In the team’s second to last home game of the season, Penn State was shutout 4-0 against the No. 8 Mercyhurst Lakers Saturday night in Pegula Ice Arena. Celine Whitlinger got the start in goal for the Nittany Lions and saved 30 of 34 Laker shots.
In the team’s two previous meetings, Mercyhurst shut out Penn State 7-0 and 8-0 and Saturday night’s game signals a great improvement between the late night matchup and the series earlier in the season.
“Imense growth for us as a hockey team between December and now,” Coach Josh Brandwene said. “It’s been these last five or six weeks following that series where we’ve really started to turn a corner.”
In the first period, Shannon Yoxheimer had one of Penn State’s best chances of the frame. The crafty winger set up a blistering slapshot on a 2-on-1 from the left circle but missed the net and hit the crossbar up and over Laker goaltender Amanda Makela at 7:49 of the first frame.
Mercyhurst capitalized at 9:04 of the first on a Nittany Lion power play. Laker Kaleigh Chippy sat in the box for two minutes on a hooking call with 11:30 to go in the period but Mercyhurst used the extra ice to their advantage to open the scoring. Thirty-three seconds into the penalty, Christine Bestland was able to get space in front of Whitlinger to flip a puck up and over the Penn State goaltender’s shoulder for the 1-0 Mercyhurst lead while shorthanded.
Penn State killed off a late Jenna Welch roughing call to stay within a one goal deficit going into the first intermission.
The Lakers doubled their lead off an unlucky bounce off the end boards at 6:57 of the second period. A J’nai Mahadeo shot caromed off the back boards and behind Whitlinger but before she could fall onto the puck in the blue paint, Chippy punched the puck home for Mercyhurst for the 2-0 lead.
Christie Cicero put the Lakers up 3-0 six minutes later on a breakaway goal. The Mercyhurst forward sniped a high wrist shot past Whitlinger glove side from the left faceoff dot at 12:27 of the middle frame.
Penn State’s best opportunities of the game came on a 5-on-3 power play at 5:17 of the third period. Mercyhurst’s Bestland and Caroline Luczak sat in the box, for interference and holding respectively, and the Nittany Lions had a two player advantage for almost a minute. Hannah Hoenshell had the best look, with a shot from a sharp angle from the left circle but Makela had the glove stop.
Mercyhurst tacked on a power play goal late to make it 4-0 at the end of the third frame. On a Jordin Pardoski hooking penalty, Laker Emily Janiga tipped the puck through Whitlinger’s five-hole for the extra-skater tally with 4:15 to play in the game.
Sunday’s 1 p.m. rematch with Mercyhurst will be the team’s last home game of the season and Senior Day for all graduating seniors on the team. Admission will be free for anyone with a non-perishable food item for a State College food drive.