Recently in Women's Hockey Category

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - We hear it all the time in sports. It's not how you start; it's how you finish. While it may be an old saying, it certainly applies to this year's Penn State women's hockey team.

The Nittany Lions' regular season concludes with series at No. 8 Robert Morris and home against Syracuse, currently the top two teams in the CHA.

Coming off a sweep at Lindenwood last week, these series give the Lions a chance to see how they match up with the competition.

"It gives us a lot more confidence," sophomore defenseman Kelsey Crow said. "Going into these next two weekends, we're going to come out much harder and we're going to stick to our game plans and stick to what we're doing best."

With the CHA tournament less than three weeks away, the next couple weeks will be telling of how the Nittany Lions will fare in Buffalo.

They are currently slotted as the No. 3 seed and, pending a win over one of the bottom teams in the conference, they would face either Robert Morris or Syracuse in the second round and presumably the other in the championship game if they advance. 

"You want to play these teams at the end of the season," interim coach Dean Jackson said. "It gets you really prepared for that playoff, that one-game elimination. To play No. 1 and 2 really sets the tone and gets our team in the mindset of that playoff format right now."

"It really gets us in the mindset that this is playoff hockey and this is what it's going to be like," freshman forward Brooke Madsen said. "We need to come out hard every shift."

As far as this weekend against Robert Morris is concerned, the Nittany Lions are continuing to trust the process and hope to ride that momentum from the aforementioned sweep. 

"It's a pretty consistent theme for us, just be disciplined within our systems," Jackson said. "We just want to continue to keep it simple but with pace that's going to be difficult to play against. We believe that what we have in place is difficult for our opponent to counter. When you have confidence in that as well, it makes a big difference." 

Penn State also has to be smart on the offensive end, considering Robert Morris goalie Jessica Dodds is one of the best in the CHA, sporting a .922 save percentage.

"With her or anyone else, I don't think it's any mystery," Jackson said. "You want to play percentages. You have to shoot the puck to score goals. We want to get pucks on net, force her to make a save, and control some rebounds under pressure." 

The Nittany Lions are looking for a bit of redemption as well, letting the two games earlier in the season against Robert Morris slip away from them at Pegula thanks to strong performances from forwards Brittany Howard and Jaycee Gebhard. 

"They're a well-coached team, every player is a threat," Crow said. "It's not like we can take a shift off. Even though we probably want to focus on them, we're not going to change what we do because of them." 

"We just have to come out faster and stronger than them and limit their time with the puck in the offensive zone," Madsen said.

The series at Robert Morris begins tonight at 7 p.m. and concludes tomorrow at 3 p.m. The Nittany Lions are currently one point ahead of fourth-place Mercyhurst in the standings.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As the season draws closer to a conclusion, we take a look back at some of the bright spots that have shined throughout the year. One of those top performers on the women's hockey team this year is sophomore forward Meike Meilleur, who has stepped into a prominent role in 2017. 

After not netting a goal in her first season with the Nittany Lions, Meilleur has consistently stepped up in big moments for the team in 2016-17.  She has tallied six goals so far in her sophomore season to go along with four assists.

"I think [the key] is coming back here and knowing the ropes," Meilleur said. "Every year, the girls go as a team and you get a lot of help from the coaches. I think it's just building on confidence and overall in practice getting better every day."

The second time around is almost always a time for vast improvements, as student-athletes are past the adjustment period and can now focus on bettering every aspect of their craft. A second year of experience also helps to solidify that sense of familiarity within a program in order to take that next step in development.

"It's a lot better, coming back and knowing the 'dos and don'ts' of everything," Meilleur said. "Knowing what you're expected of, coming to the rink and just trying to get better every year."

Teammates and coaches are taking notice as well, as Meilleur has started to find her groove, which has significantly increased her confidence.

"She's really grown a lot this year, she's become a little goal scorer," senior forward Amy Petersen said. "That's great, we need that on this team. She's really found her role on the team and I think she's going to have a great next couple of years here."

"Meike is having a great year, certainly someone you can rely upon for sure," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "It's good that she's having a breakout year, but that's what you expect of your players. Each year, it's another year of development and experience."

Jackson also touched on the second year as being one without as many questions as the players settle into every aspect of the college game.

"When you come back in your second year in particular, there's no mystery as to who your opponent is going to be, what the speed of the college game is going to be, what the environment is going to be like," he said.  "There's a lot of familiarity there so it allows you to be comfortable within the confines of that game, that weekend." 

Meilleur and the rest of the Nittany Lions have a critical stretch of six games coming up before the CHA tournament, including four away from Pegula Ice Arena. As they prepare for the final stretch, the message is simple: Keep grinding.

"We're just sticking to the basics, getting back to our game plan," Meilleur said. "We'll fine-tune everything and we're very excited. We've got a lot going for us this week."

The Nittany Lions also took advantage of having last week off in order to have that little extra rest and recuperation time as the last stretch is so vital.

"There's definitely a jump in their step," Jackson said. "It's always going to be a fun and exciting time when you have that break. It doesn't matter what level you're at, when you have that break, it gives you an opportunity to take a step back and take some of that pressure off." 

Play resumes this weekend as Penn State travels to Missouri to take on Lindenwood Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - To say five months of college hockey can take a toll on the body and mind would be an understatement. Having to be your best at all times and going out to battle twice a week begins to leave its mark after a while.

Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they have a chance to step back this week as they prepare for their final six games of the regular season. The bye week give the team an opportunity to recuperate and get set for that final push towards the conference tournament.

"We really took advantage of this opportunity to continue the flow and the pace that we've been working with all year," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "It's an opportunity to continue to work on our game plan moving forward." 

The coaching staff took the time to work on the specifics during the off week, working with the players on skills such as trying to play the puck out of the defensive zone. 

"It's certainly a skill. A lot of times our opponents are going to pinch us so we need to protect [the puck] and pull off the wall, because that's a space that's going to be open. That's where you're going to make your play," Jackson said. 

Abby Welch was the player working on the drill during press time, but it's something several players on the team have gone through over the past few days.

As far as consistency is concerned, the team hasn't let up at all in practice, trying to maintain their high level of performance that they have done so far throughout the season. This week is seen as a time to really focus in on the team's goals and gear up for the final stretch.

"We're not really doing anything different than what we've done in the past," Jackson said. "We'd like to enjoy our time out here for sure. Obviously with a purpose, whether it's defensive zone aspects, offensive zone, neutral zone and scoring drills. Every week, we always focus on certain points so this week wasn't any different. There's a consistent theme throughout this week as there has been on weeks of games. The big thing is to keep the message positive and keep it flowing, we still want to make sure they are enjoying their time on the ice."

While the team is enjoying its time on the ice, the group will still be goal-oriented.  

"We still have some goals that we've had previous to the break," Jackson added. "This gives us an opportunity to continue working on the little aspects of our game that will make a difference. What we want to do is be prepared for every opponent that we have coming up. We definitely want to make a big run in the playoffs. When you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. Whatever happened in the regular season doesn't apply, so it's a lot of fun."

Four of the last six games are on the road, including trips to Lindenwood and Robert Morris. The Nittany Lions host Syracuse on Feb. 24 and 25 before the conference tournament begins on Mar. 2.

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Three weeks ago, when asked about her personal goals, senior Laura Bowman talked about wanting to make it to 100 points. In the third period of Saturday's game, that became a reality as Bowman tallied her most significant point on an assist to Amy Peterson.

 Bowman had two assists in the game and is the first player in Penn State history to cross the century mark in points.

"Honestly, when it happened, I didn't realize it," Bowman said. "I knew I hit 99, but then when I hit the 100 I kind of forgot about it. Amy had such a great shot. I just threw it in front of the net and she bounced it off the post and in. I was just so happy that we were getting closer and closer to them." 

Despite Bowman's achievement, the Lions came up just a little short, losing a hard-fought 4-3 decision to the Mercyhurst Lakers. Bowman remained positive after the game, keeping her mind focused on the road ahead.

"There's a lot of hockey left, I think this team only has up to look. I think we're going to do some great things later this season and I'm going to expect some big things from everyone else too," she said.  

The result didn't come without drama, as the Nittany Lions erased a two-goal deficit early in the game and had multiple quality chances to tie the score in the third period. 

With just about seven minutes remaining, Bowman found Petersen on a centering pass to the weak side which led to a wide open shot on net that was thwarted by the glove of the Mercyhurst goalie at full extension. Not long after, a shot from the point clanked off the goalpost, one of several Penn State shots that drew iron throughout the game.

"They're game-changers," interim coach Dean Jackson said. "I think today we hit four or five posts. Give the goalie credit [on Peterson shot], she made a terrific save. Amy got a lot of wood on it and it was a rocket to the weak side. Those ones sting. You feel as if you've got it and then you just feel like you literally got robbed. But we kept going and that's excited. We didn't fold and we kept pushing." 

"It's frustrating, but it's also good to see that we're getting chances and pucks on net and really testing the goalie," Bowman said. "Yesterday, we weren't really getting that many chances, but today seeing those was really helpful. I think that our team is resilient enough to be able to handle that."

Plenty of resiliency was present at Pegula Ice Arena in the stands, as the annual Skate for the Cure game not only helped raise funds, but also recognize some of the breast cancer survivors in the crowd. The largest crowd of the season (990) welcomed the survivors with a loud ovation and made the entire afternoon very enjoyable. 

"It's always great, I love our pink game," Bowman said. "We always have such a great crowd and it's awesome to see everyone support such a great cause and we really love skating for a great cause in front of that many people." 

"That was fantastic," Jackson said. "I've only been here since the beginning of the season but that was definitely the largest crowd that I've seen. You could see the enthusiasm that they had so it was really nice to see them engaged and involved." 

Saturday also served as the final postgame skate opportunity, giving the large crowd a chance to interact with some of the players while having some fun.

The same could not be said for Friday night's game, as the Nittany Lions fell in a 6-0 defeat in the first game of the series.

"It wasn't the prettiest of games for 60 minutes," Jackson said. "Certainly a penalty-filled game and when that happens, there's no flow to the game. It's tough to build any type of momentum." 

Ten penalties in total were called on Penn State, equating to an entire period of playing with a man down. 

"We've got to move our feet, we've got to be in the right positions," Jackson said. "We've got to anticipate the plays. When we get caught out of position and don't move our feet, that's when the sticks come out for the hooks and trips and interference."

The Nittany Lions are off next weekend before starting a four-game road trip consisting of visits to Lindenwood and Robert Morris in back-to-back weeks.

As always, it's time for the Nittany Lions to keep looking forward.

"It's always difficult to walk away from a weekend 0-2," Jackson said. "I think yesterday we definitely didn't deserve that, but I think today we played well enough to be on the other side of the column. There are certainly some things we need to clean up and I'm really looking forward to tackling Monday."

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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - As the temperature dropped, so did the beat on Wednesday night in Freeman Auditorium as members of various Penn State athletic teams came together for the annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle benefitting THON. 

The event, now in its second go-around, has gained notoriety because it is one of the few events throughout the year, outside of THON itself, where most Penn State teams come together to support a common cause in the same place. 

Aly Hardy, Kate Rydland and Kelsey Crow represented the women's hockey team, performing a stirring rendition of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" in front of a packed house.

 "It's something for a great cause, we're raising money for that," Hardy said. "To be able to raise money and do something fun at the same time, to have our friends come out and make fools of ourselves, it's a lot of fun and it goes towards something so special."

Seeing the entertaining side of some of the other Penn State student-athletes is always an enjoyable experience, especially in something as fun and playful as a lip sync battle. 

"We don't get to see that a lot, so it's really special when everybody gets together. Not all teams could come out, but we had a lot of people there. It was a good turnout," Hardy said.

Unfortunately for Hardy, Rydland and Crow, they were outdone by the women's soccer team's performance of Sia's "Chandelier" which earned the top spot.

"They did a really good job," Hardy said. "We didn't get to watch it, but we saw a video after and they did really well."

 The team is helping out the community on the ice too, as this Saturday marks the return of the annual "Skate for the Cure" game at Pegula Ice Arena. The game aims to help raise funds for cancer research and is always one of the premier weekends for women's hockey.

 "It's really something special to skate for something that's bigger than you," Victoria Samuelsson said. "You realize that you have it great here and to play for them means a lot." 

"It's a big deal for this team," coach Dean Jackson said. "They hold it at a special place in their heart and they take a lot of pride in what the university does and now with the program helping out in that cause." 

Pegula will be decked out in pink, as fans who wear pink to the game will get in for free. Last year's edition of the game drew 1,373 fans, the highest total for that season.

The "Skate for the Cure" game will be at 2 p.m. Saturday against Mercyhurst. The teams also face off Friday night at 6 p.m. 

SAAB Hosts Lip Sync Battle to Benefit THON

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Filling the HUB-Robeson Center Freeman Auditorium with Penn State students and Nittany Lion student-athletes, the Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) hosted its second annual lip sync battle Wednesday evening.

In a full for the kids effort, the annual event benefits THON, Penn State's Interfraternity Council/Panhellenic Dance Marathon to support pediatric cancer.

Featuring musical lip syncing acts from 11 different Penn State Athletics programs, months worth of planning and preparation finally came together in an energetic evening for a tremendous cause.

"I think it just bring out more of the sense of community that we really already have in athletics," track and field sophomore and lead event coordinator Tess Kearns said. "We're so strong all together but to be able to something for THON and see the impact that it's making every year - if we could just raise that number even a little bit on final reveal, that would be all the difference."

From lip sync covers ranging from Justin Beiber mixes to Beyoncé, Sia and School of Rock, the event, which was open to all to attend, brought laughs throughout the night with guest judges featuring director of student-athlete welfare and development Liz Johnson, director of Penn State's John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, John Affleck and Penn State Blue Band drum major Jimmy Frisbie. 

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Penn State women's volleyball highlighted early with their Justin Beiber mix, followed up with women's soccer's rendition of Sia's "Chandelier" midway through the program. 

"SAAB THON is my favorite thing in the world," said SAAB THON chair Angela Widlacki, a member of the Nittany Lion women's soccer team. "Being able to come out here and see this huge crowd, it means so much to us and I know it meant a lot to our family the Messina's." 

Men's hockey and defending SAAB lip sync battle champion wrestling closed out the evening lip syncing to a pair of movie tunes featuring "Zach's song" from School of Rock and "Breaking Free" from High School Musical. 


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With the final scores tallied, the panel of judges voted Penn State women's soccer duo of Widlacki and Liisi Vink-Lainas in the top spot this year to earn the golden microphone. Men's hockey finished second, while wrestling claimed the third-place finish.

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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.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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