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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Goalie is arguably the most important position on a hockey team. For the Penn State Nittany Lions they have had a brick wall in net, in the form of Celine Whitlinger.

Whitlinger is part of the original group of Nittany Lions who have been with the team since it first started playing, four years ago. Whitlinger has steadily climbed her way through the ranks and the last two seasons has been a prominent figure in the net for a Penn State team that has stifled teams defensively. Whitlinger has been, and continues to be, a big part of that team defensive effort.

"We are all growing, individually and as a team," said Whitlinger. "Personally, Courtney [Drennen] has helped a lot with her coaching perspective both on and off the ice." 

Whitlinger hails from Garden Grove, California. She made the long journey to Penn State unsure of what the hockey program would hold, largely because there was still no program at the time she was being recruited, it was still an idea. Now, four years later, that same program and Whitlinger have grown leaps and bounds as they continue to assert themselves in the national spotlight.

When head coach Josh Brandwene recruited Whitlinger, he noticed the first thing that many people notice when they watch Whitlinger between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, how athletic she is, especially moving laterally.

"She has always been an incredibly athletic and thinking goaltender and you could see that in her ability back during her high school days," said Brandwene. "She is just tremendously successful, she always is competing for pucks and is very technically sound. If you put that combination together you are going to be very successful at the college level."

Whitlinger has indeed had success at the college level, but success can only come with growth at the higher levels of competition and growth is certainly something that Whitlinger has shown and exuded in her time at Penn State.

"She has grown tremendously," said Brandwene. "She has gotten better and better in her time here in every aspect of the game and it has helped her really succeed." 

For Whitlinger, she credits a lot of her success to assistant coach Courtney Drennen. 

"I think I have grown a lot," said Whitlinger. "Being a goalie, it is a very mental position and I think that Courtney has helped coach me and I have improved a lot in the mental aspect of the position." 

This season, Whitlinger is poised to set career highs in both goals against average and save percentage. With the playoffs just two games away, Whitlinger has a 1.55 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. In other words, her numbers are remarkable when it comes to goaltending norms. Brandwene attributes this outstanding season to all the hard work that Whitlinger puts in.

"She puts in the hard work," said Brandwene. "She deserves credit for everything that she is doing in puck stopping and she has great support around her. The d-core and the shot blocking forwards have been fantastic and we just continue to get better overall."

For Whitlinger, the senior goaltender does not want the season or her time here at Penn State to end. However, when it inevitably does, she will not only be remembered as one of the pioneers of Penn State hockey, but also as a consistent presence between the pipes for the Nittany Lions. 

"I think she will be remembered most for consistently competing and consistently improving," said Brandwene. 

The Nittany Lions are set to square off against Mercyhurst in a two game road swing to close out the regular season slate. Game one is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two for 1 p.m. on Saturday.

 

Seniors Shine on Home Ice

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was almost a storybook ending on home ice for the senior class that has led the Penn State women's hockey team since their inception as a program.

Despite a 23-15 shot advantage, Penn State fell to Lindenwood 1-0 in the final game of the series but did manage to put together a dominant 3-0 performance the night before to continue their strong play and send their seniors out with a hard fought split on home ice. For Penn State, the win on Friday marked their 10th of the season. Despite the loss Saturday, head coach Josh Brandwene was still pleased with the overall effort and praised his senior class for all they have done for Penn State as a whole.

"I am certainly very proud, and continue to be proud of this senior class for all of that they continue to accomplish and do for this program both on and off the ice," Brandwene said. "One of the things we've talked about in the locker room is the amazing job that they do representing Penn State in the work that they do."

That work that Penn State puts in, that is exemplified by the seniors and passed down through the ranks, is much more than just a work ethic on the ice. That grinding, hard-working mentality extends off the ice as well and Brandwene said he is equally, if not more proud for all that work.

"They work tremendously hard in the community, the classroom and I commend them for the tone that they have set in our program," Brandwene said.

The program has taken great strides through the careers of these seniors and Friday night was a great send off to a few of the main contributors who have been a part of the Penn State hockey family since day one.

Shannon Yoxheimer had two goals for the Nittany Lions. The senior is one of the team's leading scorers and has elevated her game down the stretch, propelling Penn State to a strong run in the last couple of weeks. Another senior who has had an equally influential impact is Celine Whitlinger and she was once again on her game Friday. Whitlinger stopped 23 shots for her sixth career shutout.

After the game Friday, Brandwene praised the hard working mentality that Penn State brought to the ice and that they regularly bring to every competition. 

"It was just a really solid business-like effort from us tonight," Brandwene said. "I'm very proud of our performance on both sides of the puck."

Six seniors were honored on Friday night from the class of 12, while the other six were honored on Saturday afternoon. For Yoxheimer and Whitlinger, they honored the school they have called home for the past four years the best way they could, with tremendous efforts on Friday. 

"It was pretty cool," Whitlinger said on her shutout. "It was special to be able to do that but it was also a total team effort." 

Even with all that was going on this weekend with the senior festivities and the possible emotions that came in to play, the mentality for Penn State's seniors was still the same, take care of business.

"This weekend is a very special weekend with it being senior weekend," said Yoxheimer. "For us it's just all about going out and competing every time we play but this was definitely really special for us."

Penn State will have one more regular season series against Mercyhurst next weekend before the beginning of the CHA playoffs. The Nittany Lions and their seniors are vocal that they don't want the season to end anytime soon. 

"We didn't want this to be our last home series," said Whitlinger. "I don't think we thought about that, we hope to be back here for the playoffs." 

Game one against Mercyhurst is set for 6 p.m. on Friday and game two is set for 1 p.m. Saturday.

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Pioneers. That's how head coach Josh Brandwene describes the senior class for the Penn State women's hockey team.

After being the first group to set foot on the ice at Pegula Ice Arena in September 2013, the senior class is preparing for their final regular season home series against Lindenwood this weekend. And a milestone moment such as this is a cause for reflection and celebration.

Brandwene always speaks with high praise of all his players and regularly acknowledges what this senior class does and has done for the Penn State program. This week he took a moment to recognize what the senior class has meant to the Penn State program.

"They are pioneers with a capital P," said Brandwene. "When they committed to Penn State, where we're standing was still a blueprint, it was still just a dream. The program was still just an idea and this beautiful rink wasn't here yet. I can't even put into words how grateful I am to them for their commitment to Penn State and the hard work they have put in here."

That dedication to the program is exemplified by each and every senior. From captains Shannon Yoxheimer and Jordan Pardoski, to transfer senior Hannah Bramm, this Penn State senior class illustrates what it means to be a Penn State student athlete, according to Josh Brandwene.

The concept of family is always preached in the program's culture, and that remains a big part of this senior class' legacy. For Bramm, who transferred to Penn State two seasons ago, says that was the best decision she made and that she has felt like a part of the program from the second that she stepped on campus.

"This program is really special for me because it kind of gave me a second chance," said Bramm. "Joining a new team and a new culture is sometimes tough but with this team it wasn't. I think that is what separates this program from others is that it's always team first, everyone loves each other and every one works hard for each other. That's the thing for me that has really stood out and made a big difference."

Senior Hannah Hoenshell echoed Bramm's sentiment about the family atmosphere. Hoenshell said, "For me Penn State represents family. I'm proud to forever be a member of a community that exemplifies passion, loyalty, and unity."

Celine Whitlinger, another four-year senior, says that her favorite moment as a member of the Nittany Lion women's team was the very first time she donned the blue and white for an actual collegiate game - a history making 5-3 win over the University of Vermont on October 6, 2012.

"I would have to say our first game was the most memorable," said Whitlinger. "We played Vermont my freshman year and it was just a really big moment for us and the program and it was just cool to be out there for the first game."

As special as the first game was, the first time the team stepped into the Pegula Ice Arena may have been just as special for Whitlinger.

"When we first walked into the rink it was an eerie feeling," said Whitlinger. "It was dead silent and every time we play in this amazing facility with our fans it's a great experience."

Brandwene echoed Whitlinger's sentiments about the atmosphere at Pegula Arena this weekend. "To me it's an opportunity to compete and celebrate all at the same time. This group is a bunch of competitors, they love to play the game and to be able to play in front of the great crowds we have had recently is just going to be a great experience for all of us."

The Nittany Lions, along with their 12 seniors, will take the ice at home for one final regular season series, with puck drop set for Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. Following each game Penn State will honor six seniors during Senior Weekend.

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Winning is always the goal in any level of sport, however there is something to be said for playing a complete game, regardless of the result.

For Penn State, going up against the second ranked team in the CHA conference in Syracuse, the Nittany Lions compiled two nights of solid hockey, falling just short on both occasions. Despite a 3-2 loss in overtime and a 2-1 regulation loss the following day, Penn State showed why they may be peaking at the right time.

"I think with four games left, every single one is important," said Amy Petersen after Saturday's game. "We played well this weekend but I think the goal is to obviously still get better and peak during the playoffs. We are going to use these next four games to get better each and every game."

The 2016 calendar year has been particularly kind to the Nittany Lions. The team has certainly stepped up their level of play and have remedied their biggest issue of capitalizing on scoring chances.

"I think things have really started falling in to place more," said Petersen. "We have been sticking to our game plan and we have really been working on finishing pucks because in the first half of the season we couldn't get a puck to fall, now we have started to get those bounces."

For every team, the goal is to obviously play your best hockey come playoff time. However, this is a lot easier said than done for most teams. It is hard to plan exactly when you are going to start playing your best, you just have to hope that it comes at the right time to kick-start a long playoff run. For Penn State, with four games left, the emphasis is on getting better every game so that come the CHA playoffs, they will be ready to go.

"I don't think we feel any added pressure to get better just because the playoffs are close," said Laura Bowman. "We are going to use each of these next games to try and get better."

In the playoffs the compete level of each team is ratcheted up that much more due to the increased importance placed on each game. It is extremely hard to recreate this level of intensity in anything other than a game-like setting, however the Nittany Lions have said they have increased the intensity at practices so that they are more ready come playoff time.

"We have started to work really hard," said Bowman. "Every practice has been really intense, we've certainly competed very hard and I think that has helped our play on the ice." 

The effort in game one against Syracuse was good, but according to head coach Josh Brandwene, game two was that much better, again showing that the Nittany Lions are certainly starting to figure things out and while they may not have hit their peak yet, they certainly are heading in the right direction.

"We played better today," said Brandwene. "We played much better in all periods than we did yesterday so there is just so much to build on moving forward."

For the Nittany Lions, moving forward they have only four games left in the regular season. Two are at home against Lindenwood and their final regular season series is on the road against Mercyhurst. The team's final home series and will be this weekend against Lindenwood, puck drop will be 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday. 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Every game down the stretch of a season is important. For the Penn State women's hockey team, their last six regular season games come against conference foes, making them even more meaningful with CHA Playoffs are right around the corner. While the weekend series against Syracuse is an important league weekend, the games hold added meaning for other reasons as well.

For Penn State, the game on Friday is the annual "faculty and staff appreciation" game, that honors the commitment and the service of the faculty and staffers who aid the Penn State women's hockey team. All faculty and staff receive special deals on tickets if they choose to attend. For the team, it is a great chance to give back to all of the workers behind the scenes. According to Shannon Yoxheimer, it is something the team always looks forward to each year.

"I think that without faculty and staff we really couldn't be a team," said Yoxheimer. "You know you really need all the faculty and staff because they do a lot of small things that go unnoticed and so it's a really good night to just recognize all the hard work that they put in."

From the equipment managers to the workers at Pegula, the entire process is a total team effort. As Yoxheimer said, the team wouldn't be able to do what they have the ability to do without all the aid of the faculty and staff. Head coach Josh Brandwene agreed with what Yoxheimer had to say and added that the excellence of the faculty is university wide and doesn't just start or end with the women's hockey team.

"This is a great community," said Brandwene. "When you talk about one team in Penn State athletics, that's not just the 31 sports but it's the entire community. It's the faculty and their amazing support for our student athletes. It's the staff and all they do to support Penn State and its mission; it's tremendous that we get the opportunity to play for all of them."

For Penn State, the weekend festivities do not end with the faculty and staff game. The following afternoon on Saturday, the Nittany Lions will take part in the Skate for the Cure game. All fans who wear pink to that game will receive free admission and also receive the opportunity to skate with the team post-game. Not only that, but just the opportunity for the Penn State team to skate in support of breast cancer research is a huge honor according to Bella Sutton. 

"It's really an honor to give back," said Sutton. "The pink game is a huge game for us just to be able to show our support in the way that we can and being able to play for everyone effected is really cool just to be a part of.

Brandwene echoed Sutton's sentiment and added that the game on Saturday, though obviously important in the standings, is more than just a normal hockey game due to the cause that they will be playing for.

"That just transcends the game," said Brandwene. "What we do, we work really hard at, but nothing is more important than health. To have the opportunity to support cancer research and the opportunity to help find a cure for this horrible disease is just a reminder of the bigger picture and how grateful we have to be for our health." 

Penn State's action packed weekend will begin at 7pm on Friday against the Syracuse Orange. Saturday will be the Skate for the Cure game with puck drop at 2:30 p.m. 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Anytime a coach says that their team played at a consistent high level, the team gets a jolt. If that praise comes two-thirds of the way through a season, it means that much more, due to the fact that the team has played that many more games.

For the Penn State women's hockey team, that is exactly the compliment that they got from head coach Josh Brandwene who said that Friday's 1-0 victory may have been one of, if not the best, efforts of the season for the team. 

"[I was] really pleased with the business-like effort with the puck to do the right thing," said Brandwene. "When you do that, you get rewarded for it. Really pleased with the effort, especially over the last two periods."  

According to Brandwene, the final 40 minutes of the game were some of Penn State's best all season. Amy Petersen netted a short-handed goal in the first period and that was all the Nittany Lion's needed. The team peppered RIT with 33 shots and only gave up 14.

Game two was no different as once again Penn State peppered the opposition with shots, while conceding only 15. Brandwene commented that he thought the team was even better in game two.

"I thought we were better," said Brandwene. "Better attention to detail and overall a more consistent effort. I thought the first period was good and the second and third that much better."

The series hinged on a few key aspects for the Nittany Lions, the first being the outstanding defensive effort that limited the RIT team to just 29 shots all weekend.

"Overall I was very pleased with our defensive effort," said Brandwene. "Emily Laurenzi, especially, was flying all afternoon and that's something that helped but didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet."

Bella Sutton, who had multiple blocks on the back line agreed with Brandwene's sentiment and echoed that the defensive effort all weekend was fantastic for Penn State.

"It definitely helps that we have our two goalies who have been playing really well behind us," said Sutton. "For us on defense, were just trying to play well for them. It is about following our plan and staying disciplined and I think that's why we played so well this weekend."

The two goaltenders, Celine Whitlinger on Friday and Hannah Ehresmann on Saturday, pitched back to back shutouts. Penn State, who is known for its goaltender duo, among other things, rode the hot play of both the netminders during the weekend series.

"They are both playing great," said Brandwene. "They both work hard and they are great friends. Not sure what could be better for a hockey team." 

As good as both goaltenders were, Shannon Yoxheimer stole the show during the weekend series. After playing a complete game on Friday and having nothing to show for it on the scoresheet, Yoxheimer led the dominant effort Saturday with two goals and eight shots on goal. The effort did not go unnoticed by her coach.

"Shannon was in beast mode all weekend," said Brandwene. "Her whole line played very well and she was great at both ends of the ice and made some great defensive plays both days. Today she got rewarded for her effort by going to the net and playing hard." 

Yoxheimer also said that she felt comfortable the whole weekend and said that the team as a whole was fantastic offensively.

"I think that we had some pretty good momentum today and things were clicking pretty well," said Yoxheimer. "We were really working as a team today and I think that we all felt pretty good out there all day."

Penn State will continue their home stand and look to continue their hot play next Friday and Saturday with another conference series against the Syracuse Orange. 

 

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Athletes are creatures of habit. They almost have to be. Anytime you perform the same motion, whether it be shooting a basketball, kicking a soccer ball, or taking a slap shot in hockey, you have to repeat the same thing over and over. Many athletes take this concept and practice it off the court, field, or ice. Pregame rituals are a big part of the sports world and the Nittany Lion women's hockey team is no different when it comes to this.

Hours before the puck drops, all is silent at Pegula Ice Arena. The arena staff is making the last minute preparations to the ice and others are preparing to open the front doors. At this same time, you will also find some of the Nittany Lion players in the stands behind their home bench. For them, this is one of the many pregame rituals that they practice.

"I always tape my stick before a game," said senior captain Shannon Yoxheimer. "Whether I actually need to or not, I still do, just because that's always how I have been doing it."

For some it is as simple as taping their sticks. Be it in the stands or in the locker room, that seems to be a common routine for many players. Yoxheimer says that some people ae very particular and like to tape their own sticks, while others prefer if someone tapes it for them. For other players, like junior defenseman Kelly Seward, her pregame ritual involves a snack.

"Some people like to play soccer or do something active before the game," said Seward. "I just like to grab a couple snacks and relax. I usually have the same thing before every game, they are these little smoothie packets."

Seward also says that she gets dressed right at the 54 minute mark before the game and says he has been doing that for years now. But her dressing 54 minutes before the game is nothing compared to teammate Micayla Catanzariti, who gets dressed very early according to both her teammates and coach.

"Micayla always gets dressed really really early," said Seward. "You can always see her well before the game with her big headphones on just getting in the zone."

While many of the players on the team choose to partake in their own unique pregame rituals, the Penn State women's hockey team also has some routines that include the majority, if not everyone on the team. Before every Friday contest, the team has a pregame meal ritual.

"Well we go to Allen Street Grill every Friday at 2:15," said Seward. "I think that is our team time to get together and get ready. After that I think everyone pretty much goes back, gets a nap in and relaxes."

Another, possibly less unique, but still equally vital part of every game day, is coffee. Both the team and head coach Josh Brandwene voiced that coffee is essentially in providing a little extra boost before games. 

"Coffee is a big part of the routine for me," said Brandwene. "It's all about the timing of caffeine intake. It's different timing for a seven o'clock start than for a two o'clock start. And after the game you have a night of film review, so by the time Saturday rolls around caffeine kind of becomes a best friend."

Yoxheimer had a similar reaction, saying that the majority of the team, to her knowledge, uses coffee as an energy booster on game day.

"I always get a coffee before games," said Yoxheimer. "I think that's kind of standard and the norm for almost everyone on our team."

Whether it being playing soccer in a small group, or re-taping a stick before the game, the Penn State women's hockey team participates in many unique pregame rituals. At times it is the whole team together and at times it is simply something unique that an individual has been doing for years. Either way, for Penn State women's hockey, the pregame routine is just another part of the game. 

11636990.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions top line was every much that and more during their two-game series against Robert Morris University. The line accounted for four of Penn State's five goals in the series and elevated them to a win and a tie in their first home series since mid-November.

"They share a real similar high hockey IQ," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "They are fantastic at finding space on the ice, their timing works really well and they both not only have the verbal communication down but also the non-verbal as well."

In Penn State's overtime win on Friday, Hannah Bramm knotted the two regulation goals for the Nittany Lions. Amy Petersen assisted on both of Bramm's goals. Since becoming a part of the top line, Bramm's production has significantly increased on the offensive side of the puck and Brandwene says that she is a seamless fit on that line. 

"She works really hard, she wins battles in the corners, she does a great job taking care of the puck in between both blue lines and the offensive spacing and chemistry are fantastic," Brandwene said.

Petersen, who has played with Laura Bowman for the majority of her Penn State career, feels that Bramm is the perfect addition to their line.

"Well Hannah has really good hockey sense, so that really makes it an easy transition for us because we know that she will be in the right spot," Petersen said. "We just read off each other and kind of know where we will be, I don't think there was much of an adjustment for any of us."

With the first line, Penn State's offensive display was impressive over the weekend. Despite the low goal output for both teams, the Nittany Lions, led by their top line, had numerous chances in both games and played arguably their most complete series of the season.

Sophomore defender Bella Sutton won the first game in overtime for Penn State after a hectic final period that saw multiple chances on both ends. Ultimately it was the Nittany Lions who came out on top, 3-2.

In game two it was much of the same from the top line as Bramm tallied once again to open the scoring with her eighth of the season. Petersen scored the other Penn State goal to give them a brief lead in the third period. The game finished in a 2-2 tie, but once again Brandwene was impressed by the Nittany Lions' overall play and especially from the top line. 

"This weekend was almost 130 minutes of out and out war between two very competitive teams," Brandwene said. "The biggest thing is that they play in both zones. They take care of their defensive responsibilities and they play well offensively too."

Bramm seemed just as comfortable in the second game as she did the first and says that she feels very confident playing with Petersen and Bowman.

"It's been a lot of fun working with them and it's really been an easy transition," Bramm said. "I think the biggest thing that has helped is I've learned to have better spacing on that line and I think overall that is the biggest thing that helps us succeed."

Penn State will be right back in Pegula next weekend with a two-game series against RIT as the Nittany Lions and the top line will look to continue their strong in-conference play.

 

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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As every sports season wears on, the pressure of each game increases. With roughly two-thirds of the regular season already in the books, each game has an increased meaning to it for the Penn State women's hockey team.

Pressure can do interesting things to a team. Usually it has one of two effects, it can either break a team down, or make them stronger. Based on how this Penn State team has handled challenge and adversity, the pressure is making them stronger. If you ask the team they will all say that they thrive in pressure packed situations. Junior forward Laura Bowman says that she has noticed a huge changed in her abilities to perform under pressure from the time she first arrived in Happy Valley until now.

"My comfort has definitely increased there is no doubt about that," said Bowman. "A lot of the time in close games my freshman year I would try and do too much, but now I know that doing my job right is the best thing I can possibly do for the team."

It is always key for the leaders on a team to show poise in tense situations. For the Nittany Lions, this stretch run with eight of their next 10 games being played at home will be one where they need that poise. With the remaining games on the schedule being in conference, the excitement and pressure are ratcheted up that much more says Head Coach Josh Brandwene. 

"You always want the intensity to start peaking at this time of the year," said Brandwene. "You can see it in their preparation and their excitement to be home and these should be great battles coming down the stretch."

The stretch run is the time when the games start to mean more and with added meaning comes added pressure. But as Bowman mentioned, the Penn State Nittany Lions thrive under pressure. They have been in numerous games this season that have been decided by one goal and they have two one goal wins in their last three games. Assistant coach and director of operations Alex Dawes says that he has noticed success from this team in those close games and that those situations have almost become a comfort zone for the Nittany Lions.

"I think I've really noticed that since I've started working here that a lot of games are one goal games," said Dawes. "I think that the kids thrive on the pressure a little bit. It's always fun to play in those one goal games, it makes winning that much sweeter for us." 

Brandwene says he also notices that same mentality from the team where they enjoy playing in the tightly contested games and they don't shy away from the big moments.

"It's all a credit to this team's togetherness and competitiveness," said Brandwene. "They just love to compete and play and their togetherness in those moments is something that helps fuel them as well."

The Nittany Lions have a great balance of youth and experience and Brandwene pointed to some key players who really step up in the pressure situations.

"You have to look at players like Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen," said Brandwene. "Petersen always loves the big moments and she wants the puck on her stick at the end of the game, she's been like that her whole career." 

With the amount of one goal games that the Nittany Lions have played, the team feels ready for the home stretch of the season leading into the playoffs. Bowman feels that all of the close games that they have played so far this season have them suited perfectly for a solid run here to end the 2016 slate.

"Moving forward late into the season and the playoffs those are always close games," said Bowman. "I feel like our team is more than ready to take on those types of games and we won't crumble under that pressure because we have been there before and know what it feels like. In the end we just have to keep playing our game and keeping it simple is the most important thing in these tight games."

The Nittany Lions head back out on to the Pegula Ice for the first time since November this coming Friday and Saturday against Robert Morris University. Puck drop for game one is slated for 7 p.m. while game two is a 2 p.m. matinee start. 


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By Jack MilewskiGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer   
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Long breaks are a part of every sports team's season. In college athletics, the breaks can be even longer for athletes due to the fact that winter and summer breaks encompass a large portion of time during either the spring/fall seasons or fall/winter seasons. For the Penn State women's hockey team, they enjoyed a month long break between their last game of 2015 and their first game of 2016. The team then split the opening 2016 series with Ohio State, playing two quality games on the road before starting conference play again this weekend at RIT.

"We are really confident right now, really excited to get back to league play," said Brandwene. "Again the defensive effort and the grit in front of the net and we also had a really nice power play goal on Sunday also, there is a lot to look forward to."

Before the Ohio State series, the Penn State team enjoyed a break of almost a month, ending its 2015 portion of the season with a trip to Princeton. The end of the year grind did not stop there for the Nittany Lions. If anything, it only intensified. With finals almost immediately after the series, the squad was back to the grindstone in a different way.

"They had final exams after that last series and obviously that is the singular focus at the end of the semester," said Brandwene.

It is well documented that this Penn State team works just as hard off the ice as they do on the ice and Brandwene said that the preparation for finals was no different. After finals, the Nittany Lion's finally got a much needed break after a grueling stretch of eight straight road games. Brandwene explained that during the break the players were given time to go home and visit with their families. After that hiatus they came back to Penn State ready to work in preparation for the Ohio State series.

"They had some time to spend with their families," said Brandwene. "Then after that we had what we call minicamp. It's about four or five days of practice before we headed out to Ohio State."

Freshman Hannah England experienced her first winter break on the division one hockey squad and said that it was simply a great way to keep her mind off the game and see family for a few days before returning to the grind that is the regular season.

"We didn't get much of a break so it was more of a mental flush and relaxation time before we get ready for the next half of the season," said England.

Brandwene said that there is an element of staying in shape and keeping up with conditioning during the break, but so much of the sport is muscle memory that it also didn't need to be practiceheavy. That is also what the minicamp is for, to get the players back into a hockey mindset and out of that relaxation mode.

A long break can either hurt a team or help them. It is very rare in sports that a team stays stagnant after a break for that long. For England, she took the pensive approach to the break, saying that she thought it helped to just sit back and reflect on the quality of the teams play.

"I think it helps because it gives us some time off to think about what we just accomplished as a team," said England. "So in that regard I think that the break really helps."

Now, after a series in Ohio State and another week off, the Penn State women's team will get back to their regular weekly series. A road trip to RIT awaits the anxious Nittany Lions who agree that they are coming off one of their better series of the season with a lot to build on.

"I think it's mostly about finishing for us," said junior Kelly Seward. "Whether it is finishing goals or finishing our back checks we just want to work hard with everything we do."

After the road trip Penn State has four straight series at home, it will mark the first home games that Penn State has played since November sixth and seventh.

"I think it's pretty exciting, being home is always good," said Seward. "It's nice to be in this rink and have all our facilities here as well, it just makes it a lot easier for us."

Puck drop against RIT is set for 7:00 p.m. on Friday with the second game of the series set for an afternoon start at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

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