Goalie Nicole Paniccia was raised in Oakville, Ont., played her first two collegiate years for Connecticut, currently plays for Penn State and her next step may take her across the pond to Italy.
Paniccia’s father, Ben, played Italian hockey for five years. With assistance from her dad, Nicole received her Italian passport this past December, 25 years after Ben obtained his. If Nicole were to play two years of hockey in Italy, she would become eligible to play for Team Italy, a dream of hers.
Assistant coach Casey McCullion views Paniccia’s Italian aspiration as an attainable goal due to her experience.
“They don't necessarily have players who have played at the level that she has,” McCullion said, “so, I think the competitive advantage she has coming from here and playing at this level certainly is going to be a huge asset for her.”
McCullion also said the Italians have made strides in the sport, and it benefits international hockey that players are giving back to different countries aside from the United States and Canada in order to make other teams more competitive.
Her father said when he played in Italy, he had two games a week and practices every day for an hour and a half, but the rest of the time was free. Ben elected to take day trips to places like Switzerland and Austria, something that Nicole views as a bonus.
“When else would you be able to do that?” the junior goalie asked. “It's kind of my time, just especially being so busy with hockey throughout my life. It's kind of my time to go and travel while doing something that I love.”
Paniccia said she is in the process of putting together a highlight video to send to Italy since it would be a long trip for scouts to make.
McCullion said the Nittany Lions’ inaugural victory against Vermont on Oct. 6 was in large part to Paniccia’s play. McCullion also said Paniccia’s best quality is the fact that she has the unbelievable ability to not let any one goal get her down and she puts the adversity behind her.
“It's easy for the team to move on because she's not back there trying to get herself refocused, she just saves the next puck,” the assistant coach said. “After we have given up goals this year, she's been the momentum changer back in our favor.”
Earlier in the season, McCullion said Paniccia was one of the best goalies in the nation and she still sticks by that assertion. In fact, she joked she is now 110 percent sure.
“Every time I think she's played her best game or hit her peak in terms of her leadership and just what she brings to the team character wise, she outdoes herself every day,” McCullion said. “I think a team and a program like Team Italy certainly would benefit from all that.”