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By Patrick Anglin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After 60 minutes of intense play, the two teams gather at their respective bench. The coach huddles the team and discusses strategy. The players catch their breath, get some water, and stretch. All of this is in preparation for one final battle, the ultimate closing scene of the evening. The next five minutes will be played with all heart and courage. What is being described of course, is sudden death overtime in college hockey.
Overtime in hockey is an exciting and intense event to say the least. Players have worked hard and given all they had, only to end regulation with the score even. They now have one final sliver of time to try and score a single goal and earn a hard-fought win. The Nittany Lions like to thrive in these situations, and practice for it accordingly. Penn State women's hockey head coach Jeff Kampersal chooses to downplay the significance of the overtime period, with the idea that cool heads will prevail.
"We try to set our practices up like five minute games, so we're competing for five minutes and just trying to win that five minutes," Kampersal said. "We try to break down periods into four, five minute games, so that overtime, a 13th period, is just another game."
Kampersal's strategy is a great way to prepare both physically and emotionally for a grueling overtime period. Coaching wise, he tells his team to stick with what they know and play smart.
"We try not to get too excited, and stay focused on what's working," Kampersal said. "[There are] little tips I'll try to give them, but it's a non-panic situation for us."
It's not easy mustering the energy and strength to perform at the top of your game after playing a full three periods, but the Nittany Lions pride themselves on their training and preparation. Freshman forwards Katie Ranking and Natalie Heising both spoke on how the team gears up for extra time.
"It's a mentality thing, coming into overtime everyone knows that they have to step up their play so we can get the win," Rankin said. "We train so that if we are put in that position, we can come out even harder than we did in the first, second, and third periods."
"We practice for overtime with our conditioning," Heising added. "We have the legs, energy, and intensity for it, so we can go and get the win."
The duo stressed that the team is pushed by its competitive edge, something they believe helps them in all facets of their game. As natural competitors, the team as a whole hate to lose, and ending in a tie could be considered just as tough on them.
When asked their thoughts on ties (the team has tied once this season), both Heising and Rankin simultaneously gave the same reply: they don't like them.
"With a tie it's even, but every game we're looking to win. That's our goal," Rankin said. "If we all just have a competitive mentality; we can get it done."
"It's frustrating to end in a tie," Heising said. "Because it makes you think that you could have given a little more.
The team likes to treat losses and ties in the same manner when they reflect back and prepare to move forward
"It's all about channeling that anger in a positive way and coming out even harder," Rankin said. "[It's about] having a positive mindset and mentality... let's flush any negativity down the toilet and focus on the task at hand."
Rankin put her words to action in the matchup against Merrimack last weekend. In the first game of the series, Penn State was defeated in the overtime period. However, the next day the team was able to get the best of their opponent, thanks to a clutch game-winning overtime goal from Rankin herself.
"[It was] such a crazy feeling. Anyone that has asked me about it so far, I've described it as an incredible rush, a feeling like no other," Rankin said. "I was just happy to be able to contribute to the win. It's a feeling I will never forget."
Hockey is an intense, fast-paced game that lives off emotion and momentum. The Nittany Lions hope to carry their momentum from last weekend as they move forwards into the season. Next time that an overtime period rolls around, the team can take comfort in the fact that they are prepared, and that winning won't be too much of a challenge.
After all, they've done it before, and they are confident they can do it again.