It took a little bit of luck, but a friendly ricochet added a few more “firsts” to Penn State’s list this season.
Six minutes into the team’s game against Sacred Heart on Saturday, a deflected pass from forward Shannon Yoxheimer to forward Taylor Gross eventually settled into the back of the net.
“[Yoxheimer] passed me the puck, and then it went off a girl’s stick, and into my chest and into the net,” Gross, the team’s captain, said with a laugh. “It kind of hit my stick, but it was more of a right place at the right time.”
The goal was the Nittany Lions’ first power play goal of the season and also Gross’ first goal as a Lion. The early lead ended in a 6-1 rout, giving the Pioneers no chance to sweep the series, which was held at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport, Conn.
“We got the momentum early,” assistant coach Gina Kearns said. “We got a goal, our power play was ticking, our penalty kill was going strong and we just rolled with it.
“It was really important for us to come out strong in the first [period] and play our system, play defensively. And then to be rewarded for that first goal was definitely something that carried us throughout that game.”
After being denied a goal in its first 18 tries on the power play this season, the pieces finally came together for Penn State on Saturday. The Lions were 3-for-5 during the game, and their first three goals all came in 5-on-4 opportunities.
Yoxheimer said the team worked hard on its power play in the practices leading up to the series, and it was a good feeling to see the work pay off when it mattered.
After Gross scored her goal, she set up a power play score for Yoxheimer about two minutes later. The Pioneers cut the deficit in half in the second period, but Jeanette Bateman pushed the Lions’ lead back to two on a power play goal before the intermission. It was her first goal with the Lions.
Despite a favorable lead in the final period of play, the Lions’ attack was relentless. Two goals within 30 seconds by Jess Desorcie and Hannah Hoenshell were followed by a late score by Jordin Pardoski, and the six total goals were the most the team has scored so far.
Gross said the team was able to remain focused in the final period because finishing games strong is always an important thing to do.
Desorcie said the passing from the defensive zone and communication by the team played a large part in helping the Lions win so easily on Saturday.
The intensity the team showed on Saturday was also caused in part by its disappointing loss to the Pioneers on Friday.
The Lions out-shot their opponent for the first time all season (42-28) on Friday, but barely had anything to show for it. Yoxheimer scored a goal late in the third period, but the team couldn’t complete the comeback, falling 2-1.
“We underestimated Sacred Heart going into the game and we paid for it,” Desorcie said after Saturday’s game.
Kearns said the Pioneers got momentum early in the game with a goal in the first period, which carried throughout the game.
The loss fired up the team for Saturday’s game, and it showed when it started off hot right out of the gate.
“It think it told us a lot after that loss that we really needed to take [Sacred Heart] more seriously, and all of us came together as a team probably the most that we have all season today,” Yoxheimer said after the game on Saturday.
Nicole Paniccia, who had previously split games with Celine Whitlinger, started both games in goal for the Lions. Despite taking the loss on Friday, Paniccia played well in both games, saving 51 of 54 shots during the series.
“She played great. She’s played great all year. Good for her to come back and get the win today,” Kearns said. “Just outstanding saves — she continues to lead this team each game.”
Saturday’s victory snapped the Lions’ four-game losing streak and will give them some momentum going into their next series. The team will return to conference action on Thursday and Friday against RIT at Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
“This week, I think in practice we need to keep the focus not really on our opponent, but on what we need to do as a team to get ready,” Yoxheimer said.
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