Slowly improving in almost every game, Penn State’s offense was bound to explode with big plays sooner or later.
That is exactly what happened on Nov. 2 and 3, when the Nittany Lions defeated Sacred Heart by a combined score of 14-2.
In a series that included the team’s first hat trick and win at home, its offensive production spiked drastically in a number of categories, most notably in shots. The Lions took 64 and 66 shots in each game, respectively; both totals easily topped their previous high of 42 shots in a game.
“The shots on goal for us this past weekend was a great start for us, especially since a lot of times we get out-shot by our opponents,” forward Jess Desorcie said. “It was good to be able to look up at the shot clock and see us ahead by a lot. It definitely generated a lot more offense for us.”
While there was only a single goal scored in each opening period during the series, head coach Josh Brandwene liked the fast starts the team got out to, which averaged 23 shots in the first 20 minutes of each game.
“I really give credit to our kids for really preparing well and really coming out of the gate and establishing our gameplan right from the start,” Brandwene said after Friday’s win. “That's something we've seen a lot of improvement with in terms of our starts, really in about the last seven or eight days or so, so I'm really pleased with the overall effort.”
Forward Kendra Rasmussen said after Saturday’s win that while it could be a little frustrating to get only one goal with so many shots, the team did not let the total affect them and they just kept attacking the net.
There was a notable difference in faceoffs won by the Lions, too. They took 97 of 145 faceoffs in the series.
“When you win your faceoffs, it gives your team the advantage right away to go on the offensive side of the play,” said Desorcie, who won 22 of the 31 faceoffs she was involved in against the Pioneers.
Brandwene said assistant coach Gina Kearns, a former forward herself, worked on certain parts of the offense during the week, and that the results of the team’s work with her in practice were seen on the ice. After Saturday’s victory, Brandwene said Kearns specifically deserved the credit for the extra effort put toward faceoffs in practice.
Defender Madison Smiddy said that winning so many faceoffs took pressure off of the defense and allowed them to get back in position on time.
Another obvious difference in the offense throughout the two games against the Pioneers was the amount of goals scored. The 14 total goals were almost as many as the team scored in its first eight games combined (16).
While Sacred Heart was by no means the toughest opponent the Lions have faced so far, the inflated statistics cannot be entirely pinned on the matchup. The two teams played several weeks before, and the Pioneers even took the first game, 2-1.
The offensive numbers produced by the Lions were also significantly better the second time they faced the Pioneers. The Lions took 50 more shots and scored seven more goals in the second series the two teams played.
Brandwene said after Friday’s game that a good week of practice leading up to the past two games helped the improvement.
“The kids did a really good job of that this week, in terms of their preparation,” Brandwene said. “We worked on an awful lot over the course of the week, we made some great adjustments in a couple key areas, and they worked hard and got rewarded for it.”
Desorice and Smiddy both said they think the recent success can carry over into the team’s upcoming conference series against Robert Morris this weekend.
“I think as far as our defensive play, our offensive center wins, and our shots, [they] will definitely play over to Robert Morris because we continue to get better and better,” Smiddy said.