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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Trailing 4-1 after two periods Sunday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena, the Penn State Nittany Lions needed a spark to get them back on track.
And that's exactly what they got to begin the third period.
Two goals in the first six minutes from Meike Meilleur and Laura Bowman cut the deficit to 4-3, highlighting one of the best stretches of hockey Penn State has played all season. They completely dominated puck possession in the offensive zone, taking control of the tempo of the game and wearing down the Robert Morris defensemen.
"One of the things we stress is short term thinking, breaking things down into chunks," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "We don't ever want to get ahead of ourselves. We want to live in the moment. Breaking it down into chunks was something they really responded well to and when you do that, that's when you can live in the moment, have a six or seven-minute stretch that goes like that."
Bowman's goal early in the third period was one of three total for her on the day, and was also the most critical as it gave the Lions confidence that they could pull out of their three-goal hole.
"It gave us hope," Bowman said. "We changed up and it ended up working really well. I just wanted to get the puck over to Amy [Petersen] because I knew she was flying down and it just so happened she made a great pass back to me and I was able to put it away."
Unfortunately, a game-tying goal was not in the cards for the Nittany Lions, who ended up on the wrong side of a 6-5 score. But the comeback, not the loss, is what this team will take away from the game.
"Teams of championship caliber, sometimes they're made in the difficult moments. I truly believe today was one of those days," Brandwene said. "It's one thing to face adversity once, it's one thing to face it over an eight or ten-minute stretch. It's another thing to be down the way we were down on a number of times today. It's another thing altogether to play with that 'it-factor' where you just want it so badly you can taste it. That's something I saw from this hockey team in the last 20 minutes that's far above even what I've seen in the past. While frustrating to lose, that is a big gain for us as a hockey team and I'm really excited about the second semester."
"It definitely shows our team's ability to come back," Bowman said. "We continued to play our game and even played a better game than we did in the first 40 minutes and just dominated the last 20 minutes. We just need to bring those 20 minutes to the full 60."
The Nittany Lions had a chance to tie the game in the final minute, but a breakaway empty-net opportunity from Robert Morris trickled through a Penn State defenseman trying to block the goal for a decisive 6-4 lead, one the Colonials would not yield.
Bowman was able to net her third goal of the game on a power play with just under 30 seconds remaining, bringing Penn State back within one. But the Nittany Lions couldn't get another quality shot on net as time expired.
The one-goal loss followed up a 4-2 defeat Saturday, a game in which the Nittany Lions hung with Robert Morris for most of the game. Two late goals, one deflecting off the skate of a Penn State defenseman and another empty-netter, proved to be the difference as the Colonials were able to come out on top.
"Bounces happen, that's a part of hockey," Brandwene said. "We were actually in exactly the right position on their third one that did bounce in, so sometimes you do exactly the right thing and the wrong outcome happens."
The Nittany Lions have almost a month between now and their next game as they prepare for final exams and the holidays. They resume play on Dec. 30-31 with trips to play Quinnipiac and Princeton before we usher in the new year.