Penn State Women’s Hockey Preview vs. Mercyhurst
Penn State is set to play host to the Mercyhurst Lakers this weekend at Pegula Ice Arena in an important battle among the top of the CHA.
Mercyhurst currently sits atop the CHA standings with 12 conference points in eight games, while Penn State sits in third place with 11 conference points in eight games.
This weekend four conference points are on the line, and these points could go a long way in deciding who represents the CHA in the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
These two teams split a series earlier this season, winning a game a piece. The Lakers took the first game of that series 4-3, but the Nittany Lions rebounded for a 3-0 shutout the following day.
A lot has changed for these teams since the first meeting back in late October. Penn State has posted a record of 8-4-1 since the second game of that series, to improve to 12-8-3 on the season, while Mercyhurst has posted a record of 8-3-1 since that game, to improve to 16-7-2 overall.
When this series begins on Friday afternoon, both of these rosters should have fresh legs as neither team has taken the ice since Jan. 15.
Mercyhurst's last series was against Lindenwood, where the Lakers were able to take both games of that series by scores of 3-1 and 4-2.
Penn State took a tie in its last game, the second game of its series against RIT, after winning the prior day. The Nittany Lions’ series against Lindenwood that was scheduled for last weekend was canceled.
The Nittany Lions come into the game being led offensively by Natalie Heising. The fifth-year senior comes into the game with 31 points thus far with a team-leading 16 goals. Sophomore Kiara Zanon is right behind her with 29 points on the season and leads the team with 20 assists.
The Lakers are led by Vanessa Upson and Sara Boucher. Upson has 28 points this season with a team-leading 16 goals, while Boucher has 24 points and is second on the roster with 10 goals.
They will look to keep putting pucks on net against a stout Nittany Lion defense that allows on average 23 shots on goal per night.
For Penn State, Josie Bothun will be attempting to stop those pucks from crossing the red line. Bothun has started all 23 games in net for the Nittany Lions this season, and she has posted a 1.93 goals-against average. She’s second in the NCAA with six shutouts in her sophomore campaign.
Mercyhurst relies on a goalie combination of juniors Ena Nystrom and Jenna Silvonen. In 15 appearances this season, Nystrom has allowed 25 goals and posted a 1.97 goals-against average. Silvonen, in 14 appearances this season, has allowed 21 goals and posted a 1.73 goals-against average.
A key for Penn State will be to try to generate power-play opportunities.
The power-play unit for the Nittany Lions currently sits in the top 10 in the NCAA with a 20% success rate. Junior forward Julie Gough has led the way on the power play with five of her nine goals coming with the advantage.
As for Mercyhurst, it will look to get more pucks to the net than they did in these team’s first meetings this season.
The Lakers took 23 shots in the first game and 14 in the second compared to their season average of nearly 34.
The Nittany Lions and Lakers will face off on Friday and Saturday this weekend with both games slated for 2 p.m. puck drops.
Justin Ciavolella is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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