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By: Patrick Anglin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- There is a certain buzz throughout Pegula Ice Arena leading up to the first home game of the season for the Nittany Lions. Players and coaches seem to be working with extra intensity, looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd.
New head coach Jeff Kampersal started his media session Wednesday complementing Penn State's culture and the beautiful ice arena.
"I love the pride the Penn State community has. Pegula seems like it is a really special place," he said heading into the team's home opening weekend series vs. Union. "It will be even more special once I can make my own memories with this team, hopefully starting this weekend."
Kampersal is excited to play in front of the home crowd, and hopes that the team performs to the best of its abilities. The team is hoping the attendance and atmosphere grows even more in this coming year. A big part of playing any sport is the energy of the home crowd, and the team wants to make sure that they give the fans a memorable experience.
"We know that we need to be able to generate some offense. We want to score goals, get the horn blowing, and get people in the crowd involved," Kampersal said. "We want to be an exciting brand of hockey, and of course a winning brand as well. There is always good hockey being played, but spectators want to see shots and goals."
Kampersal is certain that the on-ice product come Friday night is one that will make all members of the Penn State community swell with pride. When asked about the direction he wants to take the program, he was all smiles and full of confidence in his team, emitting genuine belief that his team is fully prepared to make the next step.
"We can be a top program, it's right there for us."
The coaches aren't the only ones looking forward to the home-opener; there's a certain buzz and excitement in the locker room as well. Senior goalie Hannah Ehresmann, who was honored with the CHA Goalie of the Week Award last weekend for her stellar 60-save two-game stretch, is certainly making an effort to appreciate the upcoming moment.
"It's always special playing any game at home, especially since Pegula is so amazing." Ehresmann detailed in her media session, with joy in her expression. "But it's even more special to me, as it's my last first-game of the season." Always focused on the team first though, the senior made it a point to add: "We need the team to treat it like any other game."
When asked what the team needs to do to earn some wins this weekend, her answer was simple. "We need to stick to our game plan. Continue getting shots on net. Our work ethic was always there, which is the key to winning hockey games."
As a senior, Ehresmann has experienced the excitement and fun of playing at home before, but for the incoming freshman class, it will be a new experience entirely. Just thinking about stepping out onto the ice in front of the home crowd gets freshman forward Katie Rankin pumped up.
"I can't even imagine what the game is going to feel like," said Rankin, who posted four shot attempts last weekend in the games against Minnesota Duluth. "I'm excited to just have the opportunity. Come game time, everyone will be pumped up, and we want to set the tone for the rest of the year. I think it's going to be something very special."
When asked if the offense learned from last weekend, where they were held scoreless in both games, Rankin seemed confident that things would turn around for them.
"We've worked on generating offensive opportunities in practice and we need to do that in the games this weekend," she said. "We need to start better. It's all about having that go-hard mentality throughout the entire game."
From the top down, it seems as if the entire team is on the same page. They have set the goal to keep a fiery intensity for the entire duration of their games, and to generate some exciting offense. It's safe to say that the future is bright for this team. Led by an innovative new coach, this young group of female athletes is ready to bring Penn State women's hockey to the next level, and they intend to make sure that all the fans crowded into Pegula enjoy every second of it.
After two tough-fought matchups on the road at No. 5 Minnesota Duluth, the Penn State Women's Hockey team prepares for its home-opening weekend at Pegula Arena against Union NY. Puck-drop is set for 6:00 p.m. for Friday night's matchup and 3:00 p.m. for Saturday, as the Nittany Lions set their sights on getting their first win of the season and opening at home with a statement performance.