A player tearing down the left wing and ripping a shot from the red line just over the goalie’s glove into the net sticks out in Gina Kearns’ memory.
That player was forward Shannon Yoxheimer playing in a North American Hockey Academy jersey.
Penn State women’s hockey assistant coach, Gina Kearns said when she first saw Yoxheimer play for the Little Caesars club team, she said she thought, “There’s no way she’s left out there and if she is, we got to get her.”
Yoxheimer had not committed to a school and eventually elected to come to Penn State for the campus, academics and to be a part of starting the inaugural Division I program.
Yoxheimer said she initially rejected the idea that her father proposed of playing hockey because she said she was girly. But, at the age of eight, she fully immersed herself in the sport.
Defender Madison Smiddy played against Yoxheimer when the two played club hockey in Michigan. Smiddy said the two were no strangers to each other by the time they arrived at Penn State.
“She definitely was one of the standout players,” Smiddy said. “Playing defense against her being a forward, we definitely got a lot of time together in the corner in battles.”
Smiddy said she is happy she can be on the same team with Yoxheimer now instead of going against her. Smiddy said Yoxheimer is a contributor to the Nittany Lions and that the team is lucky to have her.
“She brings offense and scoring opportunities for our team,” Smiddy said. “She does all the small things right.”
Kearns said Yoxheimer’s “hockey IQ” is among the best on the team and that the freshman sets a good example for the rest of the team in the classroom.
Yoxheimer currently leads the Lions in goals with four, including the first score in Penn State history against Vermont on Oct. 6. Yoxheimer said that victory was the best thing that ever happened to her in hockey.
Although Yoxheimer said she could not predict she was going to lead the team in goals during her first season, Kearns said she could envision it.
“She’s willing to correct anything and she wants to get better,” Kearns said. “I think her willingness to buy into the system and be so coachable is what’s going to keep her in the long run and keep her successful.”
Kearns said Yoxheimer is a power forward with some speed that can shoot the puck, which is something the team needs to do.
Yoxheimer’s two-goal performance last weekend earned her the title of College Hockey America Player of the Week. Yoxheimer said the growth of the program is endless at this point.
“We can be a really good team,” Yoxheimer said. “I think that if I just keep on doing what I’m doing now and having a positive attitude, then I’ll be able to continue to help the team.”
Kearns said Yoxheimer always asks questions, whether it is about the power play or penalty kill, in order to improve her game. Kearns also said that Yoxheimer has everything you could ask for in a player and that she will continue to be successful.
“She acts like a professional from the minute she gets here,” Kearns said. “She’s warming up, she’s doing the right things on the ice, she’s stretching, she’s cooling down.”