Paige Jahnke Player Spotlight

Story posted January 9, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Ross Insana

The charismatic bench boss of the Penn State Women’s Hockey squad Josh Brandwene, a former Penn State club hockey standout defensemen himself from 1987 to 1991 and the programs all-time leader in points for a defensemen, probably knows a thing a two about the art of playing the blue line. So Brandwene, along with the fantastic recruitment job by Assistant Coaches Gina Kearns and Casey McCullion, probably never expected in their wildest dreams when given the torch to the first-year program that such a multitalented player would just fall out of the sky like one Paige Jahnke.

Defenders sometimes don’t get the recognition they truly deserve as they normally fly second-fiddle to the flashy forwards, especially in college hockey where all the excitement comes from scoring and good defense sometimes gets overlooked. The same has happened with Jahnke during her freshman year.

Brandwene is one of the first to laud her intangibles on the ice, as all the assets she has brought to the table go a long way in building the foundation for Penn State Women’s Hockey for years to come.

“She’s an incredibly well-rounded player and able to do a lot of things for us”, said Brandwene. “We ask a lot from her, but that’s what makes her so versatile. She defends well, sees the ice well and has fabulous hands.”

At the mid-way point of the 2012-2013 season, the young Jahnke has been placed into a prominent role for the Nittany Lions, being used in every situation possible as she has seen time on the power plays, the penalty kill and 4-on-4 opportunities. That versatility, as Brandwene praised, along with a few other qualities has made Jahnke important right from the start.

The native of Oakdale, Minnesota is classified as your traditional two-way defenseman, blending some offensive flair and a strong defensive side to her game.

“I like to pass and I’m definitely always looking for those outlet passes, so a lot of people have told me I’m pretty offensive,” said Jahnke on her style of play. “But especially this year being at the next level, I’ve stayed back and been more defensive.”

She’s “quarterbacked” the Nittany Lions top power play unit with Madison Smiddy as her usual partner and Taylor Gross, Shannon Yoxheimer and Jess Desorcie up front. This also includes her vision on the ice to not only see plays in front of her develop, but to have a hand in creating opportunities herself. She’s appeared in all 20 games this season for the Nittany Lions, showing her durability; a very important quality for defenders. Jahnke hasn’t filled up the stat sheets, only registering six points all being via the assist, and she jokingly say she’s still itching to get that first college goal.

Dig in a little bit deeper and what instantly pops out is her 26 blocked shots, which is second on the team behind fellow freshman Micayla Catanzariti, and probably puts her among one of the most effective defensemen in the CHA conference in the category. Coming into the big 10-0 trouncing of Division III Chatham University on January 4 after the long break of no games for four weeks, Jahnke was the only Penn State blue liner in the “plus” category of plus-minus and now sits at a plus-two.

She has spent the majority of the time paired alongside fellow Minnesotan and freshman Jeanette Bateman this season. For the most part, the Minnesotan duo has meshed well together as both bring a different sort of “je ne sais quoi” to their game and has resulted in great chemistry between, coincidentally, the two roommates.

“It’s nice that we have that chemistry on and off the ice. Maybe it is the fact that we are roommates and we are so close in that sense and we have been able to communicate well with each other,” said Jahnke.

Before throwing on the blue and white of Penn State,  the graduate and former multi-sport athlete (soccer, golf and of course hockey) of Roseville High School in the well-known hockey hotbed of Minnesota helped lead her Roseville High team to the 2009 Minnesota State Championship her sophomore year.

“We just had a tradition of pushing each other and being a good influence on everyone,” Jahnke said on her experience and success at Roseville while being teammates with a few Division I players.

Her hockey career has also included time with the Minnesota Junior Whitecaps and the Midwest High School Elite League in 2010 and 2011, where she stressed that the higher competitiveness helped prepare her for college hockey.

As for reflecting on her first semester at Penn State, Jahnke applauds the work her teammates have done for her so far.

“Coming into college I automatically got 26 new friends so I didn’t really have to go out too far out of my comfort zone,” said Jahnke. “My teammates are just awesome and a lot of them have been a really good support system and been there for me to adjust when I’ve been homesick.”

Legendary Alabama football Head Coach Bear Bryant, a man of wisdom himself, preached that “little things make the difference. Everyone is well prepared in the big things, but only the winners perfect the little things.” So far this season, the Oakdale, Minnesota native has done just that, exhibiting different dimensions to her game and has looked anything but the freshman she is.

“You see her confidence and poise get better and better from her every day and I’ve appreciated how hard she’s worked,” said Brandwene.

Ross Insana is junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, e-mail rxi5007@psu.edu.