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.

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Game Day Skate: College Hockey America Semifinals

#1 Mercyhurst (23-8-3) vs. #5 RIT (13-18-5)

The Tigers swept Robert Morris last week in their best-of-three series to advance to the semifinals. RIT earned a 3-1 win on Saturday, with Mackenzie Stone snapping a 1-1 tie in the second period and Emilee Bulleid posting a goal and an assist. RIT capped off the sweep with a 1-0 win on Saturday, and Ali Binnington recorded 30 saves in the shutout.

Slowing down Mercyhurst’s offense will be a lot tougher; Emily Janiga has 27 goals and 45 points through 34 games and will lead the way up front for the Lakers. Though they lack the scoring depth they’ve enjoyed in past years, they still have several other options up front. Their defensive corps, headed by Molly Byrne, does a good job of controlling play. The Tigers will be tasked with exposing some of the weaknesses throughout Mercyhurst’s line-up, and Binnington is going to have to be good in net. She made 62 saves in RIT’s stunning 2-1 double overtime win over the Lakers last season in the championship game, so there’s no doubt that she can make a big difference.

Key Players for Mercyhurst: F Emily Janiga, F Shelby Bram, D Jillian Skinner

Key Players for RIT: G Ali Binnington, F Kolbee McCrea, D Taylor Thurston

#2 Syracuse (10-14-10) vs. #3 Penn State (17-15-4)

While Syracuse had a bye-week, the Nittany Lions swept Lindenwood to earn their first Division I postseason wins in program history. Shannon Yoxheimer scored the lone goal in the 1-0 win on Friday, and she also had the game-winner in Saturday’s clinching 3-1 victory. Bella Sutton posted two goals and an assist in that game as well.

Besides Mercyhurst, the Orange have the highest scoring offense in the CHA at 2.12 goals per game. The Nittany Lions are right up there with them, averaging exactly two goals per game. Though the teams are pretty even, Syracuse is more efficient when it comes to generating chances for itself and limiting them for opponents. Penn State, however, has a clear edge in goal with Celine Whitlinger, who has a .933 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average. The Orange rely a lot on their two rookie forwards, Stephanie Grossi and Alysha Burriss, but inexperience could just as easily be a problem for Penn State.

Key Players for Syracuse: F Melissa Piacentini, F Stephanie Grossi, D Nicole Renault

Key Players for Penn State: G Celine Whitlinger, F Amy Petersen, F Shannon Yoxheimer, D Jordin Pardoski