Penn State’s newest varsity team may have already won its first game, but it still hasn’t won its first home game. The Nittany Lions (1-1-0) can change that this weekend in their first two home games, when Syracuse (0-2-0) travels to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion for both teams’ conference-opening series.
“We already won the first game in program history, but that was on the road,” senior defender Lindsay Reihl said. “This weekend, we’re here in our own house. We have Syracuse coming, so we really want to get the first win in our barn.”
Head coach Josh Brandwene said the team is always excited, and this game is no exception from anything else it does.
“This is a competitive bunch. When they show up, they want to do as well as they possibly can,” Brandwene said. “And that’s an everyday thing for them, whether it’s practice, a game, a road game or a home game, so they’re certainly excited for this weekend.”
The Orange will be the Lions’ first taste of College Hockey America, the six-team conference they joined this season. Last year, the Orange finished last in the conference at 10-22-3 (1-8-3), when the CHA had only four teams.
So far, Syracuse has yet to win this season, dropping its first two games to New Hampshire, 4-3, and then-No. 10 Northeastern, 5-2.
Despite being winless, Syracuse head coach Paul Flanagan said the season just started, so the Orange isn’t coming into the weekend with any extra urgency.
“Early in the season, we’re primarily concerned with what we have to do. I think that’s been our main emphasis so far,” Flanagan said.
“It’d be nice for our club to get on a winning track. Winning can bring confidence, that’s for sure. But really, we’re not going to get ahead ourselves.”
The Lions also have an opportunity to get back on the winning track in the upcoming series. They’re coming off a close loss to Vermont on Sunday, and junior Jenna Welch said the team wants to get that bad taste out of its mouth.
“We got to see how it feels to win and lose [last weekend], both spectrums,” Welch said. “We definitely don’t like that feeling that happened the second day, so we’re ready to come right back at it.”
Players on the Lions said they are expecting a large number of people in attendance for the team’s first home game. Many have been networking and recruiting friends to be in the stands when the puck drops.
Brandwene said he expects excitement and enthusiasm from the fans this weekend, saying “Penn State has the greatest sports fans anywhere.”
If the fans show up, Brandwene said the team would benefit from the energy created from them.
Flanagan said he thinks the energetic atmosphere would pump up his team, too, rather than intimidate them.
“In as much as I think it helps the home team, I think our kids will really respond to it,” he said. “Women’s hockey, depending on where you’re playing, sometimes there’s not the biggest crowd.”
“I really think that our kids will relish it, the fact that there should be a lot of energy in the building and a lot of excitement. It’s more than just another hockey game. It’s the excitement of a new program that’s getting underway and new hockey fans and a school that’s jumping into it.”
Flanagan also said he is not concerned about his team underestimating the brand-new Lions, either.
“They went out in their very first game, and they won and proved right away that they’re a formidable opponent,” he said. “We’re not in a position to [underestimate], I think for us, our mentality is whether we’re playing School X, Y or Z. We need to be prepared as best we can.”
To email reporter: email@example.com