WHKY: Penn State Caps Weekend With Exciting Comeback
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After going winless since November, Penn State’s women’s hockey team had a successful first weekend under interim head coach Dean Jackson.
On Saturday, the Rochester Institute of Technology Tigers, who were a conference-worst 2-7-1 going into the weekend, traveled to Happy Valley for a two game series against the Lions.
The first game of the series saw the Lions cruise to a fairly easy 3-0 win. Meike Meilleur opened the scoring just under eight minutes in, and just 90 seconds later freshman Amanda McLeod scored her first career goal.
“It was a pretty amazing feeling,” McLeod said of her goal. “I’ve been working hard this year, and it’s a big adjustment, but it’s a good start.”
Fellow freshman Kate Rydland would seal the victory with an empty net goal, as goaltender Hannah Ehresmann made 20 saves to record a shutout and her first win of the season.
“It was a tremendous game,” said Jackson. “I thought they did a fantastic job of going through the ebbs and flows of the game.”
Jackson also mentioned that staying out of the penalty box was crucial to his team’s success.
“A penalty-filled game is certainly going to kill momentum,” Jackson said. “The girls did a tremendous job of keeping out of the box, and that allowed us to play. We were moving our feet and moving our puck extremely well.”
With the team feeling good under Jackson, who assumed the interim head coaching position after the team announced on Friday that head coach Josh Brandwene would be taking an indefinite leave of absence, the Lions prepared for a matinee with the Tigers on Sunday.
However, it was the Tigers who would jump out to a quick start in the series finale, scoring three times in the first period. All three of the goals came after turnovers in the defensive zone.
When the teams came back out for the second period, Hannah Ehresmann replaced Daniela Paniccia between the pipes for Penn State. Paniccia had saved just four of the seven shots that came her way during the opening frame.
“It’s always a tough call, because you can always debate the fault of the goals against,” Jackson said on the decision to pull Paniccia. “At that moment, we just needed a momentum shift, and the team responded.”
After allowing a fourth goal on yet another bad defensive zone turnover, the Lions headed to the locker-room down 4-0 to the worst team in the College Hockey America conference, although they were outshooting the Tigers 20-16.
Penn State finally found the back of the net three minutes into the final period, when sophomore winger Victoria Samuelsson scored on the power play. She finished the weekend with a goal and two assists.
Then, with under nine minutes left in the game and the score at 4-1, freshman defenseman Kate Rydland scored what Jackson believed to be a pivotal goal.
“It sounds cliché, but we had that ‘zero-zero mentality,’” Jackson said. “But after we scored that second goal, we knew we were in good shape.”
Brooke Madsen tallied with three minutes left to pull the score to 4-3, but the Lions still had work to do to complete the comeback.
They were presented with a golden opportunity with 2:04 left in the game, when RIT forward Tori Haywood took a checking penalty. After calling timeout to rest his players’ legs and draw up a play, Jackson made the decision to keep Ehresmann on the bench in favor of using an extra attacker.
“Our power play has been clicking,” Jackson said. “We’ve had success and we are a threat five-on-four, and to have an extra attacker with two minutes left, trying to tie the game, we had to do it.”
With the two-man advantage, the Lions went to work in the RIT zone. After a couple of attempted clears, the Tigers were still unable to fully clear the zone, and with tired legs on the ice, the Lions took their chance.
After a shot was saved by Terra Lanteigne, the puck fell to captain Laura Bowman at the left circle. She shot across the net and hit the top right corner to tie the game at four with 57 seconds left.
“We kept with the game plan and stuck with it,” Bowman said. “Our coaches were really supportive, and they told us that our chances would start falling. Thankfully four fell.”
Although neither team was able to score in the ensuing overtime period, Penn State still walked away with three out of a possible four points on the weekend before they take on conference leaders Mercyhurst next weekend.
Matt Lingerman is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.