Penn State was given a wake-up call last weekend, just in time for the quickly approaching conference playoffs.
The Nittany Lions (7-20-2, 1-13-2 CHA) were given everything they expected from the Lindenwood Lady Lions during their two-game set Friday and Saturday. Both games were closely contested battles between two evenly matched teams, ultimately resulting in a 3-1 loss and 3-3 tie for the Nittany Lions.
But while the outcomes were not shockers, the Nittany Lions learned what can happen if players head to the penalty box too often.
The Nittany Lions committed 11 penalties throughout the series. While the number is not outrageous, it gave the Lady Lions the room they needed to stay in the game and, in Friday’s case, take the lead.
“It’s an aggressive game, and sometimes you’re going to get the refs that will call it, sometimes they’ll let it slide,” assistant captain Lindsay Reihl said. “And this weekend they were definitely kind of tight on what they were calling.”
With both teams’ power play units yielding about the same statistics on the season, the Lady Lions gained the upper hand in the series by taking advantage of three separate power play chances. Their 27.3-percent success rate on the advantage in the series is almost double their rate for the entire season, which currently stands at 14.9.
In Friday’s win, the two power play goals the Lady Lions scored led the team to victory — the remaining goal was scored on an empty net in the waning seconds of the contest.
Forward Micayla Catanzariti said the series showed that the Lions need to control their penalties better in their future matchups.
“This weekend was an eye-opener,” she said.
Things are not completely bad for the team, though.
While the penalties came back to haunt the Lions in their past two games, the penalty kill has typically been solid lately, improving throughout the season. Prior to the series with Lindenwood, the team had killed 25 of the 28 penalties it had committed in its nine other games since play resumed this calendar year.
Coach Josh Brandwene said that he thinks the defense’s play is fine, particularly because everyone is doing a good job at moving their feet.
“When you move your feet, good things happen,” Brandwene said. “So that’s something that I’m really pleased with, because when you’re active and you’re involved, and disciplined at the same time, that’s the kind of hockey we’re looking for.”
Brandwene also noted that the team has typically played with a good mix of intensity while staying disciplined at the same time.
Such a style will become beneficial to the Lions when they enter conference playoffs. As an underdog, they will need to battle with opponents but stay at even strength, too.
Reihl said that such a focus is possible for the team, even with the playoff atmosphere it will be experiencing for the first time.
“You can be aggressive without getting penalties, you just have to focus on moving your feet and not doing too much with the sticks,” Reihl said.
“It’s mostly moving your feet, using your leg power and just moving them out of the way as best you can.”