When the Rochester Institute of Technology comes to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion to play Penn State on Thursday and Friday, the two schools will have a number of things in common.
Like the Nittany Lions (2-4-0, 0-2-0 CHA), RIT (3-3-0, 0-2-0 CHA) will be seeking its first win in Conference Hockey America, the league each team joined this season.
The Tigers began their regular season with consecutive losses to CHA powerhouse Mercyhurst. Since then, though, they have shut out two non-conference opponents and have outscored opponents, 19-4, during their last four games. The Tigers’ only loss since the series versus Mercyhurst was a 2-1 setback against Princeton.
The Lions are in a similar position. After being shut out in their first two home games against Syracuse, they snapped a four-game skid and got back on the winning track with a 6-1 victory against Sacred Heart on Saturday. The Lions will have an another chance to win at home in their next two games against the Tigers, which will be their second home series of the season and the beginning of a six-game homestand.
“We want to definitely redeem ourselves, give the crowd something to look forward to,” freshman Birdie Shaw said. “It’ll be a good experience just to get another D-I opportunity with a high level of play.”
With each team gunning for its first conference victory, sophomore Jess Desorcie said she is expecting a high level of intensity and physicality in each of the upcoming games.
Even though the Lions are trying to accomplish a few other things, including their first goal and win at home, Shaw said the milestones have not added a lot of extra pressure on the team.
“We definitely want to have our first win at home, but it won’t affect the way we play,” Shaw said. “We’ll still stay calm, and keep working together to make it happen.”
Assistant coach Gina Kearns shared the thoughts of Shaw. She said she doesn’t think the team is being overwhelmed by the various “firsts” waiting to be checked off its list because it has already accomplished a few things.
“We’ve had success over the couple of weekends with the win at Vermont and the win at Sacred Heart, so we know it can be done,” Kearns said.
Although each team is also in its first year of NCAA Division I play this season, the Tigers do not lack NCAA experience.
Last year, the Tigers competed in Division III and were dominant, ending the season with their first ever NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey national championship. There is plenty of returning talent to the team, too; of the seven players on the roster with four or more points so far this season, four are seniors.
Even though the Lions will be taking on an accomplished team, goalie Nicole Paniccia said the extra experience the Tigers have isn’t something that will be of concern.
“I think everybody on our team’s experienced now just because we’ve been there and done that, and played in the league now,” the junior said. “So I think our freshman are ready to step up, and I think we’ll be ready to go.”
Paniccia said she thinks the team is not looking at this series any differently from others.
“We’re just going to go into it like any other game, and know we can do it, and then bring what we’ve been practicing to the game,” Paniccia said. “We look ready to go; we’re all really excited.”