By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
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.