Although the women’s hockey team finished its inaugural season with a disappointing 7-26-2 record, the program was finally able to gain some Division I experience.
Now that there are veteran players, rather than a brand new program, the team is focused on welcoming its four freshmen.
The team has brought in defender Kelly Seward from Williamsville, N.Y., forward Sarah Nielsen from Edina, Minn., and forwards Amy Petersen and Laura Bowman from Minnetonka, Minn.
Petersen and Bowman were linemates all throughout high school, where they were part of the Minnesota AA State Tournament Champions for three consecutive seasons, which they expect to be beneficial joining Penn State’s team.
“We both knew we wanted to have a recruiting process,” Petersen said. “It just worked out that Penn State was in the picture for both of us.”
The Minnetonka natives are also able to find a previous acquaintance in their fellow freshman teammate, Nielsen. The linemates faced Nielsen’s Edina Hornets in the state championship game in 2011. Although Minnetonka defeated Edina 3-2, Nielsen said she is definitely ready to play with her former opponents.
“Coming to a place like Penn State where the [group of] fans and support for the athletics are so big will be exciting,” Nielsen said. “I can’t wait to get started with these girls.”
After playing for both Nichols School and the Buffalo Bisons in high school, Seward also brings experience to Happy Valley.
Although she hasn’t played with or competed against her fellow freshmen, she said she thinks the team will certainly improve with the addition of these specific players.
“I think all four of us want to make a difference right away,” Seward said. “The overall game will be much quicker. Quicker decisions, smarter plays, faster pace. I think just bringing intensity and really hard work is what I will contribute.”
Nielsen said she is on a similar page as Seward.
“My highest skill is my hard work ethic so I think that it not only changes the game but how other people view it,” Nielsen said. “I hope to encourage others to work hard on and off the ice.”
Nielsen has also proven skills on the stat sheets as she tallied 58 goals and 103 assists to total 163 points in just three years of high school hockey.
Petersen said she thinks the three Minnesota natives will also stand out due to their style of play.
“I know in Minnesota we’re kind of known for our finesse and not as much for our brute strength,” Petersen said. “We think we have to start learning how to be more forceful on the ice and stronger, not just focusing on the pretty plays. We’re going to have to learn how to incorporate a new style of play.”
And sometimes, it’s just the simple things that nature provides that can help a team tremendously.
“I kind of hope my height helps a little bit,” Bowman said, who is listed at 5-foot-7. “The average height on this team is very short I noticed as I was meeting a lot of people. The four of us are actually some of the tallest girls on the team. Hopefully we will bring that average up and give our team more size.”
Seward, listed at 5-foot-9 , is the second tallest on the roster to the 5-foot-11 Darby Kern.
With a young program, Penn State had a lot to offer for these freshmen that they couldn’t turn down. All of them listed the new Pegula Ice Arena, helping build a new program, and the campus as the main appeals over other schools along the East Coast, such as Yale or Dartmouth.
However, the energy of the coaches seemed to be top priority.
“Coach [Josh] Brandwene is very on top of things and very enthusiastic,” Seward said. “That really made me want to come here.”
Although the freshmen came to a consensus that the butterflies are starting to flutter inside and the nerves of adjusting to a new team are setting in, they said the extent of their excitement should overwhelm anything that could hold them back.
“I’m really excited to be a college athlete,” said Bowman. “I know it’s hard work, but it pays off and all that hard work comes back positively in the end. We have waited so long to get to this level and now that we’re here, we’re going to want to enjoy every moment of it.”