Assistant coach Gina Kearns made it no secret that this is the last weekend for the Nittany Lions to prove their season-long goal of playing their best hockey at the end of the year.
The Lions (7-22-2, 1-15-2 CHA) will travel to Robert Morris (11-14-3, 7-10-1 CHA) for that last two-game set starting on Friday before both teams head into the CHA tournament the following weekend.
Kearns said the keys to victory against the Colonials, who swept the Lions earlier in the year at Greenberg Ice Pavilion, lay within the Lions’ recent strengths. Kearns noted defensive zone coverage, the forecheck and offensive zone play as some aspects the team has improved in lately.
Forward Shannon Yoxheimer said the Lions want to be peaking after this weekend and it could make up for some past games in terms of confidence.
However, Yoxheimer said she does not view the team’s performance in the upcoming series as an indicator to what may be seen in the CHA tournament.
“We’ve been kind of saying this for the past week that our record starts over at playoffs,” Yoxheimer said. “So, the past...really doesn’t even matter at that point cause everyone has a new record.”
Yoxheimer said no matter what the outcome this weekend is, the Lions are going to head into the playoffs with a positive attitude.
All the CHA teams make the tournament and the Lions have been locked in to the last spot, the sixth seed. The Lions’ opponent for the first-round best-of-three series has not been determined yet, but it will either be RIT or Lindenwood.
Penn State is entering the final series winless in its last 11 contests and Kearns said the Lions would obviously like to get a point or two from the two-game with the Colonials, but the emphasis is not placed on winning.
“We want to fight and battle and play a solid two-game series,” Kearns said. “Who knows, maybe we come out with a win, maybe we don’t, but as long as the process is good, and as long as we continue to do the little things, we’ll be happy with the result.”
Although the focus is not on winning and the team’s record conceivably resets at the start of the postseason, Kearns said a good showing would help build momentum entering the playoffs, a place where the team has said all season long, anything can happen.
“We want to be playing our best hockey and if we do that against Robert Morris, who is...definitely one of the premier teams in our league, it’ll just bring us that much more confidence going into whoever we play in playoffs,” Kearns said.