In the team’s second annual Skate for the Cure game, the Penn State Nittany Lions, and even the referees, donned pink uniforms in support of THON and the Pink Zone for Saturday afternoon’s matchup against the RIT Tigers. Over 1,790 people came out to support the Nittany Lions in the team’s biggest home crowd in Division I history. However, Penn State fell to the RIT Tigers 3-1 . Nicole Paniccia took the start in net for the home team and Laura Bowman tallied her eighth goal of the season for the Nittany Lions in the loss.
RIT had chances early and often throughout the first period but could not find the back of the net on strong play by Paniccia and the Penn State defense. The Tigers had a multitude of redirection shots in the goal crease but the Nittany Lion goaltender was able to stretch out the pads to stop any second chances.
The Tigers dominated the majority of the first, but Penn State responded late in the period on a rare RIT turnover. With 13 seconds to play in the frame, Laura Bowman took the puck away from an unsuspecting Tiger player in the offensive zone, made moves around defenders, and took a shot from the slot that trickled through Brooke Stoddart’s equipment and over the goal line just inside the left post for the 1-0 lead.
The Nittany Lions started the second period on a power play, thanks to Tiger Kolbee Mccrea’s slashing call at the end of the first. The power play unit generated three shots but were kept off the scoreboard by Stoddart and the RIT penalty kill.
Penn State again was pinned in its own zone for a majority of the period and RIT pressured, then capitalized on a power play midway through the frame to tie the game. Jeanette Bateman went to the box at 8:44 for hooking and on an ensuing set play on a faceoff, RIT’s Dakota Waites passed to Celeste Brown sitting by the right post, who tipped the puck up and over Paniccia’s glove for the 1-1 tie.
Paniccia kept the Nittany Lions in the period with flexible stretch pad saves on tough shots but could not keep out RIT’s leading goal late in the second. The Tiger’s swarmed the cage late and Mackenzie Stone tucked the puck in past Paniccia’s left pad and in to give RIT the 2-1 lead at 16:57 in the frame.
The Nittany Lions came out in the third period with more fire, almost scoring on Hannah Hoenshell’s chance in front early on a neat deke move but could not fool Stoddart. On the power play, Penn State had more chances but were kept away by the aggressive penalty killing of RIT.
At the other end of the ice, RIT added to their lead 3-1 just moments after hitting the left post on a rush.
Penn State had a flury of chances near the end of the game, coming close to cutting RIT’s lead multiple times but Stoddart was there for the stops and the Tiger defense to clear the porches and stop the Nittany Lions from getting chances on the rebounds.
Stoddart had her best save of the game with 5:09 to play, stoning Hoenshell on 2-on-1 with some left-handed larceny. Penn State continued to pressure late in the game, drawing a penalty in the last two minutes and pulling Paniccia for a 6-on-4 but could not net the tying goals at the end.
“It’s always frustrating when you tie a team and then lose the next day,” starting goaltender Nicole Paniccia said after the contest. “But, RIT’s a team that we have a lot of rivalry with and hopefully we get them again in the playoffs.”
It wasn’t the result the team was looking for but Coach Brandwene remarked after the game that he, “could not be more proud of the Penn State community today.”
“The people that needed to win today won today,” he said, “and that was the children of THON and Pink Zone.”
Saturday’s game was the team’s fifth game in eight days, a taxing part of the schedule for the now 4-21-3 (1-12-1 CHA) Nittany Lions.
“This is a hardworking bunch, they’re a well conditioned bunch.” Brandwene said. “Certainly we’re tired but we emptyed the tank out there today and left nothing out there.”
Penn State remains at home for the next weekend, facing Lindenwood for the first time this season Saturday, February 8th and Sunday February 9th. Both games have a noon start time in Pegula Ice Arena.