill] is ranked number two. Those are things we still have to keep working at, but we want to keep growing and being successful in those areas." 

"We have emphasized that we need to pay attention to the little things," freshman Katie McMillan said. "Paying attention in the D-zone, sticks up when the puck goes to the point, celebrating a blocked shot, just stuff like that. I think the girls are excited for the second half of the season, especially going into the big conference stretch here in the next couple of weeks." 

Offensive numbers have also been up this season in comparison to years past, but the coaching staff attributes that to the dedication and determination of the athletes.

"We've got a room full of hard-working athletes," Brandwene said. "They're incredibly coachable and when you add the skill, talent, and hard work together, that's when you get those kind of results on the offensive side of the scoreboard."

This time of year represents a chance for some of the younger players to reflect on their experience in the program thus far.

For McMillan, her first semester at Penn State has been a journey she won't forget with some relationships on which she can always fall back. 

"I think that this team is the closest team I've ever been a part of, especially these seniors. I look up to each of them so much and I'm really playing the second half of this season for them because they deserve it."

 Puck drop on Friday is set for 7 p.m. and Saturday's game will start at 3 p.m. The Nittany Lions return to Pegula Ice Arena on January 21 for a four-game homestand.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Trailing 4-1 after two periods Sunday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena, the Penn State Nittany Lions needed a spark to get them back on track.

And that's exactly what they got to begin the third period.

Two goals in the first six minutes from Meike Meilleur and Laura Bowman cut the deficit to 4-3, highlighting one of the best stretches of hockey Penn State has played all season. They completely dominated puck possession in the offensive zone, taking control of the tempo of the game and wearing down the Robert Morris defensemen.

"One of the things we stress is short term thinking, breaking things down into chunks," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We don't ever want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to live in the moment. Breaking it down into chunks was something they really responded well to and when you do that, that's when you can live in the moment, have a six or seven-minute stretch that goes like that."

Bowman's goal early in the third period was one of three total for her on the day, and was also the most critical as it gave the Lions confidence that they could pull out of their three-goal hole.
 

"It gave us hope," Bowman said. "We changed up and it ended up working really well. I just wanted to get the puck over to Amy [Petersen] because I knew she was flying down and it just so happened she made a great pass back to me and I was able to put it away."

Unfortunately, a game-tying goal was not in the cards for the Nittany Lions, who ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 score. But the comeback, not the loss, is what this team will take away from the game.
 

"Teams of championship caliber, sometimes they're made in the difficult moments. I truly believe today was one of those days," Brandwene said. "It's one thing to face adversity once, it's one thing to face it over an eight or ten-minute stretch. It's another thing to be down the way we were down on a number of times today. It's another thing altogether to play with that 'it-factor' where you just want it so badly you can taste it. That's something I saw from this hockey team in the last 20 minutes that's far above even what I've seen in the past. While frustrating to lose, that is a big gain for us as a hockey team and I'm really excited about the second semester."

"It definitely shows our team's ability to come back," Bowman said. "We continued to play our game and even played a better game than we did in the first 40 minutes and just dominated the last 20 minutes. We just need to bring those 20 minutes to the full 60."

The Nittany Lions had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but a breakaway empty-net opportunity from Robert Morris trickled through a Penn State defenseman trying to block the goal for a decisive 6-4 lead, one the Colonials would not yield.

Bowman was able to net her third goal of the game on a power play with just under 30 seconds remaining, bringing Penn State back within one. But the Nittany Lions couldn't get another quality shot on net as time expired.
 

The one-goal loss followed up a 4-2 defeat Saturday, a game in which the Nittany Lions hung with Robert Morris for most of the game. Two late goals, one deflecting off the skate of a Penn State defenseman and another empty-netter, proved to be the difference as the Colonials were able to come out on top.

"Bounces happen, that's a part of hockey," Brandwene said. "We were actually in exactly the right position on their third one that did bounce in, so sometimes you do exactly the right thing and the wrong outcome happens."
 

The Nittany Lions have almost a month between now and their next game as they prepare for final exams and the holidays. They resume play on Dec. 30-31 with trips to play Quinnipiac and Princeton before we usher in the new year.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Every Penn State athletic team sends one representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) on campus, in charge of planning out community involvement. For the women's hockey team, that person is junior forward Aly Hardy.

 

"I volunteered personally," Hardy said. "My freshman and sophomore years, I tried to get involved in SAAB, but I always had classes Monday night [meetings are held then]. So I tried to do as much as I could, we'd do canning before some of the games and different activities."


After all of her hard work, Hardy was finally able to become the team rep this season.

 

"Basically, I go to all of the SAAB meetings and then there are individual committees," she said. "I'm a part of a couple of committees, but overall, we just meet and do different things. For the THON committee, I put together the signed stick for the auction for SAAB THON. We just do all those types of things. We'll do athlete events, like we have a movie night coming up for all the athletes. We also make baskets for local communities and that kind of stuff."

 

The "signed stick" refers to the stick signed by all member's of the women's hockey team as part of the SAAB online auction.

 

"All of that money is going straight towards SAAB THON," Hardy said. "All of the different teams put together some sort of piece that they wanted to auction off. Some put together a basket of different apparel that was signed."

 

"It's an important role for every team in Penn State athletics," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "To have a representative that's so dedicated, so consistent with her contributions, makes me really proud as a Penn Stater. It's up to them. It's who wants that role and who wants to make a commitment. It's no surprise to me that Aly stepped up to the plate."

 

Hardy also spoke about the importance of being part of the community, especially as someone in such a prominent role as a student-athlete at Penn State.

 

"I'm an RPTM (Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management) major, so I'm looking into possibly doing event management or planning," Hardy said. "Just being able to be a part of all that and creating things like that. I'm in "The Nittanys" group, so I'm putting together all the stuff for the Nittanys, which is an awards banquet at the end of the year for the athletes. It's just really cool to see that aspect of everything."

 

Inside the glass, Hardy has steadily improved over her two-plus seasons as a Penn Stater, garnering praise and respect from her coach along the way.

 

"She is a leader and example setter with the little things and the details," Brandwene said. "Decisions at blue lines, battles in the corner, blocking shots, out-racing loose pucks and waving off icings, it's those sort of efforts that make the difference over a 60-minute hockey game."

 

Hardy had proved to be a valuable matchup asset because of her adaptability and instinct.

 

"Versatility is one of her great strengths," Brandwene said. "Her hockey IQ is so strong. You can put her in any situation and she is going to thrive."

 

Throughout the year, Brandwene and several players (including Hardy) have cited the team's ability to come back from adversity as a defining factor that has shaped this group's development.

 

"The thing that stands out the most is the way they respond to adversity," Brandwene said. "Whether it's in between periods or out of time outs.  Life is 95 percent how you respond and this team is fabulous at that."

 

"Overall, our bounce backs from any sort of downfall have been great and it really gets everyone going," Hardy said. "Sometimes when one or two people go out after a timeout and kill their shift, it's very motivating for everyone else."

 

The Nittany Lions have a chance to bounce back this weekend as they return to Pegula Ice Arena and conference play with two games against first-place Robert Morris. Puck drops are set for 1 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Being a student-athlete is about more than just wins and losses. For the Penn State women's ice hockey team, their role in the community is something they take great pride in and actively pursue. 

Last Friday at Pegula Ice Arena, several local elementary school students came to watch the Nittany Lions in their game against Lindenwood. A few weeks before, junior Irene Kiroplis went to that very same school to interact with the students.

"I really think that Penn State, being such a prominent thing in State College, makes community involvement very big because the whole community is this school," Kiroplis said. "I think it's pretty awesome that we get to experience that and use hockey as an opportunity to meet little kids and really interact with the community in ways we may not otherwise." 

While she was at the elementary school, Kiroplis took part in several activities, including reading a book to the kids as well as participating in some arts and crafts. 

"I read 'Ten Little Goblins,' a Halloween-themed book to them and then they all told me at once what they were going to be for Halloween," Kiroplis said. "I think I picked up Batman, Superwoman and a zombie. After that, we did finger painting and we made a witch by painting our fingers black and our palms green. We Just kind of stuck them on paper and I 100% did one too."

She also stressed the importance of meeting the kids before they actually come to the game.

"Dana [Crouse] is our community involvement person and she does a really good job connecting with those schools," Kiroplis said. "She has an intern at that school and they thought it would be a really good idea for a couple of us to come meet the kids and interact with them. That way they would have a face and a personality to put to who they're watching." 

"[Community service] comes so naturally to this team," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "It's very instinctive to want to give back. Everybody on this team is really stepping up and supporting the community, whether it be reading in elementary schools, supporting THON, it's just so natural and it's what makes Penn State such a great community and it's what makes them such great Penn Staters." 

Speaking of THON, last Saturday's game featured several THON children in attendance as well as some of the Penn State THON captains. They were able to come out on the ice to play broomball at halftime and hung out with the players afterwards. 

One weekend every February, THON, Penn State's 46-hour dance marathon for children and families affected by childhood cancer, takes over Happy Valley. While that weekend draws the headlines, it's much more than that. It's a yearlong buildup and celebration fighting for a great cause. For freshmen, college and THON can sometimes be unknown and overwhelming in the first few months, but days like Saturday help them understand the significance of the events. 

"It was just really cool to see all the kids and their families," Brooke Madsen said. "Just everyone kind of uniting together in an event. I really liked talking to them and you could just see the happiness on their face." 

The team also participates in Athlete Hour during THON, and they have their own methods for helping to support the cause.

"Last year, we had third jerseys that we auctioned off and gave all the proceeds to THON," Kiroplis said. "This year we just had the yellow tape on our sticks and the THON children come out to our game to kind of represent the very large group of people that Penn State does help."

"Everyone really enjoys [THON] and works together to make a difference," Madsen said. "I just really like that whole working together thing to help them out."

Brandwene put into words the importance of such a significant cause to the whole community.

"THON is that all-in Penn State experience," Brandwene said. "It's one of those things that can't be put on paper, can't truly be quantified; the all out effort on the part of it being first and foremost a student-run philanthropy, the number one ranked student-run philanthropy in the world. And then to have the opportunity for so many people to contribute. You've got the event, the dance marathon itself and all that goes into that. But the canning trips and the athletic teams stepping up to the plate just speaks to what the Penn State community really is."

As much as these Nittany Lions look forward to competing on the ice each week, events like last weekend and having the chance to interact with the community is what truly makes Penn State special.   

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - After giving up a second goal early in Friday's game to fall behind 2-0, the Nittany Lions found themselves with their backs against the wall. Head coach Josh Brandwene decided to call a timeout to calm his players in the hopes that they still had a comeback left in them.

"[During the timeout] I asked them a question," Brandwene said. "I said, 'What haven't we done yet in the period?' And they knew the answer. They said we haven't shot the puck yet. And I said, 'Let's get some pucks to the net, shall we?' They did a good job with that and they did a good job simplifying."

Whatever Brandwene's message was, it seemed to inspire the Nittany Lions, as, a minute after the timeout, they were able to cut the lead in half on a goal from Meike Meilleur.

"It was definitely a harder first period getting down, and we had been playing well, working hard," defenseman Bella Sutton said. "So once we got [the goal], it was good and we got a jump in our step."

"We knew we had to find a way to bury those next couple of goals," defenseman Katie McMillan said. "I thought that after that timeout, we really came out with a lot of energy and it paid off."

With under two minutes to go in the second period, McMillan netted a goal off a beautiful centering pass from Amy Petersen to even the score at two goals apiece. 

"I saw my former teammates from high school, Amy and Laura [Bowman], go on a 2-on-2 and I decided to join the rush," McMillan said. "They went to the left side and I saw back door was open and Amy hit me. It was awesome."

Early in the third period, Sutton put the game away for good as she slammed home a power play goal, her second of the season, to give Penn State a 3-2 lead which they would not surrender.

"Our power play had been working on that, using the flanks," Sutton said. "They have a really good penalty kill so those were the shots they were giving us instead of letting us go across the ice, which other teams would do. I just knew the power play was ending so I tossed it on net and saw it go in. It was a good feeling."

After the game, Brandwene attributed the win to his team's ability to respond despite the slow start.

"I think one of the signs of a team that continues to grow is a team that, after a stretch where we admittedly didn't have our best hockey, is able to in the middle of the period hit the reset button," Brandwene said. "To come out and change the complexion of the game and continue to build on it and grow during the second half of the game says a lot about the student-athletes on this team. I'm really proud of them for the adjustments they made during the second half."

Penn State once again found themselves in a situation where they needed to make adjustments in the second game on Saturday afternoon, as they surrendered a shorthanded goal early in the second period to fall behind. 

"I think we have a lot to learn from the start we got off to today," Brandwene said. "I give Lindenwood a ton of credit for their effort, their work ethic, all that the coaching staff does with that team. They earned the result that they got today and it was a great battle through the second and third period and overtime."

Katie McMillan once again was responsible for the game-tying goal as she punched a rebound in off a deflection from the Lindenwood goaltender on the power play late in the second period.  That goal was enough for the Nittany Lions to walk away with a 1-1 tie in game two. 

"She just continues to work hard," Brandwene said. "She's so coachable and has such a great attitude. When you work hard and have a great attitude, you get rewarded for it." 

"I'm loving her play right now, she's doing great," forward Laura Bowman said. "She's always been such an awesome defender, solid both on offense and defense. She's been getting those back doors all day, every day, and it's been great."

Not to be forgotten was freshman Daniela Paniccia's performance in goal, allowing only three goals over the weekend and making a combined 42 saves. 

"She was terrific and she saw a lot of deflections, a lot of traffic," Brandwene said. "I'm really proud of her effort."

"It's a different game here [in college]," Paniccia said. "One thing I've been working on is having that short-term memory and forgetting what happened. Life happens and you just have to go on from there and just play your best and play in the present."

The Nittany Lions moved to 4-1-1 in conference play, currently trailing only Robert Morris in the CHA standings. They face a tough test next on the schedule as #4 St. Lawrence comes to town for a pair of games starting Nov. 21. 

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer   
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The Nittany Lions are confident right now, having won three of their first four games to start conference play. Pegula Ice Arena will be a welcome site for the team this weekend as they have spent the last few weekends on the road.  Despite the recent road trip, they have by no means let that be an excuse and have continued to perform at a high level.

It's been a total team effort that has led to Penn State's recent success, but head coach Josh Brandwene called out the sophomore class specifically as a group that has been at their highest level for a sustained period.

"They are flourishing right now as individuals and as a group," Brandwene said. "They're committed to all the fine details of the game and getting better as individuals and also doing what they need to do on behalf of the team. You're seeing that both offensively and defensively with that group." 

Brandwene also had praise for a few individuals for their improved play over the past few weeks.

"Meike Meilleur is producing points, Victoria Samuelsson playing great hockey at both ends of the ice. Her speed is right where it needs to be. She's blocking shots, she's penalty killing well. Kelsey Crow with her shot release and all she does for us on the power play penalty kill. I'm very pleased with that class," he said.  

Meilleur in particular has been a big part of the turnaround, as she has scored her first two career goals as a Nittany Lion this season.

"I think just having that confidence is a big part of the game," she said. "Going from freshman year to sophomore year, I think you get that experience and then over time, it's not something you think about, but it just happens naturally especially with the support of your teammates. [Getting that goal] was awesome, getting that assist from Victoria [Samuelsson]. It was the best feeling and something I'll remember forever."

The transition from freshman to sophomore is always a critical one for any college student, and these players understand their changing roles on the team now that they have a year under their belts.

"I feel like we're more involved with the team and have more leadership roles," Victoria Samuelsson said.

"With having so many freshmen now, I think they can look up to us," Meilleur said. "We kind of know the ropes and we're trying to help them out as much as we can." 

"I think what it comes down to is when we do the little things," Kelsey Crow said. "It's not necessarily that we're not doing them, it's that we're being vocal if we see someone like 'Hey, maybe they missed a pass because they weren't focusing'. Just a little tap on the shoulder like 'Hey, get your mind right' or something like that."

The sophomores have also been a strong influence on the freshmen class, making sure their transition to collegiate hockey has been and will continue to be as seamless as possible.

"The experience is helping them be more competitive," Crow said. "Not only fighting for spots but also against the other team where they really want to win battles and really want to get the shot on net."

"I think they're getting a lot more comfortable," Meilleur said. "They fit into the team right away and I think that definitely shows when they play."

 The sophomore class as well as the rest of the Nittany Lions will finally have a chance to host a conference game this weekend as Lindenwood comes to town for a pair of games. 

"We are so excited to play at home," Brandwene said. "I think it'll sink in for us probably after practice tomorrow, when we're not getting packed up and loading a bus."

"It's nice, hopefully we can bring the momentum back here to Pegula," Samuelsson said. 

"It's always good energy, and I think we're all excited to be back after being on the road for so long," Meilleur said. 

Friday's game does come with a little hitch for the Nittany Lions, as puck drop is set for an unusual 11 a.m.

"It's a school day game, so we have a couple of elementary schools coming Friday," Brandwene said. "So that's obviously exciting introducing some young fans to the game.  You prepare the same as always. You try to stick with a similar routine in terms of timing for pregame meal, pregame meeting, and again we're so excited to play at home. 9 a.m., 11 a.m., start time doesn't matter; be ready to go."

"It's definitely something that we're not going to be used to, but we're going to adjust and I think we're going to make the best of it," Meilleur said. 

"It's to our advantage," Samuelsson said. "The game's early so we can get off to a good start."

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The Penn State community is an atmosphere that prides itself in honor, family and commitment. For senior forward Sarah Nielsen, that is a philosophy she is successfully upholding. 

Over the summer, Nielsen spent time at a Young Life camp in her home state of Minnesota. She was paired with Lauren, a child with a disability, and accompanied her around for a week doing various fun activities. Nielsen was deeply inspired by Lauren, and really learned to appreciate the experience. 

"There's beauty in everything, and everyone," Nielsen said. "We just need to open our eyes to see that."

Neilsen's head coach, Josh Brandwene, knows about the camp and what Nielsen does in the community, and he took note of how that has shaped her on the ice.

"I think it fits who she is as a person perfectly," Brandwene said. "She is just such a giving leader. She'll do anything for her teammates, she'll do anything for those around her. It's just the cloth that she's cut from and it comes very naturally to her. That opportunity this summer was honestly a great fit for her."

Freshman forward/defenseman Kate Rydland sees Nielsen as a role model especially now that they are on the ice together more frequently.

"Sarah is one of the nicest, greatest people I've met," Rydland said. "I've been able to look up to her ever since I stepped on campus and she's really helped me. We got put on the line together last weekend and she was really helpful with me. Always cheering me on and stuff. I've loved playing with her."


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Brandwene has seen that side of Nielsen for four years and he heaped praise on her for her attitude both as a player and a person.

"Sarah Nielsen is one of the most positive human beings I have ever met," Brandwene said. "She is an amazing teammate, great student, great person, great representative for this program and one of the best, most responsible two-way forwards you will ever meet."
Her accomplishments in the classroom have earned her several accolades as well. She has been named to the All-Big Ten Academic Team twice as well as earning a spot on the All-CHA Academic Team in all three years here.

"If you want someone to represent Penn State, she's probably one of them," Rydland said. "Great in the classroom, great person, great hockey player. Always smiling, always happy, always has something good to say."

 "To me, as an alum, the notion of being a Penn Stater is everything," Brandwene said. "It's very difficult to define, but she's a Penn Stater because she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself and that's what this community is all about."

On the ice, Nielsen has been productive ever since her freshman season, seeing playing time in at least 36 games in each of her first three seasons and continues to see significant minutes.

 The Nittany Lions are coming off their first sweep of the season at RIT, but they've had the same mindset throughout the early portion of the season.

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 "I think that just shows what we're capable of and that we can play with anyone," Nielsen said. "We just have to learn from last week. Yeah, we swept, but keep moving on."

 "It's a good start, but we got to keep working," Rydland said. "We've got a good conference so every game is going to be a really hard-fought battle."

Back when she wasn't going to class and practice, Nielsen put together a blog about her summer experience with Lauren (read the entire blog here). Here are some of the highlights:

"Many of the activities are thrilling, and I have to admit on things like the zip-line and swings, I was scared! However, Lauren is brave and wanted to do everything - her bravery and courage was inspiring and gave me the strength to do those things with her." 

"Even though I was not a camper, it was one of the best weeks of my life." 

"Words and pictures cannot fully describe my experiences, but they can help capture the essence of our time there. I am thankful for the people I met, the opportunity I was given, and the way each camper touched me. The greatest thing I learned from this week is that all people are beautiful and beauty looks differently on everyone." 

Well said, Sarah.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Eight games are in the books, but the season is really just starting for the Penn State women's hockey team, as they begin CHA conference play this weekend. The Nittany Lions finished 3rd in the conference regular season standings last year, and made it to the CHA final four before bowing out in the semifinals. They are looking to improve on that in 2016-17. 

"[Conference play] really brings everything down to earth and makes things more serious," defenseman Kelsey Crow said. "This is the bulk of our season and what rides and what we need to do to get to the playoffs. It's go time."

"We're ready to get conference play started and show everyone what we've got," forward Laura Bowman said.

There's also a sense of familiarity this time of year as every team has experience against each other and knows the tendencies of one another. 

"There's definitely kind of a rivalry that's built up between almost every team in the CHA," Bowman said. "There's a little bit more excitement, a little more on the line for each game." 

"It's an exciting time of year," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "It really comes down to effort and execution. We all know each other so well as conference foes. There's always that little bit of cat-and-mouse that goes on and when you play the same teams four times a year or more when you get into playoffs, it's all part of the fun."

The start of the CHA season presents a first glance at some of the new faces on other teams as well. 

"Usually teams like to run similar systems that they did the year before," Crow said. "But other times they get whole new players and you kind of have to prepare for maybe that really good freshman that all of a sudden can do something really well."

Despite not winning as many games as they would have liked in the non-conference portion, the team has plenty of optimism moving forward and now knows where adjustments need to be made.

"We're trying to work on getting more traffic to the front," Crow said. "We're working on good puck movement at the point and then just getting it to the net and crowding on those rebounds."

"We're focusing on their power play and making sure we have our penalty kill down," Bowman said. "We're making sure we have our special teams down because it's been a big factor in our season so far." 

Several Nittany Lions have already found their groove in the first few weeks of the season. Bowman leads the team with eight goals, and Amy Petersen is second with four. 

Petersen took home CHA Player of the Week against Union while Brooke Madsen wrapped up Rookie of the Week in the same series. 

Goalie Daniela Paniccia matched Madsen's award last weekend against UConn, tallying her first career shutout in a 0-0 tie. 

"Her work ethic is fabulous," Brandwene said. "She is so coachable. As great a player and as great a student as she is, she's an even better person. She's a pleasure to work with."

The relationship between goaltenders is always a critical aspect of team chemistry, Paniccia and Hannah Ehresmann being no exception.

"They have a tremendous relationship in terms of pushing each other and supporting each other," Brandwene said. "That's what a team atmosphere is all about."

That team atmosphere will be on full in the coming weeks as a pair of games at RIT open up a four game stretch to start the CHA season. Start times are Thursday and Friday at 6:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., respectively.

 

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Senior defenseman Kelly Seward has long been a centerpiece of the Penn State program, playing in at least 35 games in every season she's had so far in Happy Valley. She has come a long way in her development since arriving on campus in 2013, but one thing that has remained constant is her commitment to the program.

"I wouldn't have rather been at any other school," Seward said. "It's been a great experience just being able to play with all the girls I've played with, play in these awesome facilities under  (head coach) Josh [Brandwene]. I'm really going to miss it."

As someone who prides herself in academic performance, Seward has been on the All-CHA academic team in all three seasons as well as being named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar each of the last two years.

"She has contributed so much in so many ways over her four years," Brandwene said. "It started from day one when she was a freshman. As great a hockey player and student as she is, she's even that much a better person. To me, that's what makes a great Penn Stater and she is a great Penn Stater." 

Junior Bella Sutton has been Seward's partner on defense for three years and says her off-ice time around Seward has produced many fun experiences.

"Probably a lot of things [come to mind]," Sutton said. "Kelly and I have been lucky enough to play D together and I feel like we just make the D-side of the bench a lot of fun. We like to sing songs together, keeping it fun on the bench."

"There was one time the song 'Bang Bang' by Jessie J was popular," Seward said. "We just like looked at each other and we just said 'bang.' But we just started singing at the same time. It was really weird. It was like telepathy or something."

"Before every game, when we go out for the first period, we always give a little fist bump, do a secret handshake, so that's something," she added.

On the ice, Brandwene has been eager to heap praise on Seward, lauding her improvement throughout her time at Penn State.

"Her play has gotten better and better every single year," Brandwene said. "She's been that much more well-rounded, that much more dominant and she is off to such a good start, and she is going to go on to do great things this year."

Seward has certainly been a leader this season, especially for the younger defensemen making the transition to college athletics.

"As the senior member of the D-corps, someone who is committed to her craft on both sides of the puck, being involved offensively and taking care of her defensive responsibilities, she's a great role model for the whole D-corps," Brandwene said. 

"The freshmen have done really great this year and we have eight of them," Seward said. "Just by looking at how we've been doing as a team, it definitely reflects how they're doing. I'm really excited."

 With the majority of her season left, Seward is beginning to reminisce about her time as a Nittany Lion, but she also keeps her eyes on her personal goals and goals for the team.

"I really want to, every practice, every period, every shift just not take for granted that this could be my last year playing hockey," Seward said. "Just love every moment of it. And I would like to get a CHA championship out of it."

Winning a CHA championship has been a goal from the first day of practice for this Penn State team as conference play is less than two weeks away.

Aside from a championship, Seward can see a diploma in her future as well. She is on pace to graduate in the spring with a degree in geography.

Seward will not be the first hockey player in her family to graduate from college, as her brother, David, laced up for Nazareth College before receiving his certificate.

Seward's squad hits the road this weekend for a series at UConn before traveling to RIT next week to open CHA play.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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