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Oct. 29, 2012
By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State women's ice hockey (2-5-1) team came within two minutes of its' first College Hockey America win, but the Nittany Lions were able to register one point with 2-2 a tie against RIT on Friday night. The Nittany Lions went 0-1-1 on the weekend series against the Tigers, including a 4-1 loss on Thursday.
Penn State rebounded strongly from the loss on Thursday night and came out with a lot of jump in their step in the first period on Friday. They opened up an early lead when Shannon Yoxheimer (Jackson, Mich.) fed Taylor Gross (Colorado Springs, Colo.) in the slot and she beat RIT goaltender Laura Chamberlain through the legs for the goal.
The duo would strike again 23 seconds later, when Yoxheimer found the loose puck and beat Chamberlain through the legs again. The early 2-0 lead gave Penn State the early momentum, something they wanted to establish early on.
"I think it was really big because it kind of put them on their toes," Yoxheimer said. "It made us a little more comfortable and kind of settled us down. I think [scoring early] was really big today."
Head coach, Josh Brandwene was impressed with the way his team was prepared to come right back at RIT after losing the night before.
"That was our best first period of the year," Brandwene said. "Despite getting so close in the end, this was such an important day for this hockey program because the preparation at the start of the game was as good as we've had all season."
RIT would take two concurrent minor penalties, giving Penn State a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes, but the Tigers killed off the penalties and swung momentum in their favor. RIT would score on the power play at the end of the first period on a goal by forward Celeste Brown.
The game remained 2-1 through the second period, but the excitement never wavered. Penn State junior goaltender Nicole Paniccia (Oakville, Ont.) was brilliant in net, saving 58 of 60 shots aimed her way. Paniccia's lateral movement was on display, making some great post-to-post saves. Brandwene praised his goaltender after the game.
"Phenomenal," he said of Paniccia's play. "Not just the saves, but the steadiness, the poise. [There were] lots of deflections, lots of traffic in front and I can't say enough about her performance."
Paniccia said she stayed composed by taking the game one shot at a time, and kept a level-head by skating around her net and taking a sip of water between plays. She credited her teammates for her great performance.
"We did better with the penalty kill and a lot of my teammates were blocking shots," Paniccia said. "Hopefully later on in the season we play them again and can get the win next time."
A close call came at the end of the first period when RIT took a shot that just clipped the post, and almost knotted the game at 2-2. Paniccia rubbed her post as if to say "thank you," something she said she does often.
"I'm very superstitious," Paniccia said with a laugh, "you have to do it and I feel like if you don't [the puck] will go in next time."
Penn State would battle hard throughout the third period, especially in the defensive zone. Paniccia made some great saves to preserve the lead, and the offensive possessed the puck for long stretches in the RIT zone. RIT would score a late power play goal from Tenecia Hiller to tie the game at 2-2 and the score would remain the same throughout the rest of the third period and overtime. Despite almost recording their first CHA win, Brandwene said the tie was a major building block moving forward.
"Today will be, in the long term, a great day for us going forward," he said. "This was an awesome...league environment, right down to the wire. Great chances right down to the end. [It] was just a great college hockey game."
Brandwene was impressed with the way his young team has embraced the underdog role.
"We're underdogs all year," he said. "We're the youngest team in Division 1 hockey by a mile and a half. For these young kids to embrace the underdog role and defy all the odds every day just speaks volumes as to who they are as players, and more importantly as people."
Last week's CHA Offensive Player of the Week, Yoxheimer, picked up right where she left off. The freshman recorded two more goals and an assist to give her a team-high six goals and eight points on the season. She is also riding a current four game scoring streak, something she attributes to hard work.
"I think its just hard work and following what the teams doing," Yoxheimer said, "and with that comes success. So I just keep doing it."
Junior defender Lindsay Reihl (Cheshire, Conn.) liked the intensity of the game and found many positives to build on moving forward.
"This weekend we got out first tie, out first goal in the building and we competed amazingly," Reihl said. "Every game we play we learn a little bit more and continue to build going into next week"
The Nittany Lions play a home series with Sacred Heart this weekend starting Friday at 7 p.m. and then a matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m.