The Nittany Lions came off only their second weekend sweep of the season when they beat Chatham, a Division III team, by a combined score of 14-0, but they are not placing much emphasis on it.
“The main thing is to stay focused on the present,” coach Josh Brandwene said. “Every day is an opportunity to get better and we want to make sure that we’re doing what we need to do on a daily basis to continue to play really good hockey at both ends of the ice.”
The Lions (7-12-1, 1-8-1 CHA) travel to Schenectady, N.Y. to take on Union (5-11-3, 0-7-3 ECAC) for a two-game set Jan. 11 and 12. The weekend games mark the second series the Lions will square off against an ECAC opponent — the first was against St. Lawrence, the 2012 ECAC champions.
St. Lawrence swept Penn State on Dec. 7 and 8, but assistant coach Casey McCullion said the weekend was a turning point for the Lions.
“It was a big weekend for us just to show that there’s really no one we can’t skate with,” McCullion said. “I think the girls felt like they got over a hump that weekend and had a really tight game. We were right in it until the very end.”
Brandwene said the weekend against the Saints, also the last time the Lions took on a Division I team, showed the Lions were coachable and willing to learn.
McCullion said practices are easier these days because the Lions are no longer learning the system, but rather the team is working on tweaking individual skills. McCullion also stressed the importance of defense as a key to victory this weekend.
“I think if we take care of things in our end, then we’re going to be successful just like we have been against top-10 teams,” McCullion said. “We’ve gotten offensive opportunities against some of the best teams so, I think it’s going to be a great game.”
Forward Jenna Welch said Union fits into the mold of the ECAC teams, but the Lions want to focus on their game instead of what the Dutchwomen are doing.
“[ECAC teams] are very fast paced, aggressive,” Welch said. “I played Union in the past and they’re a very good team. They’ve put up with a lot of competition and given a lot of teams a run for their money.”
Welch earned a win and a tie against the Dutchwomen during her freshman and sophomore year when playing at Connecticut.
When asked if she could continue the undefeated streak, Welch joked, “Hey, you never know. New team [on] both sides of the spectrum. We’ll see.”