Josh Brandwene's primary goal this season is to improve every day, and for the team to be playing its best hockey of the season at tournament time.
Things like "better" and "progress" aren't always easily measured. In fact, as recently as Friday's series opener, I argued that a 2-1 loss to Sacred Heart could be considered forward movement. No rationalization is needed, however, when the Nittany Lions move from that defeat into a 6-1 win the next day to snap a four-game losing streak and improve to 2-4-0 (0-2-0 CHA).
The offensive explosion from a team that had only scored seven times in the previous five games (and just twice after the season-opening 5-3 win over Vermont) was thanks mostly to a suddenly-lethal power play. After going 0-for-19 to start the season, it connected three times in the first 32 minutes of the game to give the Nittany Lions more than enough offense.
That's not to say that the game didn't have a few tense moments, though. Taylor Gross and Shannon Yoxheimer scored on PSU's first two attempts with the advantage to give the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. However, early in the second period, and on a SHU power play...
Casey Stathopoulos (Waltham, MA) knocked in loose puck on a scrum in front of the net, set up by Sara Hanna (Lino Lakes, MN) and Sarah Delaney (Whittman, MA) at 4:03.Fortunately...
Penn State answered about eight minutes later, once again on the power play, as Jeannette Bateman knocked down a clearing attempt at the blue line and skated in for an unassisted goal at 12:00.Jess Desorcie and Hannah Hoenshell tallied 26 seconds apart early in the final period to crack the game open, and Jordin Pardoski added a finishing touch with 1:39 remaining. Madison Smiddy and Jenna Welch each had a pair of assists in the contest.
Notably, Nicole Paniccia started in goal Saturday to break up what had been a straight rotation between her and Celine Whitlinger to this point. Paniccia didn't give Brandwene any reason to regret the move, stopping 25 of 26 Pioneer attempts.
While the flood of NCAA-era firsts has slowed significantly six games into the season, this game still provided a healthy share, including:
- As mentioned, the power play goals were the first three.
- Bateman, Hoenshell and Pardoski all scored their first collegiate goals.
- The game was Hoenshell's PSU and NCAA debut after she missed the early stages of the season with a sprained ankle.
- Desorcie's goal was her first at the NCAA DI level.
- Cara Mendelson also made her NCAA debut, and is now able to say that the Nittany Lions do quite well when she plays.
- Lindsay Reihl notched her first NCAA point, an assist on Desorcie's goal.