Throughout high school, loud bangs could be repeatedly heard in the Yoxheimer household’s basement.
It was an unconventional setting, but that was where Shannon Yoxheimer constantly practiced her shooting. She had a small rink, so to speak, made out of synthetic ice with an accuracy net to shoot at.
The long sessions in the basement have helped the freshman become one of the biggest scoring threats on the ice — not just for Penn State, but in the entire conference.
The team’s offense flows through Yoxheimer, who generally starts at left wing.
That is not just because she leads the team in goals (12) and points (24). She also has taken more shots than any other teammate, by far.
Her 129 shots on goal are nearly double that of the closest Lion, Taylor Gross, who has taken 65. It takes a combination of at least three different Lions to surpass the number of shots Yoxheimer has taken so far this season.
In fact, no other player in Penn State’s conference has taken more shots on goal. Mercyhurst’s Christie Cicero is second with 109.
There is more than one reason why she shoots so much, but one thing about Yoxheimer that comes to Gross’ mind is her size.
At 5-foot-7, Yoxheimer is one of the taller players on the team. Only forward Jenna Welch (5-foot-8), back-up goalie Celine Whitlinger (5-foot-8) and forward Darby Kern (5-foot-11) are taller.
“She’s got a really strong shot. So she’s able to put pucks on the net from anywhere, and that’s definitely a good thing,” Gross said.
Assistant coach Gina Kearns described Yoxheimer as a “power forward” that has earned her ability to find shots from anywhere through hard work.
“She’s a tremendous, tremendous player over in the weight room,” Kearns said. “[She] gets there early, stays late, always asking what she can do extra.”
Although the offense is not tailored specifically to let Yoxheimer dominate the shot charts, her strong shooting has allowed her to do so. Early on, she made an impression on the team’s coaching staff.
Kearns said that Yoxheimer’s hard shots and power gave her a green light to basically fire at will on the net.
“We talked to her in the beginning of the year, ‘You have a great shot, use it. Shoot from everywhere,’ ” Kearns said.
“We don’t necessarily, with the young team that we have, get all that many shots,” she continued. “So when we have the opportunity to shoot, we’re telling all of our kids, but especially her, just get shots on net…that’s kind of been our gameplan all year with everybody, but she’s got the power and the strength to pop a couple in.”
That last part — the ability to “pop” a couple shots in the goal — is important. It would not matter how many times Yoxheimer touches the puck if she cannot score, or at least create some opportunities for teammates with rebounds.
Fortunately for the Lions, there is a reason she continues to appear everywhere on shot charts. Her team-leading goal total is also tied for fourth in the CHA, justifying the amount of times she fires at the net.
The goal total is not just high because of the shot total, either. While her shooting percentage of .093 is not tops on the team, it is good enough for sixth out of all Lions.
Even if Yoxheimer’s chances do not light the lamp, forward Jess Desorcie said there are good odds that a rebound opportunity might appear because she is so accurate.
“It’s definitely a good feeling, because ninety percent of the time her shots are on net,” Desorcie said. “So we like to get in there for those rebounds, and hopefully the goalie gives them up.”
Some of that talent may be natural, but a lot of it has to be attributed to hard work.
The extra effort could be found many days in Yoxheimer’s basement. Using the shooting machine her uncle got for her around the time she was a freshman in high school, Yoxheimer said that she would take passes from him for hours, firing away at the net.
“That’s experience that can’t necessarily be replaced,” Kearns said. “It’s hard to sometimes get some free ice and get out there and shoot pucks, but she’s got the ability to do that in her basement, so that’s something that’s definitely helped her.”
Even though she shoots a lot, Yoxheimer said she does not see herself as the focal point of the offense.
With Yoxheimer constantly firing on net, every forward on the team’s first line brings a special element to the table. Yoxheimer, Gross, and Desorcie all say they have meshed well together.
As Gross put it, each one of them has a “strong point” that makes the unit as a whole better. Gross considers herself a play-maker, while Desorcie said she fills in the gaps and helps where she is needed.
The two linemates noted that Yoxheimer’s scoring presence complements those two styles of play well.
“It’s nice having somebody that has a good shot to pass the puck to, to be able to put the puck on net and create opportunities,” Gross said.
Yoxheimer said the opportunity to play alongside two experienced forwards in Gross, a junior, and Desorcie, a sophomore, on such a young team has helped her grow.
“They’ve taught me a lot, especially Taylor, because she has played at that D-I level before,” Yoxheimer said. “And so, her experience kind of transferred over to our line, so it kind of helps me out in the game.”
Learning from the veterans and putting in the work has certainly paid off for Yoxheimer so far, as the regular season begins to come to an end.
Like Kearns pointed out, she has done more than the bare minimum required by most freshmen.
“It’s easy to make excuses as a freshman, and she definitely has not done that,” Kearns said. “She’s risen to the occasion. She puts in the work and she deserves it.”