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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com 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. 

By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State women's hockey team has made team growth one of their main focal points this season. Following a season opening sweep to the number one ranked team in the nation, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, growth continues to be a key focus of the team.

"Since we started preseason, it's been a growth mindset," said Coach Josh Brandwene after the team's opening night loss. "Obviously when you work that hard and you don't get the result you're looking for, it's tough. But the growth I witnessed over the last 60 minutes was tremendous and it is something we can build on the rest of the year."

Penn State dropped its opening game of the season on the first of October, 2-0. The Golden Gophers were held in check for the most part as the Nittany Lions held tough and only gave up one goal through the first 59 minutes. Minnesota added another goal with goalie Celine Whitlinger pulled, to ice the game despite a 41 save effort from the Penn State net minder.

"Celine was absolutely phenomenal," said Brandwene. "Sharp, poised, focus, I'm incredibly proud of her."

The rest of the Nittany Lion team played solid as well, as they blocked numerous Golden Gopher shots in what Brandwene called their, "best shot blocking effort in a while." It was also one of Whitlinger's best efforts in goal, despite the final outcome.

"I felt good tonight," said Whitlinger. "I actually prefer to have a lot of shots on goal because it makes it easier to get into a rhythm."

In terms of offense, the Nittany Lions only mustered 17 shots on net as most of the play was in their own zone. Shannon Yoxheimer and Amy Petersen had a few opportunities for the Nittany Lions, but other than that the team was held in check.

"Obviously it was frustrating, but we had a few good chances we just weren't able to get a bounce and capitalize," said Yoxheimer.

In game two of the series, Hannah Ehresmann got the start in net for the Nittany Lions. Unlike Thursday's game, Minnesota came out firing on Friday night and two first period goals staked them to an early lead. The Golden Gophers outshot Penn State 17-1 in the first period.

"I think that both of our goalies have worked hard and they are extremely talented and I'm proud of both of them," said Brandwene. "We haven't had a chance to look at the tape as far as moving forward goes."

The rest of the game followed much of the same theme as Ehresmann was peppered with 38 shots on the night while Penn State only threw seven on net. Minnesota managed three goals the rest of the way to take the game 5-0 and secure the series sweep. Still, despite the outcome, Brandwene remained positive about the future.

"We're always going to try and build on the positives and our penalty kill was very good today," said Brandwene after Friday's game. "Although there were a lot of frustrating moments at first glance during tonight's game, there are a lot of controllables there that we can focus on and get better at going forward."

The Nittany Lions season will continue next weekend against Boston University as they take to the road for the first time during the 2015-16 season. The sweep against Minnesota, though not the start that Penn State had hoped for this season, was an improvement over last year's result, and as Brandwene has preached, progress and growth are at the forefront of the Nittany Lion's focus this season.

"Our mindset moving forward continues to remain to be unsatisfied with the result but focused primarily on the growth and the opportunity in front of us," said Brandwene.

The Nittany Lions series against Boston University will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday the 9th and the second game of the series is set for a 3 p.m. puck drop on Saturday afternoon. 


By Jack
Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Superstars shine in all levels of sports. They are why fans come out to games and they are the ones that garner the most attention. However, what separates good teams from great ones is depth.

Last season the Penn State women's hockey team enjoyed its best season in program history. They posted 17 wins, thanks largely in part to eight players recording double-figure point totals during the season.

This year, the Nittany Lions are poised to continue their winning ways and the return of seven of those eight top scorers will definitely help the cause.

"We have talent, depth, strength, speed and experience," said Coach Josh Brandwene. "If we can continue to work hard and have a growth mindset all year, the sky's the limit."

That talent, depth and speed were on display for the Nittany Lions in their first game of the year, as they dispatched Guelph in a scrimmage, 1-0.

Though the Nittany Lions only scored one goal, the offense looked much better than the score indicated and all four lines showed signs of potency. Also, the in game adjustments made by the team seemed to be a big talking point for Brandwene as he has preached a growth mindset from the beginning of the season.

"We needed to make some adjustments in the middle of the game and I was really pleased with the way our team responded," said Brandwene.

The lone goal in the game was scored by freshman Victoria Samuelsson, who was one of the more impressive players on the ice during the game. The team boasts strength in all four classes and Samuelsson looks to provide a youthful boost.

"I'm just really excited to be here and play my first game with all of the girls and now I'm just looking forward to next week," said Samuelsson following the scrimmage.

It's not only Samuelsson, but also other freshman, like Hannah England and Kelsey Crow will have a significant impact on the team this year according to Brandwene.

"We have great senior and junior leadership from our veterans, we have some really good efforts from our sophomores as well and specifically talking about our freshman, very pleased with what we saw from them as it was the first time they put on a Penn State uniform," said Brandwene.

Penn State's season kicks off with a big time matchup against the number one ranked team in the nation, Minnesota. However, as is usually the case with the Brandwene coached team, the Nittany Lions are focused on what they can do to improve and not so much on what their opponent will do.

"Our first step is to focus on us and what we see on film," said Brandwene. "We need to build on the things we did well and focus on what we need to improve on before we even turn the page and focus on Minnesota. We are excited for the game, but our job right now is team growth."

Penn State takes on the Golden Gophers next Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena to kick off their 2015-16 campaign. 

Women's Hockey Offseason Recap

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11346165.jpegBy Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When one season ends, another begins. This is true when the leaves turn from green to yellow and orange, and this is also true for all sports teams. In the case of Penn State women's hockey, the season that most recently ended was the most successful in program history. The team finished with a record 17 wins and made it to semifinals of the CHA playoffs. It was a historic season on the ice for the Nittany Lions, but it was also a historic season off the ice for the team as well.

High Scoring in the Classroom:
As much as the Nittany Lions women's hockey team prides themselves in excellence on the ice, their off ice accomplishments are equally impressive. During the fall semester of 2014, the team posted a cumulative 3.36 grade point average (GPA) while 11 of the players made the Dean's List. In the spring semester, both of those numbers grew as the team raised its GPA to a cumulative 3.42, and 14 players made their way onto the Dean's List.

"We always preach hard work, which leads to success in the classroom," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "It says a ton about the girls work ethic and time management and just their commitment to be successful not just on the ice, but off it as well.

The team finished the season with a 3.35 cumulative GPA a mark that all the players were proud of.

"For everyone on our team, we want to excel on and off the ice and I think coach does a great job at establishing goals and helping us succeed in the classroom," Sarah Nielsen said.

Twenty-two players were recognized on the CHA All-Academic Team. It was the most student athletes to be represented on any team in the conference and Penn State was one of only two teams to have 20 or more selections.

The team embodies the "Penn State Way", according to Brandwene, they put the student part of student athlete first and not only that, but they excel at this.

Summer of Service:
Not only does the Penn State women's team display a high level of commitment in the classroom, that commitment also carries over to their service in the community. According to Laura Bowman and Nielsen, the team made it a goal two years to spend time as a group serving the community.

"We made it a goal and focus for us," Bowman said. "We wanted to get out there in the community because not only does it help the community but it also helps us get to know the people in the community and who we're helping and that's nice."

It is very tough for the team to get together as a whole during the offseason and do the community work that they like to do once the school year starts up. However, several Nittany Lions players did some very inspiring work over the summer.

Nielsen Gives Back With Open Arms:
Junior Forward Sarah Nielsen is a nutrition major, so the choice to intern with Open Arms - a non-profit organization which makes meals for people with illnesses who could otherwise not afford them - was an easy one. The junior spent her summer near her home in Minnesota, working for the organization.

"The experience I had with Open Arms was definitely a positive one," Nielsen said. "I was pushed outside of my comfort zone, but I was able to gain a lot of benefits from that at the same time."

Growing up, Nielsen's family always tried to give back to the community. Though it wasn't always for non-profit organizations, Nielsen still had the background of community service before she took the internship.

"The atmosphere itself, as far as helping out someone underprivileged was nothing new and it's something I love to do," Nielsen said. "However, the thing that was different for me this time around was doing the work without my parents and that definitely took a little bit of time to get used to."

Nielsen's work with Open Arms is a perfect example of what the Nittany Lion's women's hockey team strives to do in the community and a perfect representation of the character of the squad.

Bowman Battles Bugs With Malaria Research:
Junior forward Laura Bowman also spent her time serving the community, but in a much different way. Bowman spent her summer here at Penn State at the Millennium Science Complex doing extensive malaria research. Bowman said that she was working with a specific gene, pushing it from the mosquito to a mouse to see if it affects the malaria life cycle.

"It's a lot of hands work and working with the mice and genetics," Bowman said.

Bowman was here at Penn State for the duration of the summer taking classes, working out for the upcoming hockey season and obviously conducting her research.

"During the summer I put in a lot of hours, probably 20-30 per week," Bowman said. "But obviously with the season coming up and classes I have to cut back so I would say it's only 5-10 hours now."

Bowman says that her decision to research malaria was kind of by choice and kind of by chance. Of the five labs on campus that she interviewed with, the environment she felt most comfortable in was a malaria research lab.

"Scott Litner's lab gave me the best environment," Bowman said. "He was willing to work with me and be very flexible which I needed because of my schedule as an athlete."

Despite the season rolling around soon, Bowman plans to continue her research and hopes to take strides in aiding malaria research.

Laurenzi's Pitbull Passion:
Senior forward Emily Laurenzi has a passion for pups. Pitbull's to be specific. Laurenzi has been working and caring for pit bulls since her freshman year of college and her work has been well documented around Penn State and the Big Ten.

"I started liking pit bull's my freshman year," Laurenzi said. "January 2013 I started working at the rescue and I have been doing work their ever since."

Laurenzi adopted her first pit bull, Gracie and shortly after found the rescue she now works at, Response-a-Bull Rescue. When asked why she chose pit bulls as the dog she cares so deeply about, Laurenzi said it's all about how misunderstood they are as a breed.

"No other bread really has the bad name that they do and not many people know the abuse that they go through," Laurenzi said.

Pitbulls get their bad image from bad owners and Laurenzi believes that the media also portrays the breed in a bad light without actually understanding the animal. Laurenzi's work tries to shine a positive light on the animal and multiple teammates have adopted pit bulls since knowing Laurenzi. She also has an Instagram page with over 42,000 followers. The page essentially works as another voice for Laurenzi to spread her passion and understanding for the misunderstood animals.

Laurenzi plans to continue her work with pit bulls after her college day's end and she has a new found interest that she plans to incorporate pit bulls into as well.

"I actually have recently been interested in becoming a police officer," Laurenzi said. "So what I want to do is become a police officer in the K-9 unit and try to bring pit bulls into the police department because it hasn't been done that much."

Laurenzi also plans to open her own shelter at some point after she graduates, but she says that is still a long way away.

Back On The Ice:
After a summer of training and giving back to the community, the women's hockey team is primed to hit the ice for its season opening scrimmage.

"We're very excited to get back on the ice," Brandwene said. "The girls have worked very hard in the offseason and I know that we're all excited to start playing again."

The Nittany Lions first scrimmage is slated for a 7 p.m. puck drop against University of Guelph on Thursday. The exhibition matchup will take place at Pegula Ice Arena. The team's first official game is set for Oct. 1 against Big Ten powerhouse, Minnesota.

VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


Nittany Lions Coach Kids During Garth Brooks ProClinic

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday afternoon, members of the Penn State men's and women's ice hockey teams spent time inside Pegula Ice Arena. They were not practicing, not skating, not working on their own skills. Instead, they were serving as coaches, teaching 50 kids from the Centre County Youth Services Bureau and YMCA of Centre County about the sport of hockey with the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.

When most people think of Garth Brooks, they automatically register his successful singing career; however in 1999, Brooks and one other created Teammates for Kids, a foundation aiming to give all kids an even start. They wanted to use statistics in sports, transforming them into dollars that could directly impact children across the world. That is exactly what the foundation has done.

"We started with baseball, Major League Baseball," Brooks said. "I think we had about 60 players the first year, and what it was is a player donates money for homeruns or here goals, saves, assists, stuff like that. Then our job is to triple that money as a foundation. One hundred percent of the money goes to kids. That's it. Every penny goes to kids. We walk into a locker room now with 4,000 professional athletes, and the first thing you say is 100 percent of the money goes to kids. They just start signing left and right. So, it's pretty cool."

With Brooks' current tour making a stop in State College, he knew he wanted to host a camp at Penn State. It was immediately clear that hockey was the way to go. With the ice removed from the main rink at Pegula, it was the perfect setting for a floor hockey clinic. Both the men's team and the women's team were excited to get involved.

The kids in attendance were split into groups by age, and each athlete was given one specific group to coach. The experience was something special for not only the kids but also the Nittany Lions.

"I have the older kids, and they've been just this happy group," said women's hockey junior Jordin Pardoski. "They're so happy to be here. They're having a blast out there, so it's really fun."

Nevertheless, this clinic is not only helping the children involved. It is also assisting the game of hockey as many new faces are being exposed to the sport through the clinic.

"I think the biggest thing for me is I just want to try and share the game," said men's hockey forward Eric Scheid. "Hockey is growing, but it's still not there yet, especially college hockey. So, out of all the kids here today if one or two of them grows a love for the game, then I think today was a success. I just want to spread the game and my love for it. I hope someone get to enjoy the game like I do."

As the 50 kids ran around with sticks in their hands, the enjoyment was written all over their faces. They smiled wide and were constantly talking with their coaches. It didn't matter that many didn't know who Garth Brooks was because that they were having fun and enjoying every minute of the experience.

Clinics like these and sports in general have so much to offer children, allowing them to grow. They promote health, promote friendship, promote positivity, and when working with the kids of Centre County, those aspect are exactly what the coaches emphasized.

"Another thing sport does is it creates bonds and friendships that last a lifetime," Scheid said. "I've been on a lot of different teams in the last five or six years, played with a lot of different players. Every year you play on a team and meet 20 new teammates, and you make friends for life."

Overall, Brooks wants to encourage these kids to be happy, to be healthy and to enjoy life. Hosting these camps is truly making a huge impact on many lives, which is why the country singer continues to have them.

Sports offer children so much in the grand scheme of life. It is of the utmost importance to continue that trend and to allow kids to grow into positive people.

"Hopefully what we teach them is to believe in themselves, to love one another," said Brooks. "And, if it's through the sport of hockey or through the sport of life, if today changes one of those kids to look in the mirror and feel better about themselves then this whole camp, this whole tour, everything is worth it."
    

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 year.

 

"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 forward."

 

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 this program."

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."

By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the opponent may be familiar, the situation will certainly be different for the Penn State women's hockey team this Friday.

When the Nittany Lions take on Syracuse this Friday in the CHA tournament semifinals, it will be the fifth time this year they will have taken on the Orange. The difference however, will be what is at stake.

This time around, the two clubs won't be playing a two-game series like they did on Oct 31-Nov. 1 and Jan. 30- 31. Now, the winner of Friday's contest will move on to the CHA finals, where they will face off against the winner of Robert Morris and Mercyhurst.

So far this season, the Lions are 1-1-2 against the Orange, losing 3-1 and tying to 2-2 the first series and tying 2-2 and winning 4-2 the second.

"I think the familiarity makes for exciting competition this time of year," Penn State head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We are focused on us, our preparation and continued growth as a team and looking forward to competing."

The Nittany Lions reached the semifinals by beating Lindenwood twice last weekend, by scores of 1-0 and 3-1. In those contests, Penn State got big performances from Shannon Yoxheimer, who scored in each game, and Bella Sutton, who registered two goals and an assist in the second victory.

On the backend, the Lions also got an impressive performance from goaltender Celine Whitlinger, who allowed just one goal on 48 shots during the weekend to finish with a terrific .979 save percentage. Whitlinger is now 13-10-1 on the season with a 2.17 goals-against-average.

While winning both games over the weekend was obviously important for the Lions in terms of advancing them to their first ever CHA tournament semifinals berth, it also gives them a much needed boost of confidence at this time of the season.

Prior to last weekend, the Lions had dropped five contests in a row and hadn't won since Feb. 6. Now with two straight wins under its belts, Penn State can go into Friday knowing it's primed for a peak performance.

"We had an excellent week of preparation and looking forward to getting after it," Brandwene said.

As for Syracuse, the Orange had a bye in the first round of the tournament and haven't played since Feb. 21, a 1-0 loss to RIT. In their last six games, the Orange are 4-1-1 but have a 5-6 all-time record in CHA tournament games.

If Penn State can get past Syracuse, it will have a tough test no matter what opponent it gets next. On the season, the Lions are 2-2 against Meryhurst and 1-3 against Robert Morris. The winner of the tournament will also get a automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.

However the weekend does play out, the Lions have taken a major step forward as a program by advancing to the semifinals. No matter what, Brandwene knows his club is moving in the right direction.

"This team's continued success and growth is a credit to the players' commitment to excellence and to the process everyday," Brandwene said. "We're excited and really looking forward to competing." 

Yoxheimer Leads Penn State to CHA Tournament Semifinal

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10839180.jpegBy Sean Donnelly, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the final two weeks of the regular season on its mind, the Penn State women's hockey team knew it was important to get off to a hot start in the postseason.

And the Nittany Lions knew they needed to play their best game if they wanted to advance to the CHA semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (15-15-4, 9-9-2 CHA) hosted Lindenwood (10-19-2, 7-11-2 CHA) for a best-of-three set at Pegula Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday. Fortunately, the Nittany Lions squad rewarded themselves with some extra rest by not allowing the series to go all three games thanks to a 2-0 sweep.

The victory on Friday night was a seesaw battle, as the Lions shutout Lindenwood 1-0. The Lions came out fast and strong, establishing a strong forecheck and putting pressure on anyone who touched the puck. Lindenwood was never able to get into a rhythm on offense.

The Nittany Lions struck first when junior captain Shannon Yoxheimer scored on the power play with a great pass from Kelly Seward. Yoxheimer, who is the program's career goals, assists and points leader, was able to get in front of the net for the tip-in. It was the only goal Penn State would need to get the win.

"It feels really awesome because it's what we have been working for," said Yoxheimer. "It just shows that we are getting so much better every single year. It's a big step for the program."

The story of the game was goaltender Celine Whitlinger's absolutely stellar play in net, stopping all 23 shots she faced for her third shutout of the season. Following the game, Whitlinger did not shy away from praising the Nittany Lions playing front of her.

"We've been working hard in practice," said Whitlinger. "It's definitely a team effort and we've got each others backs."

"It was a total team effort this evening," said head coach Josh Brandwene. "Great physical effort, tremendous patience and really good decision-making. It was just a really good playoff atmosphere at Pegula Arena.

The celebration of Penn State's first CHA playoff win didn't last long, as focus was already on to Saturday's game.

"We want to come off strong tomorrow like we did today," said Brandwene. "It's important to get better as a team tomorrow. Improve, get better, play focused, play disciplined and the result will take care of itself."

"I think there were a couple moments where we needed to tell ourselves we're okay and calm down," said Yoxheimer. "Going into tomorrow is just battling hard and keeping control of your sticks and moving your feet."

On Saturday, a little luck went a long way for the Nittany Lions. Two minutes into the game, freshman defenseman Bella Sutton cleared the puck from Penn State's own zone. Lindenwood goaltender Nicole Hensley, who boasts a .947 save percentage in all playoff appearances, was caught off guard by the shot. What should have been a routine save squeaked through five-hole to kick off the night.

It was exactly the start the Lions needed, and they never looked back from there.

"I had no idea it went in," said Sutton. "We saw the fans cheering behind the net, and thought 'wait did that go in?' I was very surprised."

Yoxheimer continued her phenomenal play by notching her second goal of the series. Yoxheimer's play on both ends of the ice has paid big dividends for the squad.

"Huge weekend for Shannon Yoxheimer, on both sides of the ice," said Brandwene. "Excellent shot selection, good decisions with the puck and I'm really proud of her."

"I think it was just for the most part just sticking to the game plan the coaches gave us," said Yoxheimer. "Just really putting a lot of faith in it and also stepping on the ice and playing to win."

Lindenwood was unable to find a groove on offense, finally registering their first shot seven minutes into the game. For the second straight game, the Nittany Lions exhibited great special teams play allowing only one goal out of 11 power play opportunities. From both ends of the ice, it was a total team effort.

"I feel like our special teams has come a long way throughout the season, said Sutton. "Just trusting the game plan and trusting each other to do our jobs. Just throwing it on net and hoping they go in."

The Nittany Lions were finally able to capitalize on a power play opportunity when Bella Sutton's slap shot found the back of the net for her second goal of the game. It was all Penn State needed to put away Lindenwood 3-1, advancing to the CHA Tournament semifinal game for the first time in program history.

"Special teams is a big part of the game and credit to the members of the team who play on the penalty kill and power play," said Brandwene. "They have done just a tremendous job of continually improving their performance all year."

"I'm just so proud of the process, sticking to the game plan and keeping things even keel," said Brandwene. "Just a great, great performance today by this hockey team."

The Nittany Lions will look to continue their run for the CHA title when they play No. 2 Syracuse in Erie on Friday. 

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