By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Following a 2013-14 campaign that resulted in just four wins, it was hard to
gauge what was in store for the 2014-15 Nittany Lions. However, after notching
a program-best 17 wins this season, Penn State already has its eyes set on next
"I'm so proud of the
2014-15 team for their hard work, their dedication and everything that they
accomplished this season," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "So many big wins.
So many great moments for this program. 10-5-4 in games decided by a goal or
less says everything about this group in terms of what they've become. They're
winners, and that is just something that we are going to build on going
For the first time as
a Division-I program, the Nittany Lions finished with a winning record and third
place finish, its highest CHA conference regular season finish ever. Four times
as many wins as last season, Penn State was the most improved NCAA team. Furthermore,
the Blue and White earned its highest CHA Tournament seed at No. 4 and scored
its most power play goals in a season with 23 and shorthanded goals with three.
Such success banked on
playing in a family-like atmosphere day-in and day-out.
"Well I think one of the biggest things at the beginning was creating a
new culture and new environment," forward Shannon Yoxheimer said. "We really
achieved that and instilled that into everyone's minds. Everyone really, really
enjoyed being in the environment that was created. It was very genuine and a
very close-knit environment. That's one of the biggest accomplishments outside
of our actual hockey performance that we had as a team."
When looking back on the historic season it is difficult to choose one
game or play that was the most memorable. According to Yoxheimer, the home
sweep against then No. 6 Mercyhust is hard to top, andfor Brandwene, there are
so many exciting performances to reflect upon.
"I think you can look back at the season and really reflect on a number
of those incremental big stepping stone moments," Brandwene said. "One goal win
against St. Cloud in our first weekend as a young team was big. Coming back to
beat RIT in overtime in their building was big as an incremental moment. And
certainly you can look at the sweep of then No. 6 Mercyhurst here at Pegula as
a big moment for this team. Then there is the playoff series. To win a 1-0 game
for our first playoff victory says so much about their poise, and their
patience, and their willingness to stick to the game plan. And then to close
out the series in another close, hard fought game was another big moment for
One of the most important and dynamic aspects of this past season's
squad was the quick emergence of the freshmen. Forward Caitlin Reilly closed
the season with six goals and ten assists, while Bella Sutton tallied seven
scores and eight assists on defense. Sutton stood out so much on the blue line
that she was named to the CHA All-Rookie Team.
"I'm so proud of the entire freshman class," Brandwene said. "We asked
so much of them this season, and they are just such a hard working group. We
asked so much of [Bella Sutton] this year, and for her to perform to the level
that she consistently did all year long, such a well-deserved honor to be on
the CHA All-Rookie Team."
Upcoming senior playmaker Yoxheimer echoed the words of her head coach.
"I was definitely really impressed [with the freshmen] because it's a
really hard transition coming into college hockey," Yoxheimer said. "It's a lot
different. There's more systems, more things to get down, and all of us were
already very familiar with those, so I was really impressed that they were able
to just come in right away. They were contributing. They had the systems down.
I think we are all really proud of them, and it says a lot about who they are."
With eight freshman, four sophomores, 13 juniors, and zero seniors on
the team this past season, the Nittany Lions are in a perfect position to
standout next year.
"Perfect storm coming together for us next season with a tremendous
junior class that will be seniors for us next year," Brandwene said. "An
unbelievable senior class. Laura Bowman and her entire class will be juniors
next year. It's so important to speak about their contributions. Laura making
all-conference, Amy [Petersen] had a great season at both ends of the ice - on
the power play, on the penalty kill - Kelly Seward great year at both ends of
the ice - power play, penalty kill - and Sarah Nielsen, what a job she does in
her role, as does her whole line. So you have that. You have our freshman class
who will be sophomores next year, and a great recruiting class coming in.
Perfect storm. Can't wait to get started."
Bowman, who was named to the All-CHA Second Team, led Penn State with a program-best
31 points (16 goals, 14 assists). She now holds the single season record for
points, goals and shorthanded goals (two). Her line mate Amy Petersen netted 11
goals and accumulated 15 assists. Yoxheimer, who wore the "C" on her sweater,
mustered 12 goals and eight assists.
One of the most integral parts of this team, however, was between the
pipes. The Blue and White had one of the best one-two goalie punches in the
country. Junior Celine Whitlinger finished with a 13-11-1 record, 2.17 GAA and
a .933 save percentage, while freshman Hannah Ehresmann posted a 4-5-3 record
to go along with a 2.35 GAA and a .927 save percentage. Ehresmann's play was so
exceptional that she was selected to the CHA All-Rookie team along with Sutton.
"Tremendous seasons for both Celine Whitlinger and Hannah Ehresmann,"
Brandwene said. "Just fabulous jobs in net. And then the togetherness that all
three of our goaltenders have. We refer to them as the sisterhood. That just
speaks volumes about the atmosphere, and it says a lot about Celine as a leader
that we have such togetherness with that group."
The Nittany Lions earned the CHA's Team Sportsmanship Award, handed out
to the team that totals the fewest amount of penalty minutes during conference
play. Penn State's disciplined play led to a conference-best 7.2 penalty
minutes per contest.
Brandwene is right. With all the experience returning to the program,
the Nittany Lions have a perfect storm brewing for next year.
"We're going to be a really, really tough group to play next year,"
Yoxheimer said. "Right now the goal is to get stronger, focus on competing
every day during the offseason, but having in mind that first game of next year
when we're training."