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.