All season long, head coach Josh Brandwene has stressed the importance of improving from day-to-day and his team did just that this past weekend.
After a 4-1 loss to Rochester Institute of Technology Friday, the Nittany Lions rebounded with two first-period goals on Saturday to ultimately earn a tie and pick up their first College Hockey America point.
“[Saturday’s tie], really will be in the long-term, despite the, ‘Wow, we got so close,’ a great day for us going forward,” Brandwene said. “To me, this was awesome.”
Brandwene said the first period, in which captain Taylor Gross and forward Shannon Yoxheimer each had goals within 23 seconds of one another, was the best first period the team has had all year.
Brandwene also said the team adjusted on clearing the puck out of its end and getting pucks deep with authority in order to avoid being on defense as much as the Lions were on Friday.
Goalie Nicole Paniccia rebounded from allowing four goals on Friday with a career-high 59 saves on Saturday.
Paniccia said she did not prepare any differently for the second game.
“We did a lot better with our penalty kill…and a lot of teammates were blocking shots,” Paniccia said. “Even though we got the tie, we keep getting better and hopefully later on in the season [when] we play them again, we will get the win next time.”
Defender Lindsay Reihl said the tie was big on Saturday, but also for the team as it moves forward.
“I think it just builds momentum and gets us going even harder,” Reihl said. “It makes us push that much harder.”
Reihl said the Lions learn more and more from every game they play and they will continue to build from what they know they have to work on.
Yoxheimer said the improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 against RIT showed that the team is buying into what Brandwene is saying.
“[Friday], obviously, things weren’t going the way that we wanted and [Saturday], we were a different team with a different group of kids,” Yoxheimer said. “I just think that listening to what he has to say really helps the team.”
Brandwene understands that the Lions usually play the role of an underdog because they are in their first season of Division I hockey and all but five of the Lions’ 27 players are underclassmen. However, he has been pleased with how his team has reacted to that situation.
“For these young kids to just embrace the underdog role and go out and defy the odds everyday just speaks volumes about who they are as players and more importantly, as people,” Brandwene said. “I’m really proud.”
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