The third period against Robert Morris on Nov. 11, which head coach Josh Brandwene called a turning point in the season, featured the start of a new system the women’s hockey team is improving on.
Forward Shannon Yoxheimer, the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer, said the system is a new forechecking format. It incorporates weak-side defensive pinching, where the defender steps up into the offensive zone to keep the puck in, and center back filling.
Assistant coach Gina Kearns said the Lions worked on the new forechecking system because their shot totals spoke for themselves.
“We’ve been getting outshot by a pretty large margin for the whole season with the exception of maybe a few games in there,” Kearns said. “We tried to think of something that we could do that would keep more pucks in our own end and kind of generate more attacks and then more shots.”
Kearns said the system activated the defense and the centers and the team bought into it. Kearns also said the strong results reflected the effectiveness of the system and it becomes easier to do something if the results are visible.
Brandwene said when the team first tested the system out against the Colonials, it had not practiced it. He said it was a testament to who the Lions are and that they are smart and “coachable.”
“They listen and it was real enjoyable to watch them go out and execute that without having practiced it,” Brandwene said. “It just speaks to their hockey IQ and what they’re capable of.”
Brandwene also said the Lions are fearless when they play that forecheck system and it features a healthy blend of aggressiveness, position and read and react.
Kearns said the team saw some of the best nine minutes of hockey against Robert Morris and took the next three days to work on the system in practice before playing Lindenwood.
Yoxheimer said the system created a lot of offense against Lindenwood and the Lions had them bottled up in the first period. Yoxheimer also said Lindenwood figured out the forecheck system, but that was not a bad break for the Lions.
“You kind of had to go to a different forecheck, which works because they’re thinking we’re going to do one thing then we do another,” Yoxheimer said. “We can surprise them with different things.”