Women's hockey vs. Mercyhurst, Gangarosa (13)

Defender Rene Gangarosa (13) skates toward the puck while chased by Mercyhurst player Summer-Rae Dobson (7) during the women’s hockey game against Mercyhurst at Pegula Ice Arena on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. The Nittany Lions defeated the Lakers, 2-0.

Building off last year’s success, Penn State has all of its key defenders returning to the squad — along with some new faces as well.

The blue and white has four defenders returning to the team this year, while also adding two freshman defenders and graduate transfer to the roster.

Last season, the Nittany Lions gave up 32 goals, while only allowing 546 shots.

Returning to the defensive pack this year are seniors Rene Gangarosa and Izzy Heminger, sophomore Lyndie Lobdell, and junior Mallory Uihlein.

During the previous campaign, Gangarosa managed to collect seven points on the season, finding the back of the net once and notching six assists.

She skated in all 21 games last year and will yet again be a key component to the Nittany Lions’ defense this upcoming season.

The Rochester, New York, native was named an alternate team captain in 2020 and led the team with 37 blocked shots.

Heminger, her fellow senior, did not back down last season either, playing in every game last year as well and collecting 12 points on the season with two goals and 10 assists.

On top of this success, Heminger was tied for No. 9 overall in CHA in assists, while also collecting the fifth-most points among CHA defenders.

Heminger was named to her second consecutive All-CHA Second Team, becoming the second Nittany Lion defender to be named to multiple CHA teams, alongside Kelsey Crow.

Nevertheless, Heminger will also be a key component returning to Penn State’s backline this upcoming season.

Lobdell and Uihlein, the two sophomores on defense, will also return for the Nittany Lions this year. The two were featured in key roles for Penn State’s defensive lineup last year.

In just her freshman season, Lobdell became one of the four Nittany Lions to be named to the CHA All-Rookie Team.

Lobdell managed to skate in all 21 games, leading blue and white defenders with 13 assists and 14 points, while also recording a team-best plus-24 rating and picking up 10 points in a 12-game stretch at one point.

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The final Penn State player to return to the squad is Uihlein.

Uihlein also played in every game for the Nittany Lions, tallying 10 points and one goal on the 2020-21 season.

During her freshman campaign, Uihlein was named to the CHA All-Rookie Team in 2019-20.

Together, these two returning Nittany Lions are projected to be a solid duo on the ice.

To bolster the backline, Mitchell will join the squad as a graduate student for the Nittany Lions. Mitchell previously won the 2017-18 NCAA national championship as a freshman with her previous school, Clarkson University.

Along with this championship, Mitchell also captured the ECAC championship in 2018-19, totaling 21 points in 128 games played during her career with the Golden Knights.

Also adding to the defensive squad this year are freshmen Erika Shirer and Karley Garcia.

Shirer, a Dallas native, comes from the Dallas Stars Elite 18U.

She was named a three-time alternate captain for Team Texas, which is the first ever all-girls high school hockey team in the state.

Moreover, Garcia will join the Nittany Lions from the North America Hockey Academy.

Garcia was previously named an alternate captain of the NAHA of the Junior Women's Hockey League in 2018-19.

She also won the JWHL Championship in 2019-20, scoring 41 points in 57 games during that season.

Based on these two freshmen’s resumes, they should be great additions to the Nittany Lions’ defensive unit during its fast-approaching campaign.

In the recent preseason poll, Penn State came in at No. 10 in the country.

Despite falling short last year in the CHA Tournament to Syracuse, the blue and white’s expectations of its defensemen are higher than ever before.

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