There are 20 minutes in periods of hockey games, but the first four minutes of them have appeared to have a substantial impact on the outcomes of Penn State’s games so far.
In 13 separate periods of 10 games this season, opponents have found the net in the opening four minutes of a period. The Nittany Lions have only won two of the games in which that has happened.
On the other hand, the Lions have fared much better when recording an early goal during a period. They have only done that during three periods of two games so far, but have won both of those games.
Assistant coach Gina Kearns said that the opening minutes of periods are important, to a certain extent.
“We like to get everyone involved right off the bat, just because energy’s high; you want to get out there,” Kearns said. “At the same time, when they come back to the bench, hopefully no mistakes happened. But if they do, hey, it’s the first shift.”
Goals early in periods seem to dictate how the rest of that specific period goes, too. In the 13 periods that opponents scored inside the first four minutes, they have gone on to win the whole period by a combined 25-7. The Lions are just as dominant in the three periods they netted quick goals, winning them by a combined 7-0.
However, assistant captain Lindsay Reihl said that she thinks the higher amount of hot starts to periods by opponents is coincidental, and that the first four minutes of periods are no more important than the next 16.
“I’d say that the entire game, every shift, has to do with the outcome,” Reihl said. “I mean it just depends, if they score, if we can come back and put one in then we’re fine. If not, then I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily in the hole, but it is hard if you can’t get that momentum up after the other team scores.”
Despite the trend in the statistics, Reihl said she thinks that early goals do not deflate the Lions much, because they are good at preventing goals from getting to them.
Kearns said that opponents scoring minutes into periods more often than the Lions can be attributed to a number of factors. She said that there are a host of things that could be the reason, including team preparation, adjustments by both teams during intermissions and the enthusiasm the other team also has.
“There is another team out there, and they’re just as fired up,” Kearns said. “We want to be the team that nobody wants to play. But with that comes a lot of opponents that don’t want to lose to us.”
Kearns said the slow starts to periods that the Lions have do not affect the competitiveness and fire in the team, though.
“I think that’s one of the things since the beginning of the year that we’ve really preached, is that if we do go down early, we have to be resilient; there’s a lot of hockey left to be played,” Kearns said.
“Coach [Josh] Brandwene likes to say that after a goal is scored, momentum is [at] zero. Everyone starts back at center ice — it’s like a whole new game.”
Reihl also said that the energy the team has does not go away, regardless of who scored.
“Every time we hit the ice, for the beginning of the game or the beginning of a period, our mentality is one shift at a time,” Reihl said. “So we go out, be in that moment [and] don’t worry about what happened before.”