Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Chemistry is key for any team, especially hockey. Though it is a fast moving game, there is still a need for communication during the whole game. This is true for the coaches on the bench, the forwards and especially the defensive corps. For the Penn State women's hockey team, like all teams, communication is a vital component to their success and something they preach. For the defense, a group that returns its entire lineup from last year, the communication aspect is already there and the cohesive group is poised to help Penn State in a big way this season.
Penn State is in the beginning of its fourth season as a Division I program and coming of its best season as a program. There are high hopes for the Nittany Lions this year, in large part due to the fact that they return 23 members from last season. As mentioned, the defensive corps remains fully intact and the Nittany Lions have added a contributor in freshman Kelsey Crow.
"She has done a fabulous job. She is incredibly poised, jumps up into the play. What I am most proud of is the preparation. She is a consummate pro when it comes to working hard in the week and preparing for the weekend," said head coach Josh Brandwene.
According to Brandwene, Crow has fit in seamlessly with the already tried and true group, a factor that is big for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Obviously goals are what show up on the stat sheet when it comes to hockey games, but when a team can shut down another defensively, that is more crucial, if not more than scoring goals. With the Nittany Lion defense returning all six members from last year, it makes that aspect of the team one that Brandwene has to worry less about.
"They continue to grow and get more comfortable with each other than they already are and as they continue to improve with communication they work better as a unit day after day," said Brandwene.
The defensive group is also in agreement when it comes to the benefit of being together for over a year now. Sophomore Bella Sutton, though she hasn't been with the team for the entirety of its existence, she is considered a veteran due to her performance in her freshman season.
"It's really important to have everyone back and Kelsey is awesome coming in. It is great to have that base where freshman like Kelsey can come in and just fit well into the system because we already have such a solid one in place," said Sutton.
Although she is considered a veteran, Sutton is only a sophomore and there are still Nittany Lions on the defense who have seniority over her. This divide in classes creates yet another good situation for Penn State because even experienced players like Sutton can have mentors who continue to help them grow as players.
"It's really important that we have these girls to look up to because if we have questions they are great mentors to look up to," said Sutton. Also, just in regards to all of them as seniors, it makes it that much easier to bring the new freshman in for us."
As mentioned, one of those freshmen is Crow, who already in one series for Penn State has shown promise as both a defensive defenseman and offensive defenseman. For players like Crow, the support group at Penn State means the most in terms of gaining a sense of comfort and stability on a Division I team.
"They have been really welcoming and I love them all," said Crow. "They have been great mentors and they point the little things out that are really key. They see things from a different perspective and I consider myself as more of a defensive defenseman so if they can let me know when they think I can jump up in the play more or anything like that it really helps."
Crow also harped on the fact that having an experienced group like Penn State does, makes it much easier to feel comfortable in a new situation.
The Nittany Lions face another tall task this coming weekend when they take on the eighth-ranked team in the nation, the Boston Terriers. Much like in the Minnesota series, the defense will be tasked with stopping one of the top offenses in the country. However, the Nittany Lions have a strong defensive corps and as they and Brandwene have mentioned they continue to grow every week and are poised to take on Boston University.