As cliché as it may sound, the little things added up to big problems for Penn State over the weekend.
The Nittany Lions (7-22-2, 1-15-2 CHA) were hampered by fundamental problems during a rough weekend at RIT. They lost, 3-1, to the Tigers on Friday, and were shutout on Saturday. The team will now look to fix those issues with one series left before conference playoffs begin on March 1.
Friday’s game was largely decided by the Tigers’ powerplay, which now is second-best in College Hockey America at 21.2 percent. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period with two goals on the advantage, and converted on half of their powerplay attemptsin the contest.
Despite the lapse in the Lions’ penalty kill, assistant coach Casey McCullion said the team played “pretty well” during the first game.
Forward Shannon Yoxheimer described the next day’s contest as more frustrating, though.
The Lions opened with a solid, scoreless first period. But the floodgates opened in the second frame, when the Tigers scored three goals and out-shot the Lions, 24-4.
In particular, McCullion said that the team got away from doing things such as moving their feet the way the need to and playing defense the way they are capable of, and saw a decrease in enthusiasm.
“I think we got away from the simple things, like getting the puck out of the zone, and getting the puck deep,” McCullion said. “When you don’t do those things and you’re a young team, a veteran team like [RIT is] going to take advantage of it, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Yoxheimer said she thinks the team might have gotten too comfortable with the first-period tie, relaxed that they were not fighting an uphill battle.
Despite the outcome, McCullion said she saw progress in Saturday’s contest.
The Lions rebounded from the ugly second period and out-shot the Tigers, 11-10, to close out the game in the third period.
“If you look over the course of the season, a lot of times we run out of gas in the second or third [period] of the second game, and that’s the opposite of what happened,” she said. “So I think you find progress in different areas, and that’s one way that we took a step forward this weekend.”
This week of practice is being spent on those small things that led to the large defeats.
“We’re pretty focused on the intensity of the practice, and just having a really good, positive attitude,” Yoxheimer said. “[We’re focused on] being upbeat that towards the end of the season, we still have a chance to reach some of our goals.”
When the Lions’ final regular season series is played on Friday and Saturday at Robert Morris, Yoxheimer said the enthusiasm largely falls on locker room preparation.
“It comes with a lot of pumping up before the game, like music, dancing around and having a good time,” she said. “And then that kind of transfers over onto the ice…We just have to stay with it in between periods in the locker room, just positive energy.”
While McCullion noted that some of the mistakes and inconsistencies are simply typical of a young team like the Lions, she said they can regain their form this week.
McCullion said it is up to them to re-focus and remember what makes them successful.
“They’ve got to go out and they’ve got to take pride in those little victories, like getting a puck out of the zone or a blocked shot and those kind of things,” McCullion said. “Because when those things happen, it snowballs, and things get taken care of at the offensive end as well when you take care of those things.”
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