Upset-minded Penn State started off the right way, but did not end its regular season the way it began.
A pair of defensively well played first periods were not enough to carry the Nittany Lions (7-24-2, 1-17-2 CHA) to victory in either game of their final regular season series, played against slumping Robert Morris (13-14-3, 9-10-1 CHA). They dropped Friday’s game, 4-1, and Saturday’s 4-2.
The Colonials, who won last year's CHA Tournament, entered the series winning only two of their 14 games since regular season action resumed at the beginning of the calendar year. They appeared to be in danger of continuing the slide, but were able to pull away in both games to sweep the series.
“We had some chances, we put some pucks in,” assistant coach Gina Kearns said. “[But] a couple mistakes that we made throughout the weekend series, they capitalized on.”
Saturday's season-finale did not go the way of the Lions' Division I debut, which ended in a 5-3 victory at Vermont on Oct. 6.
Rebecca Vint, the Colonials’ leading scorer, struck first with a first-period goal at the 15:21 mark. The Lions quickly countered, though, with a goal from Shannon Yoxheimer 24 seconds later.
“Taylor [Gross] made a nice chip play right to [Yoxheimer’s] stick, and Shannon has such an incredible shot,” Kearns said.
The Colonials kept the pressure on and tallied two goals in the second period before finishing the Lions off in the third period.
All four of the Lions’ penalties during Saturday’s game were committed in the second period. That allowed the Colonials to lead the period in shots, 24-2.
“We were down for the majority of the second, and you can never really get into a good flow there when you’re constantly on the penalty kill,” Kearns said.
The Lions were dominated on the shot chart throughout the game. Celine Whitlinger, who played while usual starter Nicole Paniccia received a day off, saw 57 shots throughout the game, while the Lions fired only 12.
Despite the number of shots, especially in the highly penalized second period, Whitlinger said she did not feel too overwhelmed in goal.
“You just try and stay focused; you don’t really notice how long they’ve been in there,” she said. “You’re just looking for the next shot.”
Penn State also played a strong first period in Friday's series-opening game, but eventually let the game slip away
After one period, the Lions held a 1-0 lead on a goal by center Emily Laurenzi. The Lions' defensive effort held the shutout until about halfway through the game.
The Colonials took the lead in a second period fueled by the team's 30 shots to the Lions' five. The Lions, ultimately out-shot 63-14 on the night, managed to take only four shots in the final period to cement the defeat.
While the regular season ended on a sour note for the Lions — they have now gone 13 games without a victory — their season is not over yet. On March 1, the first round of the conference tournament will begin, and the Lions will compete as the No. 6 seed.
“We’re prepared for a battle for whoever we face, and we’re ready to go,” Kearns said.”