“Giving up” did not appear to be in Penn State’s vocabulary during its two losses to No. 7 Mercyhurst on Friday and Saturday.
“Backing down” must not have been in it, either.
Despite playing the long-time College Hockey America powerhouse and eventually losing their grip on each of their two games, the Nittany Lions continued to play rough, physical hockey with the Lakers throughout the entire series. They fell 5-2 on Friday night, then 4-1 on Saturday, both at the Greenburg Ice Pavilion.
“I’m really proud of the compete level,” coach Josh Brandwene said of his team after Friday’s game. “I’m really proud of how they handled the adversity and how they stood toe-to-toe with the No. 7 team in the country out there today,”
The intensified level of play could easily be found in the penalty summary of each game’s box score.
In the first game, the two teams were whistled for 17 total penalties. Whether it was checking, cross-checking, interference or roughing, the majority of those penalties were a result of the chippy play on the ice.
The stat sheet only told half the story, though.
Following nearly every stoppage in play, players from each side engaged in pushing and shoving matches.
Freshman Jordin Pardoski said after Friday’s game that intimidation may have been a factor in the rough play that followed whistles, but she did not think the Lakers got into the team’s heads.
Forward Micayla Catanzariti, agreed with Pardoski.
“I think we got in their heads more,” Catanzariti said.
While the following game was slightly calmer, 11 penalties were called. Once again, interference, roughing and checking penalties riddled the box score, while brief altercations continued after whistles.
Brandwene did not say whether he thought there was bad blood between the teams after Saturday’s loss, but he had praise for his team’s overall confidence against the Lakers.
“I like the fact that we’re willing to take away space, be in battles and show some real togetherness and real toughness against the best in the nation,” he said.
During Saturday’s contest, the Lions played strong in the defensive end, holding the Lakers to 11 first-period shots on goal and going nearly 23 minutes before conceding the first goal of the game.
Like Catanzariti pointed out the day before, Jill Holdcroft said after the second game that she thought the team may have gotten into the Lakers’ heads.
“I think we definitely got them frustrated because they didn’t expect us to do so well against them,” Holdcroft said. “So you could tell they got chippy out there, which was good for us.”
Although the style of play is not seen in most Lions’ games to the extent it was against the Lakers, junior Jenna Welch said she likes those kind of games.
“Emotions get involved. It’s hockey; it’s an emotional game,” Welch said.
“It happens, but it’s fun out there when it gets competitive.”