With the stage set for the opening weekend of women’s hockey at Pegula Ice Arena, the team did not disappoint in front of the largest crowd in its history.
After playing two games against Union College, the Nittany Lions split the series, stabilizing with a 2-1 win on Saturday after a close 2-1 loss Friday.
Freshman forward Laura Bowman took the first penalty of the game 14:37 into the first period and the opening goal of women’s hockey at Pegula was scored just 11 seconds later. Courtney Turner of the Dutchwomen capitalized on the power play as she tipped in a shot that came from Maddy Norton at the blue line.
Penn State equalized the game in the second period when Shannon Yoxheimer took a pass from Taylor Gross as she entered the offensive zone. Yoxheimer found an open lane and fired one top-shelf to be the first Penn State women’s hockey player to find the back of the net at Pegula.
“It’s kind of nice because it’s a first, which is part of why I wanted to come to Penn State…so as a team we could have a bunch of firsts,” Yoxheimer said.
A fluky goal that bounced off the boards behind the net and then landed in the crease was the game-winner for Union. Stefanie Thomson tapped the puck in between Lions’ goalie Nicole Paniccia on a Union power play. The Dutchwomen went 2-for-2 with the man advantage on Friday.
Penn State came back on Saturday to show Union that the series wasn’t over yet. Lions’ netminder Celine Whitlinger only saw one shot during the first period, which was mostly spent in Union’s defensive zone.
Whitlinger saw significantly fewer shots this weekend than last, stopping 25-of-26 on Saturday after making 55 saves against Quinnipiac the previous week.
“Usually in faster paced games I can get into a rhythm,” Whitlinger said. “With slower games I have to focus more on each shot.”
Sophomore Jill Holdcroft forced a turnover when a Union defender was trying to clear the puck from their zone. Holdcroft deked to her right and beat Union goalie Shenae Lundberg for a 1-0 Penn State lead in the first period.
Union’s power play proved to be lethal yet again in the second when Penn State forward Jenna Welch took two minor penalties. Turner scored her second power play goal of the weekend for the Dutchwomen.
Penn State finally capitalized on their own man advantage in the third when Bowman found a rebound sitting in front of the net.
“I was more nervous than excited because if I missed this, I was going to be so sad,” Bowman said.
Bowman had several opportunities throughout the weekend, hitting a shot off the post early in Friday’s game and registering seven shots in Saturday’s.
The last 90 seconds of play were spent in a flurry in front of Whitlinger when Union pulled their goalie. Even after losing her stick, Whitlinger and the rest of Penn State’s defense held on to their lead and tacked on their second win of the season for a 2-3-1 record.
Coach Josh Brandwene said he was more than satisfied with the way his team performed against Union.
“I’m as proud of this team this weekend as I’ve been of any hockey team I’ve ever coached,” Brandwene said. “It was a total team effort out there today. Not only as a coach but as a Penn State alum I couldn’t be any prouder of this group than how they represented themselves this weekend.”
Kristen Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow her on Twitter at @Krypton_87.