2015-16 Team-by-Team Previews: Penn State Nittany Lions

2015-16 Roster | 2015-16 Schedule

Head Coach: Josh Brandwene (4th Season)
2015-16 Captains: Jordan Pardoski (C), Shannon Yoxheimer (C), Laura Bowman (A), Sarah Wilkie (A)

2014-15 Season Recap

Record: 17-16-4 (9-9-2 CHA/3rd place)
College Hockey America Postseason: Conference semifinals; advanced to semifinal game with quarterfinal series win vs. Lindenwood, eliminated by Syracuse in the CHA semifinals

The Nittany Lions started off the 2014-15 season with two games in Minneapolis, Minn., and came away with a win over St. Cloud State after falling to the host Gophers. They then had a winless weekend against Quinnipiac and an unbeaten series against Union, and split with Princeton before beginning conference play against Syracuse. After losing to and tying the Orange, Penn State earned its first sweep of the season against nonconference foe Colgate.

In their next series against RIT, the Nittany Lions picked up their first conference win of the season, beating the Tigers 3-2 in overtime after falling to them the day before. Splits with Lindenwood and Robert Morris followed suit, and Penn State then earned perhaps its biggest results in program history to date, sweeping Mercyhurst to close out the 2014 calendar year. A sweep at the hands of Ohio State opened up 2015, but the Nittany Lions continued their strong league play with a sweep over RIT. After a loss to New Hampshire, they went 3-0-1 in their next four, beating the Wildcats, Syracuse, and Lindenwood.

It looked at that point like Penn State had a very good chance to earn a bye into the CHA Tournament semifinals, and potentially take the league crown, but they hit a rough stretch at the end. They lost their last five games of the regular season, including getting swept by Mercyhurst and Robert Morris, and finished third, setting up a quarterfinal series with Lindenwood. The Nittany Lions came away with two wins there, beating Lindenwood 1-0 and 3-1, to move on to the semifinals. Their season ended there, however, as Syracuse knocked them out, 2-0.

Forward Laura Bowman was named to the All-CHA Second Team, while goaltender Hannah Ehresmann and forward Bella Sutton earned spots on the CHA All-Rookie Team. Penn State was also named recipient of the CHA’s Team Sportsmanship Award.

Meet the Newcomers

D Kelsey Crow, Minnetonka H.S.

As a senior with the Skippers, Crow tallied six goals and 24 assists for 30 points in 30 games, helping them to a second-place finish at the Minnesota Class AA state tournament, as well as a Lake Conference title and Section 6AA title. Her play earned her a spot on the All-Tournament Team and all-conference honors. She also helped Minnetonka (Minn.) capture conference, section, and state tournament championships in 2012 and 2013.

Coach Brandwene on Crow (via GoPSUSports.com):

“Kelsey has great footwork, takes care of the net, distributes the puck incredibly well, joins the rush and has a terrific point shot. She is the total defender package and one intense competitor.”

F Hannah England, Shattuck-St. Mary’s

Last season, England scored 18 goals, 16 assists, and 34 points while helping SSM to a national runner-up finish. She tallied 40 points in 2013-14, when the Sabres also finished as national runner-ups. A USA Hockey national development camp attendee, she was named to the camp’s all-star teams in both 2012 and 2013.

Coach Brandwene on England (via GoPSUSports.com):

“Hannah possesses excellent speed, lateral movement, puck skills, and a nifty scoring touch. She has great offensive instincts, work ethic and athleticism.”

F Meike Meilleur, St. Mary’s Academy Prep

Meilleur captained St. Mary’s (Manitoba) in 2014-15, netting 21 goals, 24 assists, and 45 points and building off of a 25-point junior season. She was a member of Team Manitoba at the 2013 Canadian National Women’s Under-18 Championship, helping the squad to a fifth-place finish. In 2012, she captured a gold medal at the U17 Girls World Selects with Team West Coast.

Coach Brandwene on Meilleur (via GoPSUSports.com):

“Meike brings height, strength, speed and skill to our line up. She is a physical presence in the corners, a fierce competitor and incredibly tough to play against.”

F Victoria Samuelsson, Swedish Under-18 Team, Modo Hockey Dam

While playing in the Rikkserien, Sweden’s top league, Samuelsson netted 56 points in 80 career games over the last three seasons. She helped Modo capture the league championship in 2011-12, and has represented her country in international play, competing at the 2014 IIHF Under-18 World Championship and named an alternate captain for Sweden.

Coach Brandwene on Samuelsson (via GoPSUSports.com):

“Victoria is a talented and consistent presence in all three zones. Her compete level, puck possession, incredibly deft passing and cannon of a shot are fun to watch.”

2015-16 Season Preview

Key Departures: F Caitlin Reilly
Key Returners: F Shannon Yoxheimer, F Laura Bowman, F Amy Petersen, F Hannah Hoenshell, D Jordin Pardoski, D Bella Sutton, D Kelly Seward, D Remi Martin
Key Additions: F Hannah England, F Meike Meilleur, F Victoria Samuelsson, D Kelsey Crow

The Nittany Lions saw a ton of improvement from 2013-14 to 2014-15, going from a .153 winning percentage to a .514 winning percentage, the first winning record in the program’s short Division I history. They saw the emergence of several legitimate scoring threats, as well as a goaltending duo that can compete with any pair in the conference (and a good chunk of teams around the nation). This season, Penn State will be hoping to maintain that, and potentially move up into a top-two spot in the College Hockey America standings.

Though that goaltending pair split a fair amount of time last season, it was then-junior Celine Whitlinger who took control of the starting job. She posted a .933 save percentage, which ranked 10th in the country, and 2.17 goals-against average while backstopping a team that was 27th in the country in shots on goal against per game at 32.43. As a rookie, Hannah Ehresmann posted a very respectable .927 save percentage for herself. So far, the two netminders have each earned three starts this season, but I’d expect Whitlinger to be the team’s go-to later on in the year once again; it’s a tiny sample size, but she’s so far put up a .957 save percentage and 1.34 goals-against average.

Except for the transfer of 16-point scorer Caitlin Reilly, Penn State returns all of its production from last season. That’s good news for a team that could use a little bit more development offensively. Juniors Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen led the team in scoring as sophomores, tallying 31 points and 27 points respectively, and senior Shannon Yoxheimer had a 20-point season as well, finishing second on the club with 12 goals. Those three will all be front and center for the Nittany Lions’ offense this year, and rookies Hannah England and Victoria Samuelsson should also factor into the top-six. Seniors Hannah Bramm and Hannah Hoenshell could provide a decent amount of secondary scoring as well.

Defense is likely to be the biggest concern for Penn State. Goaltending will, once again, help to mask some of the shortcomings, but if the Nittany Lions are serious about contending for a top spot in the conference, the defensive play needs to be sharper. Senior Jordin Pardoski and junior Kelly Seward are the veteran leaders of this defensive corps. Sophomore Bella Sutton had a strong rookie season last year, leading PSU’s blue liners in scoring with 15 points, and she has the most potential to grow into a bigger impact player out of this group. Classmate Remi Martin can help bolster the top-four if she improves on her rookie year as well, and freshman Kelsey Crow has so far been a solid contributor on the back end. The group lacks a dominant two-way type of defender, and though there’s a decent mix of skill here, I’m not sure if anyone besides Sutton has a very high ceiling in that department.

Last season was undoubtedly the best in the program’s young history, and with the exception of Reilly, the Nittany Lions aren’t losing any critical pieces of that team. They’ve got a handful of players who have developed into difference makers up front, and Sutton could potentially establish herself as one of the top blue liners in the CHA this season. Whitlinger will provide them with a big boost in goal, but there are still some shaky areas defensively for the team as a whole. There is talent here, but Penn State still has to establish itself as a team that has the strength throughout its lineup to carry play. They’ll compete again in the top half of the league, but they still have something to prove after last season’s slide at the end.

Schedule Highlights

Oct. 1-2 vs. Minnesota (L 2-0, L 5-0)
Oct. 9-10 at Boston University (W 5-3, L 3-1)
Oct. 30-31 at Lindenwood (L 5-2, T 1-1)
Nov. 6-7 vs. Mercyhurst
Nov. 23-24 at St. Lawrence
Dec. 4-5 at Syracuse
Dec. 11-12 at Princeton
Jan. 2-3 at Ohio State
Jan. 15-16 at RIT
Jan. 22-23 vs. Robert Morris
Feb. 5-6 vs. Syracuse
Feb. 19-20 at Mercyhurst

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