Although the Penn State women’s hockey team is in its inaugural season and has a roster that features 17 freshmen, the members of the coaching staff are no strangers to each other.
In 2008, head coach Josh Brandwene and assistant coach Casey McCullion worked together at Kingwood Oxford, a prep school in Connecticut. After three seasons at the school, Brandwene made the move to Penn State. Then, Brandwene offered the assistant coaching job to McCullion.
“[It was an] absolute no-brainer,” Brandwene said. “She’s the perfect fit for Penn State — she’s the perfect fit for this program and she’s doing an outstanding job.”
McCullion said she received the news via a phone call from Brandwene himself and that it was a great opportunity to come on board and join Brandwene and fellow assistant coach Gina Kearns.
McCullion said her and Brandwene are already familiar with coaching a young team because they did it at Kingswood Oxford. McCullion acknowledged that there will be teams that the Lions will face that are bigger, stronger and more experienced than them. But, she wants the Lions to focus on the process and not the outcomes.
Brandwene said McCullion is a great recruiter and “a fabulous mentor” for the young team. He also said their experience at Kingswood Oxford has been helpful already.
“When you’ve had that working relationship, you sort of pick up where you left off,” Brandwene said.
Bradwene said Kearns and McCullion are the total package and he relies on them heavily for their counseling and expertise.
McCullion said she thinks that she and Brandwene are a good balance for one another and that they focus on different aspects of the game to better the team.
“I might see an individual player doing something…he sees how it works in the system and so it goes well,” McCullion said.
Goalie Nicole Paniccia said it helps the Nittany Lions that Brandwene and McCullion have similar mentalities.
“They’re both really positive. They’re both really upbeat,” Paniccia said. “They just click. Something about it just works.”
Kearns and McCullion also knew about the other before joining the Lions’ coaching staff. The two played youth hockey around the 1999 and 2000 season and McCullion said they played on summer select teams throughout high school.
While Kearns joined the Boston University squad, McCullion went on to become a four-year letterwinner as a goalie for Holy Cross. She also earned a spot on the ECAC East All-Academic team from 2005-2007.
Paniccia said McCullion’s background as a goalie helps her because whenever she has a question about goaltending, McCullion knows exactly what to say. She said McCullion has helped her out numerous times already this season.
“She’s been there and done that,” Paniccia said. “It’s good for me to take advice from her because she knows how to play the game at this level.”