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Penn State Women’s Hockey Ties, Beats RIT In Final Series Of 2021-22 Regular Season

Penn State women’s hockey (18-9-5, 8-3-3 CHA) faced RIT (1-26-4, 1-12-3 CHA) in a two-game series this Friday and Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena. It was the final series of the 2021-22 regular season. 

Game one was very much an even battle. It ended up being a 2-2 tie, as both teams went back and forth throughout the game.

Game two resulted in a 2-0 Penn State victory, though both teams played each other tough throughout.

How It Happened

Game One

Penn State started the game the way it wanted by controlling the puck and keeping it in the RIT zone. Anytime the Tigers even touched the puck, the Nittany Lions swarmed whoever had it and got it back. 

The dominant style of play ended up with success for the Nittany Lions halfway through the first period. Natalie Heising quickly scooped up a rebound and put it in the back of the net from a close angle, opening up the scoring for a 1-0 Penn State lead at 11:50 in the period. Heising’s goal, her 20th of the season, broke the program’s single-season goal scoring record. 

Heising’s historic goal was the only one in the first period, capping off an impressive first 20 minutes for Penn State. 

In the second period, RIT’s play improved enough that it made life difficult for the Nittany Lions, replicating Penn State’s aggressive poke-check style of play. The Tigers were practically bound to find the back of the net, which they eventually did. Jordan Marchese equalized the game at 9:06 in the second period for her third goal of the season. 

The back and forth play continued until the intermission. Both teams continued to have quality scoring opportunities, and it was a very even period. 

In the third period, RIT broke through and took the lead. At 2:54, Kylie Aquaro received a pass and immediately shot it between the pads of Josie Bothun and into the net, sending the Tiger bench into a frenzy. Momentum for RIT had been building for some time, so it was not surprising that the Tigers took a 2-1 lead. 

Immediately after the goal, though, Penn State came out playing in a way it hadn’t since early in the second period. The Nittany Lions were aggressive, physical, and played like they wanted to win. 

Sure enough, RIT’s lead was short-lived. Four minutes after Aquaro’s goal at 6:13 in the third period, Kiara Zanon took advantage of the puck that was initially in the air and tapped it into the goal, tying the game at two a piece. 

Both teams continued to compete and take chances, with much of the remainder of the period taking place in the neutral zone. The game went to overtime, but neither team scored. Game one therefore ended in a 2-2 tie.

Game Two

Game two was the final game of the regular season, and therefore the last time that Natalie Heising, Amy Dobson, Anna Promersberger, Avery Mitchell, and Cam Leonard suited up in Penn State sweaters in a regular season game.

Neither team scored in the first period. Penn State outshot RIT 14-2 and had some good chances in the offensive zone, but was unable to capitalize off of Sarah Coe.

Much of the play was in the neutral zone, with plenty of poke checks that led to brief turnovers. Overall, neither team was able to find momentum and create quality chances on a consistent basis. It was an uneventful start to the game, though the style of play was similar to that of game one.

The Nittany Lions looked like the better team to begin the second period. They were getting pucks in the offensive zone, taking shots, and creating good chances. The Tigers were having difficulties keeping up.

However, RIT did have a very good scoring chance. A Tiger had a breakaway which Bothun denied with a pad save, then did the same after letting the puck rebound.

At 11:48 in the second period, Rachel Weiss finally broke the ice with a snapshot in front of Coe, making it 1-0 Penn State. The Nittany Lions had been working all game to find the net, and on the 19th shot it finally happened.

Both teams had an odd-skater rush, with both goaltenders making great saves. Penn State took the puck back and had more quality shots on goal, but then the Nittany Lions went on the power play after a tripping call against the Tigers. Penn State was dominant on the advantage, with one shot hitting the goalpost after getting past Coe. However, the score remained 1-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

The third period was very uneventful. No goals were scored, though Penn State controlled the momentum and puck for a lot of back and forth play.

Goaltending was definitely the better aspect of the period. Coe came up big by keeping RIT in the game, while Bothun prevented the Tigers from scoring.

Penn State had two very good chances, one of which hit the goalpost and barely missed the net. That was the second such play in the game. That led to an especially tense ending to the third period. Bothun came up big and stopped an odd-man rush, putting her impressive goaltending skills on full display against a gritty and sneaky RIT offense.

Kiara Zanon took the puck away from Penn State’s zone after a face-off, glided past the RIT defense and shot the puck into the empty net, thus sealing the deal for the Nittany Lions for a 2-0 victory over the Tigers to close out the regular season.

Takeaways

  • Penn State should have swept this series with ease. Playing on home ice against a one-win team should have been a piece of cake for a Penn State team with the likes of Heising and Zanon on offense. Instead, the Nittany Lions tied in game one and barely won game two, with a combined four goals in the series.
  • Natalie Heising made history on Friday, setting the program record for most goals in a season with 20. Heising, the senior from Wayzata, Minnesota, will surely be missed on the ice.
  • Defense and goaltending made for a great series. For example, there were a total of 21 blocked shots in game two and a low total of four goals were scored.

What’s Next?

Penn State will head to Syracuse for the CHA Tournament from February 24 to February 26. Matchups and game times are to be determined, though Penn State has clinched a semifinal berth.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a freshman majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which can be both difficult and rewarding. If you want to debate anything about sports with him, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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