The newest chapter in Penn State’s book of NCAA women’s hockey proved to be an educational one as the team dropped two contests — 3-1 and 4-0 — this weekend to RIT in New York.
With the first and third period of Saturday’s 4-0 loss serving as “bookends”, Penn State coach Josh Brandwene said the disappointing weekend taught the team the value of a full 60-minute effort.
“Consistency is the real learning lesson from [Saturday],” Brandwene said.
The middle frame of the series’ second game was the undesirable book on the shelf between sturdy ends. RIT came out firing in that period, breaking a scoreless tie just 2:08 in on their way to a three-goal outburst.
“We needed to do a better job taking care of the puck and being a little more poised in the defensive zone,” Brandwene said of the lackluster period.
Turnovers and poor decision making kept Penn State goaltender Nicole Paniccia busy as she stopped 21 of 24 total second-period shots. By game’s end, the Oakville, Ontario native would kick aside 41 RIT offerings, just shy of her 42-save performance in a 3-1 loss the night before.
“We weren’t playing Penn State hockey,” Paniccia said. “We learned our lesson after that second period and came out a lot better in the third.”
Although RIT would eventually extend their lead to four, Penn State reversed the game’s otherwise one-sided shot tally in the third period, outshooting RIT 11-10.
But just one period of competitive play won’t win many hockey games.
“I think we learned some lessons [today],” freshman forward Hannah Hoenshell said. “We have to play our game for three periods.”
As just two games separate the Lions from the CHA conference playoffs set to begin March 1, an intra-conference showdown between Robert Morris and Lindenwood this weekend has made it all but certain that Penn State-RIT will face off again in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Lions are to travel back to snowy Rochester in two weeks’ time, they will take with them the experience they have gained in four tightly-contested battles against the Tigers already this season.
“It’s good to have that confidence playing against a team we know we can play with,” Paniccia said.
Even with the close proximity to the conference playoffs, Hoenshell noted the latest RIT series wasn’t a setback.
“I think we proved that we can play with them,” Hoenshell said. “A couple shots either way and the games could have gone either way.”