Penn State Women's Ice Hockey vs. Syracuse Zanon Passing

Forward Kiara Zanon (11) searches for a teammate to pass the puck too during the Penn State women's ice hockey game vs. Syracuse on Friday, Feb. 4, 2021 at the Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pa. The game finished in 1-1 tie in overtime with Penn State's goal from forward Alyssa Machado (3).

Penn State had lofty expectations heading into the 2021-22 campaign following its first-ever CHA regular-season title.

Despite not repeating as regular season champs, the Nittany Lions finished second in the conference with an 18-10-5 record.

Their run at the CHA title was cut short after a 4-2 loss against Mercyhurst in the semifinals, marking their fifth straight semifinal exit.

Here’s a look at how the blue and white will look next season.

Offense

Last season, Penn State was led by the superstar pairing of fifth-year senior forward Natalie Heising and sophomore forward Kiara Zanon.

Heising, who won CHA Player of the Year, recorded 20 goals and 20 assists, while Zanon tallied 13 goals and a conference-leading 26 assists.

However, Heising has played her final game as a Nittany Lion, and replacing her leadership and offensive production is paramount for the blue and white’s future success.

If Penn State wants to compete for a conference title next year, it's going to need contributions from players such as junior forward Julie Gough, sophomore forward Olivia Wallin and junior forward Rachel Weiss.

Gough finished third on the team in goals with 10 and had a seven-game goal streak midway through the season.

After scoring a team-leading 13 goals in the 2020-21 campaign, Wallin struggled to match her production this past year, tallying just seven goals.

Look for Wallin and Zanon to find the chemistry they had in their freshman seasons in the 2022-23 campaign.

Weiss had a slow start but ended the season with 14 points and eight goals, five of which came in the last seven contests of the year.

Taking a look at the blue and white’s recruiting class, coach Jeff Kampersal signed three electric goal-scorers that should look to make an impact right away.

Forward Madelyn Christian finished her five-year high school career with 99 goals and 156 points in just 123 games.

Just like Christian, forward Katelyn Roberts also played five seasons in high school and posted eye-popping numbers of 71 goals and 69 assists in 112 games.

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Kampersal also signed do-it-all forward Tessa Janecke, who was selected for the 2022 USA U18 National Team.

It will be tough to replace Heising, but look for Penn State to have a more balanced scoring attack.

Defense

The Nittany Lions' defense remains mostly the same for next season after seniors Rene Gangarosa and Izzy Heminger announced they’re using their extra year of eligibility to return to the program.

Gangarosa led Penn State in blocked shots this past season, recording 51 in just 33 contests, and she was named to the All-CHA second team.

The Rochester, New York, native has suited up in 126 career games and ranks in the top five in points as a defender.

As for Heminger, she had one goal and 10 assists this season, while also being third on the team in plus/minus with 20.

Heminger, who became the second defender in program history to be named to multiple All-CHA teams, is in the top three for points as a defender with 52 in 122 games.

To pair alongside Gangarosa and Heminger, junior defender Mallory Uihlein enjoyed a breakout campaign, finishing third on the team in points with 19.

Uihlein was named to the All-CHA first team and set the program record for points in a season as a defender, previously breaking Gangarosa’s record of 18.

Sophomore Lyndie Lobdell and freshman Karley Garcia will look to improve on this past season after Lobdell had 13 points and Garcia had 10 and was named to the CHA All-Rookie team.

Goaltending

While the offense and defense have some questions, Kampersal knows his goalie is rock solid.

Sophomore goalie Josie Bothun has been one of the best goalies in the nation in her two seasons in Happy Valley.

After being named a finalist for National Women’s Goalie of the Year in her freshman season, Bothun started every matchup and continued her stellar play, posting a .921 save percentage and a 1.69 goals against average this season.

Bothun also set the program record for shutouts with nine and has 13 in her career.

Backing up Bothun is sophomore Annie Spring, who appeared in six games but struggled, allowing two goals on 16 shots.

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