While the Nittany Lions will be disappointed to skate away from their weekend series with the Lindenwood Lady Lions with just a single point in the standings, the series’ ever-swinging momentum tested the young team with plenty of adversity.
It was adversity the team handled very well, Penn State netminder Nicole Paniccia said after Saturday’s 3-3 tie.
Following a hectic sequence on Saturday that saw Lindenwood pounce on a loose puck in the slot and tie the game at three, the Nittany Lions gazed in astonishment at the 0:42 remaining on the clock. For the second time of the afternoon, a Penn State one-goal lead had vanished into thin air.
“That one’s going to stick with me for awhile,” Paniccia said of the late Lindenwood equalizer. “You just have to reset your mind and get ready to go for the next five minutes [of overtime].”
The Oakville, Ontario native did just that with four saves in the back-and-forth overtime period that followed.
As a team, Penn State was forced to show its resiliency several times throughout the series.
“No matter what they get handed, no matter what the scenario, they get right back up and they make it their business to improve,” Penn State coach Josh Brandwene said.
The Nittany Lions scored the opening goal in both games this weekend, marking the first time the team had done so against a Division I opponent this season. But, in both contests, the Nittany Lions would see their lead slip away to a speedy Lindenwood offense.
While the team was unable to respond to the Lady Lions’ three-goal counterattack on Friday, it did answer on Saturday.
Trading goals in a tight game, as the Nittany Lions did in the series’ second game, helped the young team develop, Paniccia said.
Even after the back-breaking Lindenwood tying goal — which was preceded by what the home crowd thought was a blown penalty call — Penn State finished the game’s remaining 5:42 playing as it had for the previous 59 minutes: tough and resilient.
“That was a gutsy 65-minute effort against an unbelievable set of circumstances,” Brandwene said. “I’m really proud [of the way] we handled the things we [could] not control today.”
As showcased by its sudden-death finale, the series carried a frenzied playoff atmosphere — a preview of the CHA conference playoffs to come on March 1.
Brandwene said he likes how his team is competing as the playoffs get closer.
“We are a battle-tested underdog and that is great to be going into the playoffs,” he said.