The Penn State women's hockey team went on the road last weekend to take on a powerful, No. 4 Mercyhurst team. In their two games, the Nittany Lions lost by a combined total of 12-1. However, Penn State players aid they were glad to gain experience and learn about their team in the process.
"We learned that we could skate with them," said Shannon Yoxheimer, the team's leading scorer.. "It was a big turning point for our team because we played some of our best hockey."
The Lions will travel to Canton, N.Y. this weekend to attempt to right the ship versus St. Lawrence on Friday night and Saturday afternoon. St. Lawrence's 8-7-1 record may not truly show how skilled they actually are. After losing its first five games of the season, St. Lawrence has reeled off eight wins and just two losses, including one to No. 3 Cornell, and one tie since.
Yoxheimer will look to continue her success for the rest of this season. She has 10 goals and eight assists on the season and was recently named CHA rookie of the month.
"She's been phenomenal all year long," head coach Josh Brandwene said. "Her game continues to get better. She wants to get better every day, and I'm thrilled that she's here at Penn State."
Assistant Coach Gina Kearns was reassured by the Lions' performance against Mercyhurst and confident they could take it into their upcoming games against St. Lawrence.
"In the first period of each game we had Mercyhurst bottled up," she said. "If they learned anything, it's to believe in good team defense and anything can happen."
The Lions did play Mercyhurst tough in the first period of both games. In the first game, Mercyhurst had just a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission. At this point in the second game, the score was tied 1-1, and the Lions' Jess Desorcie, a sophomore from Westford, Vt., had broken Mercyhurst's 302-minute shutout streak. Mercyhurst proved to be too much, though, and outshot Penn State by 111 shots in the two games.
Brandwene was focused on the positives of playing a team like Mercyhurst.
"It was a great weekend for our young program," he said. "[We] learned so much about combining poise, discipline, patience and aggressiveness because you really have to put all those factors together in order to be successful."
One large focus for the upcoming weekend is continuing to improve on special teams. Last Saturday, Penn State committed six penalties, but allowed only one powerplay goal. However, the team could not capitalize on any of the four power play chances it had.
On the season, Penn State has just nine power play goals compared to 20 for their opponents. They are scoring on 13.8 percent of their power play opportunities compared to their opponents' scoring on 26.7 percent of their chances.
Penn State is making special teams a larger focus during practices now that the team has had time to gel. The Lions have 17 freshmen, and Kearns and the rest of the coaching staff wanted to see who fits best where before starting to focus on aspects of the game that they sometimes can not control.