Penn State is known for its lineage of tough defensive football units or as “Linebacker-U” on the gridiron, and Josh Brandwene subscribes to the same coaching philosophy, but on the ice.
Brandwene said he wants to make sure everyone takes care of their defensive responsibilities, and then the team can work on being more balanced. Opponents have outshot Penn State by 266 shots on the season and the Nittany Lions have blocked 302 shots as opposed to 211 by opponents thus far.
Brandwene, who played on the Penn State club hockey team from 1987-1991, said it is important to play good two-way hockey, but he mentioned the cliché that defense wins championships.
“If you’re going to be a successful team and a successful program, it starts with playing great defense and making sure we do a good job on both sides of the puck,” Brandwene said.
Brandwene said the Lions stress limiting and eliminating odd rush opportunities for the opposing team as well as making sure they are defending their zone and doing an outstanding job of clearing the puck on defense.
Defender Jordin Pardoski said the team knew it would have to be a defensive team and playing in its own zone coming into the year since it is so young, but it is necessary for the Lions.
“If you can’t get the puck out of your zone and play good defense, you can’t create offense,” Pardoski said. “So, I think that’s why defense is the building block of a good team.”
Pardoski said she does not mind playing in the Lions’ zone a lot, but sometimes, it can get overwhelming and it is nice to be on the point in the offensive zone. The Rochester Hills, Mich. native also said she thinks a shift will come and the team will not be on defense as much as it is now.
Brandwene has noticed an improvement on the Lions’ offensive front and said Saturday’s game against Union featured the Lions’ best day of puck possession and consistent offensive pressure yet.
Defender Lindsay Reihl said the Lions play a simple defensive scheme and have a couple of different systems, but the 5-foot-4 senior also said it would be a “great thing” if the Lions could spend a little less time on defense and more time on offense.
Reihl also said being a defender on the team is important, but at the same time, the forwards are also defenders because they have to get back and help with the defense.
Forward Shannon Yoxheimer said the defense-first scheme has had a positive effect because it makes the players focus on being a part of the game and the process of the game rather than the, “I need to score,” mentality.
The Jackson, Mich. native also said she has become a more well-rounded player due to the work she has put in on the defensive effort despite being a forward.
“I’m a forward, but at the same time, it just shows I can play at any end of the ice, neutral zone included, and then into the defensive zone,” Yoxheimer said. “Just being able to get the puck out on the sideboard, or making a pass out into the neutral zone really just kind of adds to [my] game a little bit.”