We may be one week away from the highly anticipated opening of Division I play at the Pegula Ice Arena when the men’s hockey team takes on Army (which yesterday, was officially confirmed as a go by the team’s Twitter despite the recent government shutdown!) but the women’s team starts their season tonight in Vermont against the Catamounts! Before their season officially gets underway, let’s take a look at the team and what lies ahead for them this season!
Last Year’s Record
Sophomore Shannon Yoxheimer, leader in almost every offensive category for the Nittany Lions last year, looks to have another big year for the Nittany Lions. Last year alone, she led the team in goals (14), assists (17), points (31), and shots on goal (169). She is joined by the majority of last year’s offense, including other top scorers such as sophomore Jill Holdcroft (10 goals), sophomore Hannah Hoenshell (9), senior Taylor Gross (7), and junior Jess Descorcie (5), along with plus/minus leader, sophomore Emily Laurenzi (+6).
Newcomers on offense this year include freshmen Sarah Nielsen, Amy Petersen, and Laura Bowman. All three are Minnesota natives, with Petersen and Bowman both having attended the same high school in Minnetonka, Minnesota. Expect the three freshmen to get some good looks on the ice this year as they look to up the Nittany Lions goals from last season. You can watch interviews from GoPSUTV with each of them here, here, and here (in respective order).
Seven of eight defenders from last year will make their way back onto the ice for Penn State this season. Those seven include sophomore Jordin Pardoski – who lead the team in penalty minutes last year with 40 – sophomore Jeanette Bateman, sophomore Stephanie Walkom, graduate student Lindsay Reihl, sophomore Paige Jahnke, sophomore Sarah Wilkie, and junior Madison Smiddy.
Only one fresh face will be added to the defense this year. Kelly Steward, from Williamsville, New York, will look to fill into a Penn State defense that allowed 1531 total shots on goal last year.
All three goalies from last year will be back in net in some way this season for the Nittany Lions. Senior Nicole Paniccia will look to have another great year in net, where she played in 27 games with a 3.11 GAA and a .928 save percentage, boasting a 6-19-2 record. Another third of the goalie rotation this year is returning sophomore Celine Whitlinger. Whitlinger posted a 2.96 GAA in 10 games played, finishing with a .938 save percentage and a 1-7-0 record. Finishing up the goaltending is sophomore Brooke Meyer, who played in three games and held the opponents to no goals during her time on the ice.
The team will see some familiar faces this season, including Vermont, Union, Robert Morris, Syracuse, RIT, Lindenwood, Mercyhurst, and Princeton. Hockey East team New Hampshire, traditional Big Ten rival Ohio State (though playing in the WCHA this year), Maine, and Colgate are all notable new teams Penn State will face off against this year.
This season’s CHA Tournament will be held from February 28th to March 8th, with the semifinals taking place on the 7th and the finals on the 8th.
What To Look For
Last year, Penn State surprised some people with their resilience and overall team tenacity. This year, look for the team to improve overall, with a few new additions to the forward core, a new face on the blue line, and a strong goaltending team in net. Keeping the opponent’s shots on goal to a minimum and increasing their own shots towards the net, in my opinion, will be a key to their success this season.
The puck drops tonight in Vermont at 7 p.m. against the Catamounts. Both tonight’s game and tomorrow afternoon’s will livestreamed for free on CatamounTV.com, if you’re near your computer. Also, I will most likely be livetweeting the games, barring personal reasons, over on my Twitter account. Our lovely friend over at Thank You Terry will be at the games in Vermont as well, so make sure you give him a follow while you’re at it.