“Neat” and “challenging” were the words Penn State women’s hockey coach Josh Brandwene chose to describe his thus-far short coaching stint for the Nittany Lions at the team’s media day on Wednesday.
“On the one hand, we’ve got the big challenge of doing so much and putting so much together in such a little amount of time,” Brandwene said. “But what’s neat about it is we have the opportunity to just continue to grow, get better everyday.”
Brandwene was named the first head coach of the women’s hockey program in June 2011. Since, he has worked with the former Lady Icers organization and helped with summer camps in order to prepare for the inaugural year of NCAA play.
Defender Lindsay Reihl, who is one of two seniors on the squad and was a part of the former club team, said the transition to D-I hockey has been exciting and fun for her. Reihl also said it was a big help for the team to have Brandwene for a year before the upcoming season.
“We got to learn his coaching philosophies and the ways that he likes to work with his players,” Reihl said. “That definitely helped ease the transition- just getting the experience to work with him last year.”
Brandwene said his goal for the Lions’ season is to get better with every day that passes, and he said he is excited about the group he has.
“We’ve worked hard- we’re getting better already,” Brandwene said. “We want to make sure we continue to work and get better every day. Our goal is to be playing our best hockey of the season at league playoff time. That would be really exciting for us.”
Captain Taylor Gross said she wants the team to continue to improve by striving to advance even after a good game.
The junior forward, who transferred halfway through last season from the University of Connecticut, said the transition to Penn State has been an easy one.
“Everybody has been really supportive,” Gross said. “My teammates […] did a really good job making me feel welcome, and now I feel like I’m doing the same thing for all the new freshmen coming in.”
When the Lions travel to Burlington to take on the Vermont Catamounts for two games to open the season, the team will send 17 freshmen.
Brandwene said the freshmen are enthusiastic and that it is “awesome” because they want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
“They so want to learn,” Brandwene said. “They so want to give their best on behalf of the team and the program. For us, as coaches, it makes coming to the rink every day a special experience.”
Brandwene said the team chemistry is great and he credits many people for that, including the freshmen class. But, he also said the team will see its share of uphill battles.
“We’re going to face moments of great challenge and great adversity,” Brandwene said. “It’s how we handle those moments and those challenges that are going to allow us to accomplish that goal of getting better everyday and playing our best hockey at the end of the season.”
Assistant coach Gina Kerans said the Lions still have a lot of work to do, but they feel like they can compete with anyone if they do the little things right.
Reihl said the team has done everything it needed to do to prepare and is confident many players will contribute.
“You should just look at everyone - we look great,” Reihl said with a smile.