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: Penn State at Mercyhurst, Harvard at Cornell

Game Day Highlights

Penn State at Mercyhurst: The Nittany Lions will try and jump the Lakers for first place in College Hockey America in this weekend’s series. Penn State swept Mercyhurst the last time these two teams met, but lost some ground with a split last weekend against fifth-place Lindenwood. The Lakers took care of business against Robert Morris last week, putting themselves in great position to win the conference. The Nittany Lions have already proven they can beat the Lakers, but this series will likely have a much more playoff-like feel, which probably benefits a more season Mercyhurst squad.

No. 4 Harvard at No. 10 Cornell: The Crimson are coming off a win against previously undefeated Boston College, capturing their first Beanpot title since 2010. It was a huge turnaround for the team, after falling to the Eagles 10-2 earlier in the season. Cornell had been hot lately after a poor start, with just two losses in its last 17 games: 3-2 to Princeton last weekend, and 3-0 to Harvard back on Jan. 24. It’s a tight race at the top of the ECAC standings, with four points separating the No. 1 Crimson and No. 5 St. Lawrence. Harvard’s defensive game is much more sound than Cornell’s, and that’s an area the Big Red will need to focus on if it hopes to improve on that shutout loss a few weeks ago.

No. 6 Minnesota Duluth at No. 2 Minnesota: The Bulldogs have taken just two out of a possible 12 points in their last two series against North Dakota and Wisconsin, and now head to Minneapolis to take on first-place Minnesota. Both teams will be hungry for two wins this weekend, as the Gophers suffered just their second loss of the year last weekend against UND. Minnesota Duluth’s offense has gone a little quiet over the past two weeks, and was held without a goal in its series against the Badgers. That will need to change if the Bulldogs hope to pull off the upset.

No. 5 Quinnipiac at St. Lawrence: With four losses in its last six games, the Bobcats have relinquished control of the ECAC and are in big need of a turn-around. Offensive consistency just hasn’t been there, or at least consistency in finishing. Quinnipiac has dominated weaker teams but struggles to make the game-breaking plays that are needed to knock off tougher competition. The Saints have proven to be a quality team, and played the Bobcats to a 2-2 tie last time these teams met. St. Lawrence’s strengths are its defense and goaltending, and Quinnipiac needs to focus on sustaining offense and generating high-end chances even when being forced to the perimeter.

Princeton at No. 8/9 Clarkson: The Golden Knights hit a bit of a rough stretch towards the end of January, getting outplayed against Wisconsin and then losing to Yale, but they’ve turned it around since then. Princeton, however, has become an extremely dangerous team, having knocked off both Harvard and Cornell in its last four games. The Tigers did a decent job of putting together some offense against both of those teams, and they’re probably not going to just pack it in against Clarkson either.

Players to Watch

Laura Bowman, Forward, Penn State: Bowman is the Nittany Lions’ leading scorer with points in games and notched a hat trick the last time they faced off against Mercyhurst. She will be a key player again this weekend and, as Penn State’s most productive forward, will be counted on to score as they chase after the CHA crown.

Paula Voorheis, Goaltender, Cornell: Voorheis is far from one of the country’s most dominant goalies, but she’s been steadily improving all season, and hasn’t posted a sub-.900 save percentage game since Jan. 9 against St. Lawrence, a stretch of 10 games.

Shannon MacAulay, Forward, Clarkson: Her production has dried up lately; besides a goal and an assist against Brown, the junior has zero points in her last six games. Without a very deep offense anyways, the Golden Knights are relying on her to be in good form, especially heading down the stretch and into the playoffs.

Full Schedule

College Hockey America

Penn State (15-11-4) at Mercyhurst (20-7-3), 3 p.m. EST
Lindenwood (9-17-1) at Syracuse (8-13-9), 7 p.m. EST
RIT (10-17-3) at Robert Morris (9-17-3), 7:05 p.m. EST

ECAC

Union (4-20-6) at Brown (5-20-0), 7 p.m. EST
Princeton (13-10-2) at No. 8/9 Clarkson (19-8-3), 7 p.m. EST
Dartmouth (11-11-2) at Colgate (7-22-1), 7 p.m. EST
No. 4 Harvard (19-4-2) at No. 10 Cornell (14-8-3), 7 p.m. EST
No. 5 Quinnipiac (22-5-3) at St. Lawrence (17-9-4), 7 p.m. EST
Rensselaer (5-21-4) at Yale (11-13-1), 7 p.m. EST

Hockey East

Maine (10-14-3) at No. 1 Boston College (27-1-1), 2 p.m. EST
New Hampshire (8-19-2) at Vermont (13-16-1), 7 p.m. EST

WCHA

No. 3 Wisconsin (22-4-4) at Ohio State (16-11-3), 6:07 p.m. EST
No. 6 Minnesota Duluth (17-8-5) at No. 2 Minnesota (25-2-4), 7:07 p.m. CST
Bemidji State (16-13-1) at Minnesota State (3-25-1), 7:07 p.m. CST
No. 8/9 North Dakota (16-11-3) at St. Cloud State (6-23-1), 7:07 p.m. CST