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Players Reflect on Historic Campaign

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 2013-14 Penn State women's hockey season was monumental in numerous capacities. The young, aspiring program took leaps in its second year of existence with numerous individual and team accolades--displaying its inevitable destiny to grow in coming years.

"Our program has made tremendous steps since day one, both on and off the ice," said senior assistant captain Jenna Welch. "The opportunity of a lifetime lies at our fingertips. I can see this program accomplishing something big in the future."

The Nittany Lions completed their inaugural season in Pegula Ice Arena with a 4-29-3 overall record and a 1-18-1 record in College Hockey America play. Despite the uneven tilt in results, the Blue and White showed grittiness and resilience throughout the season, providing promise for the future.

"There have been a lot of underclassmen stepping up as leaders and they're a very hard working group of girls," said senior captain Taylor Gross. "I am very confident in the girls on the team now and I am so excited to see them grow as players and people even more than they already have."

The season officially came to a close for head coach Josh Brandwene's squad the first weekend in March after the Lions were swept by RIT in the first round of CHA playoffs. Just like many of the games throughout the regular season--the Lions hung with their opponent until the final whistle in the playoffs.

At season's beginning in October, Penn State leaped out to a promising start. With a tie and a win in the first weekend at Vermont, the team returned to Pegula Ice Arena for an eight-game home stand to christen the state-of-the-art facility and in the second ever women's hockey game in the new arena, Penn State earned its first home win behind a third period power play goal from freshman Laura Bowman.

Offense
Midway through the second full season of Division I play, the offense hit a bit of a lull, but regained its stride in the tail part of the schedule.

"I think that our offense performed very well this year besides the drought in the middle of the year," Gross said. "We improved throughout the entire year."

In all, 12 Nittany Lions registered a goal while 19 student-athletes tallied at least one point. By far the most promising aspect of the offensive unit was the production from younger players.

Bowman, a freshman, led the team in goals with 10 and ranked second with 16 points, earning her a spot on the CHA All-Rookie Team. Fellow freshman Amy Petersen ties for fourth on the team with five goals and 15 points, with sophomore Hannah Hoenshell leading the way in points for the Blue and White with 17.

Despite the success from the underclassmen, the senior leaders wished they had seen even more from the whole team.

"For the most part I feel like we did a decent job [converting our scoring chances], but we definitely could have capitalized on a few more opportunities to bury the puck," Welch said. "Just watching the way we moved the puck in the playoffs compared to the beginning of the season says a lot about the work ethic of our team and coaching staff in trying to improve every day."

Defense
Defensively, Penn State displayed composure from top to bottom all year. Graduate student Lindsay Reihl mentored freshman Kelly Seward throughout the season as they challenged one another to become better overall players every single day.

"Overall, our defense has a lot of depth," Gross said of her teammates.

The team totaled 594 blocked shots this season to help out goalkeepers Nicola Paniccia and Celine Whitlinger. The nearly-600 blocks dwarfed the opponents' total of 398. Seward led the way for the Blue and White with 57 blocks to her name in a very impressive freshman season and her counterpart Reihl ranked second 55.

In Paniccia's senior campaign, she saved 773 shots while posting a .913 save percentage in 22 starts. Oddly enough, Whitlinger's save percentage matches that of her senior mentor as the sophomore turned away 559 opponent shots and earned three of the team's four wins.

Sky's the Limit
The maturity and determination within this young team and even younger program provides light for the future in Hockey Valley. Penn State was awarded the Team Sportsmanship Award by the CHA at season's end while Gross earned the Individual Sportsmanship Award in the conference.

Players and coaches will look back at monumental events like move-in day to Pegula Ice Arena, the first game in the 'New Den' and a record-breaking crowd in the Lions' Skate for the Cure game. All of these point towards a bright future for the second year program.

"I will always be so appreciative of the opportunity to have played at this amazing university," Welch said. "T
he experience I had here has helped build me into the person I am today, and is one I will remember for the rest of my life. I encourage the girls to always remember how blessed they are to have this opportunity and enjoy every second of being at Penn State."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Reihl's Poise, Consistency Prepares Lions for Future

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State women's hockey team is preparing for the College Hockey America Tournament, some student-athletes can't help but reflect on their careers that are nearing an end.

"This team has meant the world to me throughout my Penn State career," said graduate student Lindsay Reihl.

The assistant captain has appeared in all 69 games that the Nittany Lions have played since moving to the Division I level of competition in 2012-13. Her consistency, durability and gritty efforts have been a cog in the Blue and White's defense since the birth of the program and she earned the "A" patch prior to the 2012-13 campaign.

"She has had a fabulous run here at Penn State," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "She's been at her best when she is making consistent simple decisions and I've been really pleased with her play and her efforts these past years. She is someone with experience and is a veteran Penn Stater so assistant captain was a great fit for her."

On and off the ice, the 5-foot-4 defender has helped her team grow into the best, cohesive unit that it can be. She joined the club team in 2009 as a freshman and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors her freshman, sophomore and junior campaigns.

"I watched this team grow from the club level to the varsity level and being a part of that was something that was unique and is a huge part of me and my identity here,' Reihl said.

Currently earning her master's degree in academic counseling, Reihl plans to remain in Happy Valley the next few years to complete her degree and then pursue a career as an educational counselor at the high school level. This is her last season competing collegiately, but she knows that the sport of hockey and Penn State will stay close to her for a lifetime.

"There are girls on this team that I know I will be lifelong friends with," she said. "I'm sure I'll play hockey in the future because I'll always be playing hockey...but nothing will compare to this level or playing at Penn State."

Reihl's impact on the coaching staff and her teammates has been undeniable in her time wearing the blue and white.

"Her poise and how she conducts herself as a mentor has been very beneficial for this young team and I am very appreciative," Brandwene said.

"Lindsay has been there for me the whole season and she has really helped me develop and taught me a lot," said freshman defender Kelly Seward.

Reihl is one of five student-athletes that will be suiting up for the last time this season. Seniors Taylor Gross, Jenna Welch, Nicole Paniccia and graduating junior Tess Weaver join her. Although the program is young, these departing Nittany Lions are confident that team will continue to grow after they graduate.

"The younger girls on this team are absolutely going to carry the team for the next few years and it is going to continue to develop into an amazing program," Reihl said.

This weekend, the team heads to Rochester, N.Y., for a three-game playoff series with RIT. The winner of the series will advance to play No. 1 seed Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa.

"Heading into the playoffs--I'm excited but I'm sad that it is going to be my last handful of games," Reihl said.

Penn State dropped three of the four contests with the Tigers this season and earned a 2-2 tie against the rival squad at home in January. Friday's puck drop is set for 7 p.m., Saturday's game will begin at 2 p.m. and Sunday's game--if necessary--will also faceoff at 2 p.m.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Tremendous Effort Displayed on Senior Weekend

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "I think for us as seniors, we got a chance to be in a position that a lot of people aren't lucky enough to have and that's starting a new program, starting a new culture and making history," said senior goaltender Nicole Paniccia following the final home series for the women's hockey team.

Weaver-Tess.jpegPenn State came up short in both games against No. 8 Mercyhurst over the weekend, dropping Saturday's (Feb. 15) contest, 4-0, and Sunday's (Feb. 16) battle, 4-1, to the Lakers. For captain Taylor Gross, assistant captains Lindsay Reihl and Jenna Welch, and fellow seniors Paniccia and Tess Weaver--Sunday was the final time these Nittany Lions skated out in front of their home crowd.

"Obviously it is really emotional and I'm an emotional person," said Gross, who served as the program's first-ever captain. "It's been an awesome two years here and I would make the same decision over and over and over again."

The decision Gross is referring to was the choice to transfer to Penn State from Connecticut after her sophomore season. Welch and Paniccia also began their careers as Huskies and transferred in the same season that Gross did.

"The collective culture that they've created here has been outstanding," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "What they've done is 'pay it forward' for this program for years to come, and I'll never stop being grateful for that."

Following Sunday's tight contest, the senior class was honored with a ceremony on the ice in front of their teammates, families and friends.

"This was a special weekend for this program for so many reasons," Brandwene said. "With our seniors--I don't even know where to start to describe how grateful I am for their leadership and how well they've represented this program."

The weekend series was special for reasons beyond appreciating the senior class. The Blue and White put up a very impressive performance against the No. 8 team in the nation, holding the Lakers to eight goals compared to their last series in which they allowed 15.

"I've been saying this pretty consistently the past few weeks and it's who this team has become in the last six weeks," Brandwene said. "You can sharply see the 'compare and contrast' from the end of our first semester against Mercyhurst to now."

To hold the visitors to nearly half the goals as the last series in December, the Nittany Lions exhibited a calm and collected demeanor. Paniccia and fellow goaltender Celine Whitlinger turned away a combined 78 shots against the 11-time College Hockey America champions.

"This weekend was a gritty effort, especially in our defensive zone," Brandwene said. "For us to go right down to the wire with them [Mercyhurst]--that's playoff style hockey."

The only Penn State goal of the weekend was scored by sophomore Hannah Hoenshell in Sunday's contest--it was her fifth strike of the season.

The home schedule is all wrapped up for the inaugural season inside Pegula Ice Arena, but the season isn't over yet for Brandwene's squad.

This weekend the squad will head to Neville Island, Pa., to take on Robert Morris for the final regular season series of this campaign. Following that, the Nittany Lions will compete in the first round of the CHA Tournament at the conference's highest seed.

"I am going to be really sad for this experience to end but we still have games left," Gross said.

When the five seniors step off the ice for the final time, it certainly won't be the last time their presence is felt in Happy Valley.

"They are special people and they are leaving a tremendous legacy behind," Brandwene said.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Many Positive Takeaways From Hard-Fought Weekend

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's hockey team dropped two tight contests to Lindenwood over the weekend, coming up just one goal shy in each matchup against their conference foe. Saturday's (Feb. 8) showdown ended 2-1 while Sunday's (Feb. 9) barnburner ended 4-3 in overtime, both in favor of the opponent.

Hoenshell-Hannah (3).jpegSunday's overtime loss was especially heartbreaking, as the Nittany Lions dominated the third period in which they put up two goals--only to lose in overtime. In the extra frame, the Blue and White fired eight shots on goal compared to the visitors' single game-winning shot.

"When you fight that hard, that's what makes it tough," said head coach Josh Brandwene.

The Nittany Lions have been ending up on the short end of the stick in terms of shot quantity vs. their opponents this season (725 to 1,209), but that wasn't the story against Lindenwood.

Brandwene's offense posted 93 shots compared to just 54 for the visiting Lions.

"Our goal is to get ten to fifteen shots per period and we hit that mark this weekend," said sophomore Hannah Hoenshell, who assisted two goals on Sunday. "We had some good quality chances throughout the game. Obviously we didn't bury all of those chances and that is frustrating."

Hoenshell's vision on the ice is complemented by freshmen line mates Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen's ability to light lamp. Their line has established itself as a legitimate scoring threat throughout the season and has developed an undeniable chemistry.

"I think we are working really well together and they (Laura and Amy) are both doing a good job of finishing the chances they are getting," Hoenshell said. "We are all setting each other up pretty nicely."

"Hannah had her feet moving today and when she has her feet moving, she's fun to watch," Brandwene said.

This was the first home series in which Penn State truly dominated the scoreboard in shot totals and also kept the puck in the offensive zone for the majority of the battle, making the two losses particularly frustrating.

Coming up clutch in the third period of Sunday's near comeback was sophomore defender Jordin Pardoski, who scored the game-tying goal with just over a minute and a half remaining in the third frame.

"I couldn't be happier with Jordin Pardoski's play both as a defender and a leader," Brandwene said.  "She stepped up to the plate big time this weekend when the team needed her."

Pardoski's slap shot goal energized the Nittany Lion bench and gave the team momentum as they headed into the extra period. Penn State came out of the brief two-minute intermission firing on all cylinders, but couldn't fend off Lindenwood's breakaway that ended the contest.

"It was a fun game to play in," Pardoski said. "I like playing them (Lindenwood) because the defense really gets involved."

The high quality and improved quantity of shots was an impressive feat of the weekend and was something that the team will look to build on. Adding to those high shot totals on Saturday was senior assistant captain Jenna Welch, who scored her first goal of the season and the team's only goal in the 2-1 defeat.

"I'm all about effort and heart and these kids played with a ton of both this weekend," Brandwene said.

Penn State rounds out their home schedule against College Hockey America opponent Mercyhurst this weekend. Saturday's puck drop is set for 8 p.m. and Sunday's senior day showdown is slated to start at 1 p.m.

Seniors Taylor Gross, Nicole Paniccia, Jenna Welch, graduate student Lindsay Reihl and Tess Weaver, a junior who completed her degree in three years, will take the ice at Pegula Ice Arena for the final time in the blue and white uniforms.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - "The people that needed to win today won today," said head coach Josh Brandwene after Saturday's Skate for the Cure game against RIT, "that's the children of THON, and Pink Zone."

Bowman-Laura (3).jpegDespite a valiant effort from the Penn State women's hockey team on Friday and Saturday, they came out of the weekend without a win. Friday's fast-paced performance earned the Blue and White a 2-2 tie while Saturday's emotional contest ended, 3-1, in favor of the Tigers.

"Certainly it wasn't the hockey result we were hoping for, but certainly a great result for two great causes," Brandwene said after Saturday's game. "I could not be more proud of the Penn State community today in their support. It warmed my heart to see that kind of support."

The two games marked the fourth and fifth games in an eight-day span for Penn State. That busy schedule included a road series at Syracuse and an away game at Princeton.

"We've expended a heck of a lot of energy these past eight days," Brandwene said.

Despite the physically trying schedule, players and coaches didn't use their fatigue as an excuse for coming up on the short end of the stick.

"Not making excuses--but after five games in eight days I think we were kind of tired," said freshman forward Laura Bowman. "We were looking for a spark in (Saturday's) game but couldn't find it until late in the third period."

The series was one of the best executed, competitively played and emotionally charged of the season for the Nittany Lions, who consider RIT a rival team. Crisp passes, fast skating and energetic play defined the weekend for Penn State.

"They are now doing the things they need to do to win a playoff series, and it's a matter of it becoming a habit and a consistent habit," Brandwene said.

The team's execution over all areas of the ice was in large part provoked by the energized, record-breaking crowd of nearly 1,800 fans on Saturday.

Many in attendance were dressed in pink or gold to support the causes of THON and Pink Zone as well as the Nittany Lions who donned pink jerseys with gold skate laces and gold stick tape.

"That was the largest crowd we've had and it was so amazing to play in front of that many people, Bowman said. "Our team really rides the waves of emotions and the fan base really helped us (on Saturday)."

Bowman notched the first goal of the game on Saturday on a laser that narrowly got by RIT goaltender Brooke Stoddart with only 13 seconds left in the period, creating an explosion of energy and emotion from the Penn State bench and the crowd.

"Whenever we score our team reacts so well to it," said senior goalie Nicole Paniccia.

Although Brandwene's squad was unable to match the three Tiger goals scored after Bowman's, the coaching staff was pleased with several facets of their game.

"It wasn't a matter of when we scored or when they scored, it was a matter of consistency," Brandwene said. "I was very happy with what I saw and how hard they fought throughout the weekend."

As the season approaches its end and the team gears up for the CHA tournament, weekends such as this one give the squad a new perspective on their skill sets and their ability to defeat a conference opponent.

"We match up well with RIT," Paniccia said. "Hopefully we get them again in the playoffs."

Six games remain on the regular season schedule, four of which are at home in Pegula Ice Arena and all of which are conference matchups.

All CHA teams qualify for the conference tournament, which begins with a three-game series on Feb. 28 at the higher seed. If the season were to end today, the Nittany Lions would head to Pittsburgh to take on Robert Morris in the first round.

Next up for Penn State is a home series against Lindenwood this weekend. Saturday (Feb. 8) and Sunday's (Feb. 9) puck drops are both set for noon.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions Playing for Something Bigger Than Hockey

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pinkblog_9656069.jpegBy Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
On Saturday, the Penn State women's hockey team will host their Skate for the Cure game against RIT with proceeds benefiting THON and WBCA Pink Zone at 2 p.m.

"This is what Penn State is all about," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "Being a part of Penn State is about being a part of something bigger than yourself."

The team will stray away from the Nittany Lions' traditional blue and white uniforms for this game in their attempt to "pink out" Pegula Ice Arena. The pink game jerseys are currently being auctioned off online with the proceeds and other donations set to benefit THON and Pink Zone. The team hosted a similar event last season, but used pink tape on their sticks instead of donning the jerseys.

"I think it's great that we get to show our support for these causes by wearing those jerseys and playing for a bigger purpose," said sophomore Jill Holdcroft.

Cancer has affected or taken the lives of countless individuals connected to Penn State athletics and the entire Happy Valley community. Events such as this game and THON exemplify the strength and sense of unity throughout the community in the fight to cure all forms of cancer.

"It is unfortunate that cancer has probably touched everyone's life in some way, shape or form," Brandwene said. "To be a part of something bigger than hockey and bigger than athletics--something that is so quintessential Penn State--is a great opportunity for us."

Penn Staters going above and beyond for philanthropic purposes isn't limited to fundraisers and charitable events. Just last week, men's hockey assistant captain David Glen completed a five-day bone marrow donation process to help save the life of a woman with leukemia. Glen underwent the donation after learning he was a match through the Match4Kim Drive in November 2012. The drive was held to support Kim Roper, mother of men's lacrosse player Drew Roper.

"Playing for Penn State means much more than just playing your sport," said freshman defender Kelly Seward. "You see things like what David Glen did and it shows what we are all about."

The disease has directly affected the vast majority of Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes and some have even had cancer during their time at Penn State. Track and field assistant coach Fritz Spence successfully battled his case of acute myelogenous leukemia after diagnosis in 2008. Spence underwent bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy throughout his difficult road to recovery. He attributed his ability to recover to maintaining positive energy and the support he received from the tight-knit Penn State community.

Saturday's game will be the second contest of a two-game series with RIT. The last time these teams met, the Tigers took both games from the Nittany Lions in Rochester. This College Hockey America showdown on Saturday will serve as much more than another conference matchup for coaches and players.

"This game means a lot to me," Seward said. "Recently I lost my grandfather to cancer so I think it will be very special for me to play for this cause."

Fans will be admitted to Saturday's game at Pegula Ice Arena for free and are encouraged to wear pink to show their support for THON and Pink Zone. Puck drop is slated for 2 p.m. with a free skate on the main rink following the game.

"For me, not only as a coach but as an alum, being a part of a special event like this that benefits two tremendous causes is what life is all about," Brandwene said.

Seward's Multi-Faceted Game Continues to Improve

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman defender Kelly Seward made an immediate impact at the beginning of this season, scoring her first collegiate goal and the team's first score of the season on the same slap shot against Vermont.

Seward-Kelly.jpegCoaches and veterans praised her consistent and multi-faceted playing style back in October and now, with 20-plus games under her belt, Seward continues to impress her teammates.

"She has brought and continues to bring a tremendous skill set to the ice," said head coach Josh Brandwene, "and that's something she's brought since her first day at Penn State."

The 5-foot-9 Williamsville, N.Y., native likes to consider herself an "offensive defender" because of how her defensive stops can translate into goals for the Blue and White.

"I try to play solid defense on every shift so I can create good breakout passes to get the team up the ice," Seward said.

The freshman got off to an explosive start in October, scoring two goals and registering seven blocks in the team's season-opening series. Her offensively minded style of defense has accumulated a team-leading 44 blocks, creating countless rushes and scoring chances for the Nittany Lions.

"She possesses great vision and moves the puck incredibly well," Brandwene said, "and on top of that she does a great job generating solid shots from the point."

Although she hasn't generated a point since scoring her third goal of the season against New Hampshire in late October, Seward has continued to improve in all areas of the ice.

"It has been nice to watch her gain confidence on the ice, get more physical, add aggression to her game and grind it out in the corners," said fellow defender Lindsay Reihl. "She's been my linemate all season and has helped me grow as well."

Reihl, a senior, has been influential in growth of Seward's game throughout the season.

"Lindsay and I talk a lot on the ice during games," Seward said. "She's definitely helped me grow and she has always given me her support."

As the season nears its final stretch, Seward and the coaching staff agree that there's still time--and always time--to improve.

"Her consistency in the defensive zone has been her biggest improvement this year," Brandwene said. "I am really appreciative of how coachable she is and how dedicated she is. We've still got a ways to go this season and Kelly will only continue to improve."

At minus-three, Seward leads the Nittany Lions in plus/minus among those who have played at least 24 games.  As the second tallest athlete on the team, her presence is continually felt by opposing teams and her teammates when she's on the ice.

Like many of the student-athletes on the team, Seward got her start with hockey at a very young age. She started playing competitively when she was just five years old and never looked back. Many skaters get their hockey careers started on roller skates, but Seward went straight to the ice.

She played for the Nichols School and the Buffalo Bisons club team while in high school, and she attributes her fast start at the collegiate level to the experience she gained with her teams of the past. She helped guide the Bisons to three New York state titles from 2010-12 and earned numerous accolades in doing so.

For Seward, being a freshman at a university as large as Penn State was daunting at first, but her team made her feel right at home.

"Of course it was tough at first being a new freshman and not knowing many people, but our team has grown a lot and now I feel like I'm part of a family," Seward said.

Seward will hit the ice this weekend as her team hosts RIT on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Saturday's game will serve as the team's "Skate for the Cure" event in which the team will wear pink jerseys that will then be auctioned off. Proceeds from the auction and donations will be donated to WBCA Pink Zone and THON.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

What to Watch: Penn State vs. Syracuse

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's hockey team travels to Syracuse, N.Y., this weekend for a College Hockey America matchup with the Orange. Syracuse serves as the first repeat opponent of the season for the Nittany Lions, as head coach Josh Brandwene's team dropped two straight contests to the conference rivals in November.

Brandwene-Josh.jpegCoach Brandwene is eager for his team to get another shot at the Orange this weekend as they will try to earn their first-ever victory against the hosts.

"We're really riding off this latest win," Brandwene said. "With the energy and enthusiasm we have on the bench and how we've been playing the game right now, we're really looking forward to the weekend."

What To Watch - Penn State (4-17-2, 1-9-0 CHA)
Return to Conference Action: This weekend's series marks a return to CHA play after four-straight non-conference battles. In the last four non-CHA games, the Nittany Lions earned a 1-3 record. The Blue and White were blanked in two games by the Buckeyes in Columbus and then snapped a six-game winless streak while playing host to Colgate.

Close Combat: The Nittany Lions are no strangers to close, nail biting games. Eleven contests this season have been decided by one or fewer goals and the squad has earned a 2-7-2 record in those matchups. Five of these games went into overtime and Penn State holds a 1-2-2 record for games with an extra frame. Last weekend's 2-1 OT win over Colgate was the first overtime win in program history.

Talented Youngsters: Of the team's 82 points that have been scored this season, 66 have been scored by freshmen or sophomores. The youth-powered second line of Hannah Hoenshell, Amy Petersen and Laura Bowman has accounted for 35% of the team's points. Hoenshell, a sophomore, has tallied 11 points, while the freshmen duo of Petersen and Bowman has accounted for 18 combined points with nine apiece.

What To Watch - Syracuse (12-9-2, 4-4-2 CHA)
Mid-Season Surge: Syracuse has posted an impressive 4-1 record since returning from a lengthy month-long break with wins over RIT, Colgate and Vermont and a single loss to RIT. This peak in performance came after posting a 2-3-1 record in the six games leading up to winter break.

In The Hunt: The Orange are breathing down the necks of first place CHA rivals RIT. The series split with the Tigers keeps RIT just one point above Syracuse in the CHA standings. The 'Cuse will play their next four games at home and will face RIT again in the final two games of the regular season.

Peak Power Play Performance: A big reason for Syracuse winning four of their last five has been their dominance on the power play. They've scored on six of 22 skater-up chances in the last five and own a .192 power play percentage on the season.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Season Full of Firsts Continues with OT Win

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Saturday's (Jan. 11) 2-1 overtime victory over Colgate, the Penn State women's hockey team made another significant stride towards improvement in a season filled with first-ever accomplishments.

Hoenshell-Hannah (3).jpegThe winning effort served as the programs first overtime victory in its two-year history and came less than 24 hours after the Nittany Lions dropped a contest that also went into an extra frame. Prior to the win, the team's all-time overtime record was 0-3-4.

"To have such a back-and-forth game again on Saturday, after the game we playing on Friday, says a lot about who this team is and how far they've come," said head coach Josh Brandwene.

On Friday (Jan. 10), the Blue and White couldn't extinguish the Raiders' comeback effort as they allowed a game-tying goal late in the third period and ultimately fell to the visitors, 3-2.

Despite the emotional loss, the team was able to bounce right back and make history in front of its home crowd the next day.

"It's all about having a little bit of time and having permission to be with your emotions," Brandwene said. "We had the ability to turn the page when the sun came up the next morning."

Brilliant goaltending from senior Nicole Paniccia and a well-executed offensive attack guided Brandwene's squad to the win on Saturday, taking some weight off the shoulders of the student-athletes.

"We obviously had a bit of a losing streak going on," Paniccia said, "so a win like that just feels so unbelievable and we are all so pumped from it."

The senior netminder had a nearly perfect outing, turning away 39 Colgate shots en route to her first win of the season. Her efforts earned her College Hockey America Goaltender of the Week honors for the first time in her collegiate career.

"I couldn't have had a game like that without my team in front of me," said Paniccia, who turned away double-digit shots in each of the three periods of regulation (13, 14 and 10).

Joining the Canadian puck stopper in collecting weekly CHA honors was sophomore Hannah Hoenshell, who assisted on the game-tying goal and scored the game-winner on Saturday in overtime. The forward collected CHA Player of the Week honors for the second time in her career behind her two-point and four-block weekend.

"It felt great to score that goal and contribute to the win, especially after losing in overtime the night before," Hoenshell said.

Both of the Nittany Lions' goals on Saturday were scored by Hoenshell's line, which features the sophomore and freshmen Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen. Bowman notched the game-tying goal on a feed from Hoenshell in the second period.

"I really enjoy playing with both Amy [Petersen] and Laura [Bowman] and I think we all work well together," Hoenshell said. "They obviously already had chemistry together coming into this season since they played together in high school, but we have really clicked."

The freshmen duo played together at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota before donning the blue and white uniforms this season.

Saturday's nail-biter snapped a five-game losing streak and a six-game winless run for the Nittany Lions and improved their record to 4-17-2 on the season.

"A win like that can really change the momentum of the season," Hoenshell said.

Hoenshell and the rest of the squad won't take the ice again until Fri., Jan. 24 when they travel to Syracuse to take on the Orange in a two game series.

"Having a weekend off after a win like that is awesome because we have two weeks ending on a win," said Paniccia. "From here we will grow from that feeling and continue to improve."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Lions Enter 2014 Feeling Rejuvenated After Break

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By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 26-day break between games is over for the Penn State women's hockey team, as they returned to campus last Sunday (Dec. 29) to begin preparing for their series at Ohio State that begins tonight.

Bowman-Laura (3).jpegThe 3-14-2 Nittany Lions haven't played a game since the first week of December when they dropped a series to College Hockey America foe Mercyhurst in Erie, Pa., but the team is feeling confident coming out of the long break.

Although nearly a month between games has passed and head coach Josh Brandwene's team had more than a week off of practice, they feel as if they have stayed in competitive hockey shape.

"We looked fresh and rejuvenated when we came back from break," said senior captain Taylor Gross, who ranks second on the team in points this season with 10 (6 goals, 4 assists). "We had some workouts that our strength coach gave us and I think that the break was really good for us."

Players had several strategies for staying in shape over the break in addition to following the prescribed workouts from strength and conditioning coach Michael Chatman.

"For me, I went to the gym that I use when I am home and I completed the workouts that were given to us," said junior forward Jess Desorcie. "I also got on the ice to skate and helped coach my younger sister's team."

Assistant captain Jenna Welch followed a similar routine over break, competing in several pick-up games with former teammates from high school.

The long break provided a substantial mental and physical break from the rigors of life as a student-athlete, especially after final exam week closed out 2013.

"Finals week is fairly laid back in terms of hockey and we are really given the chance to focus our attention on finals," Desorcie said. "We have the opportunities to skate and lift on our own time, but nothing is mandatory that week which relieves a lot of stress."

Now, after the lengthy stress-relieving break, this group is eager to get back out on the ice to take on the rival Buckeyes in Columbus.

"This is the first time we will be playing another Big Ten team," Desorcie said, "and to be honest we are not looking at it as a rival school but just another game."

Although Penn State and Ohio State compete in the Big Ten in several sports, women's hockey is not one of the conference's varsity sports. On the men's side, however, this season marks the inaugural season of Big Ten men's hockey--the conference in which the Nittany Lions' men's program is competing in after being independents last season.

"I'm sure that once we are there [in Columbus] and get on the ice, the excitement level will be a little higher," Desorcie said.

This upcoming weekend's series with the Buckeyes begins a seven-game non-conference stretch for the Nittany Lions. The squad won't return to CHA action again until a home series against RIT on Fri., Jan. 31 at Pegula Ice Arena.

Although the first half of the 2013-14 campaign doesn't have as many notches in the win column as Brandwene's squad would like, the team has continually drawn positives from each contest.

The coaching staff has expressed a desire to improve consistency in multiple facets of the team's game, which they believe will translate into more wins. Specifically, the Nittany Lions look to clean up their play in the defensive zone to generate more offensive opportunities.

"Breaking out in the defensive zone and making those smart, decisive plays in neutral ice will put more pressure on our opponents," said sophomore defender Jordin Pardoski. "It's then that we can hope for more offensive chances."

The Nittany Lions hope to bring more consistency to the ice in 2014 as they battle their way through the second half of the season, but for a team that takes things game-by-game; their focus is on Ohio State.

The two teams will square off on Friday, Jan. 3 at 7:07 p.m. and again on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 4:07 p.m. The Nittany Lions will return home to Pegula Ice Arena on Fri., Jan. 10 when they host Colgate in the first of two games.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--