Penn State Women’s Hockey 2014-15 Season Preview


With one 5-2 exhibition win in hand against Western University last week, the Penn State Nittany Lions officially start their 2014-15 season tonight against No. 1 ranked hockey powerhouse Minnesota at 8:07 p.m. EST. After an off-season that saw seven players cut from the roster and assistant coach Gina Kearns leave the program for the head coaching position at Neumann, there are certainly questions that will need to be answered quite quickly as the season progresses. Despite the lingering questions and a small step back in terms of the team’s record compared to two seasons ago, head coach Josh Brandwene feels strongly that “it’s a great time for Penn State women’s hockey.”

Last Year’s Record

Overall: 4-29-3
Conference: 1-18-1


The Nittany Lions will bring back over 80 percent of their scoring while only losing one of their top ten scorers from the previous year, last season’s senior captain Taylor Gross. Last year’s explosive freshman class of Laura Bowman, Amy Petersen, and Sarah Nielsen contributed to 16 of the team’s 49 goals, with Bowman topping Penn State in total goals scored (10) while placing second in points (16) behind junior Hannah Hoenshell, who led the team with 17. Petersen tallied five goals and 10 assists to tie for third place in points with 15 and Nielsen had one goal and five assists for six points during their first seasons with the team.

Junior sniper Shannon Yoxheimer had a down season from her sophomore year of 17 goals scored, but lit the lamp eight times as the team’s second leading scorer and tied with Bowman in points with 16. Rounding out the top of the offense is junior Jill Holdcroft, who played all 36 games for the squad and added four goals and three assists in the 2013-14 campaign.

Like last season, Penn State will be adding three freshmen forwards to the team to start the year: Aly Hardy, Catlin Reilly, and Christi Vetter. Hardy, from St. Albans, Vt., was the captain of the Boston Shamrocks in the JWHL and had four goals and 16 assists for 20 points in her 31 games played last season.

Standout forward Caitlin Reilly played for Benilde St. Margaret’s in Chanhassen, Minn. and set career highs in her senior year with 44 goals and 40 assists. Through her four-year letter winning career with four All-North Suburban Conference honors, Reilly totaled 106 goals and 103 assists for the Red Knights.

Vetter, from Lakeville North High School in Lakeville, Minn., has some history with Minnetonka natives and current Nittany Lions Bowman and Petersen from a six-overtime loss in the Minnesota State Final Four from 2012-13. The freshman was the captain of Lakeville North in her senior year and tallied 82 goals and 91 assists in her four year high school career.


Penn State only lost two defensemen from last season, former graduate student Lindsay Reihl and senior Madison Smiddy, who was cut from the team in the off-season and moved to the club team this year. All the returning blueliners are juniors and leading the defense is Jordin Pardoski with eight points on three goals and five assists. Another top point scorer on the back end for Penn State last season was Kelly Seward, who tallied three goals and one assist while missing only one game all season. Other returning defensemen for the Nittany Lions include: Stephanie Walkom, Paige Jahnke, Jeanette Bateman, and Sarah Wilkie.

The young blood on the defense comes from freshmen Remi Martin, Irene Kiroplis, and Bella Sutton. Martin, from Littleton, Colo., most recently played for Team Pittsburgh U19AAA Girls and on the boys’ varsity hockey team at Heritage High School. The stint on the boys’ team wasn’t Martin’s first all-male team, as she also played for the Arapahoe High School boys’ varsity team for two seasons.

Kiroplis, Georgetown, Ont., can play both forward and defenseman and last played for the Brampton Canadettes, where she played in 15 games and scored a game-winning goal. She also played for four years at Christ The King and was a letterman and the captain, with 16 goals and 11 assists in 2012-13.

Sutton made waves during the exhibition match against Western with two goals and an assist. The Shoreview, Minn. native played three years for the Minnesota Junior Whitecaps and two for the Minnesota Elite League’s White Team. During her time at Mounds View High School, Sutton was a five-year letter winner, also playing varsity soccer and track & field.


The biggest loss for Penn State is arguably the graduation of last season’s senior goalie Nicole Paniccia. Stepping in her place will be junior Celine Whitlinger, who started in 14 games with a 3-10-1 record, averaging a 3.57 GAA and a .913 save percentage, the same save percentage as Paniccia.

On Media Day Wednesday, Brandwene announced that Whitlinger would be sharing time with incoming freshman goalie Hannah Ehresmann and he was impressed with the newcomer’s play in last Friday’s exhibition game, where she made nine stops with no goals allowed.

Ehresmann is also from Minnetonka and played with both Bowman and Petersen. In her junior year, she averaged a 0.91 GAA with a .939 save percentage to help Minnetonka to a state title after a 27-4-0 season

Joining the two goalies is Amber Greene, from Feeding Hills, Mass., who played for two seasons at Kingswood Oxford School. In her senior year, Greene had a save percentage of .941 while stopping 449 shots and earned an All-Star Team nomination.


Penn State starts the season with a big test, playing No. 1 Minnesota on the road. The Golden Gophers are number one for a reason, despite losing out to Clarkson in the NCAA final by one goal, and outscored their opponents last season 195-49. After Minnesota, the Nittany Lions will play an easier opponent in St. Cloud State tomorrow at 5:07 p.m. EST, who went 4-27-5 last season.

After being thrown to the proverbial wolves in the first week, Penn State will see old non-conference opponents such as Quinnipiac, Union, and Princeton throughout the first half of the season. CHA play starts Halloween night at Syracuse and with a few breaks to play Colgate, Ohio State, and New Hampshire, Penn State will ride out the rest of the season in-conference against RIT, Lindenwood, Mercyhurst, and Robert Morris.

What To Look For

Coming into 2014-15, the Nittany Lions will have no starting seniors on the team and will have two players wearing the “C” in Pardoski and Yoxheimer, with Wilkie and Bowman picking up the assistant captain roles. Just like the men’s team, there are no “firsts” for Penn State to contend with this season and again, it’s probably a good thing too.

This year Penn State will again depend on the success of its incoming freshman class and the hope that the three sophomore forwards in Bowman, Petersen, and Nielsen will play at the same level as last year, if not better. In addition, how will the two-goaltender rotation of established junior Whitlinger and newcomer Ehresmann work down the line during the season? Their split time in the exhibition game last week looked promising, but if either of them goes down, another freshman in Greene will look to fill the gap.

The off-season cuts debacle will probably have some residual effects throughout the season, but Brandwene and crew are looking to put that in their rearview mirror as they start their season.

It’ll be tough for Penn State to claw their way out of the CHA basement with how good the rest of the conference is and how young the program still is. However, last season they hung in some games with a few of the top squads until the very end, so there could be some well-needed and long overdue upsets in order for the Nittany Lions.

NOTE: Unfortunately, there’ll be slightly less women’s coverage from me this season due to personal time constraints. Instead of a story after every game, I’ll have full weekend recap on the day of/day after their last game of each series. If anyone would like to assist me in covering the women this season, contact me on my Twitter @marycclarke or my email