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By Jack Milewski, GoPSUsports.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.