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No. 12 Penn State Women’s Hockey Bests RIT 4-2

No. 12 Penn State women’s hockey (16-8-1) took on conference rival RIT (2-20) at Pegula Ice Arena, dispatching the Tigers with a 4-2 victory.

After taking an early minor penalty, the Nittany Lions were unfazed as captain Kiara Zanon scored not one but two shorthanded goals to jump to an early lead. RIT was able to stop the bleeding, but Eleri MacKay and Olivia Wallin finished two more goals as the game went on. The Tigers made it a contest late, scoring two goals themselves, but it wasn’t enough as Penn State took the victory.

How It Happened

Meeting for the 50th time, the Nittany Lions led the all-time matchup 28-16-5 and aimed to continue their winning ways, starting established veterans Julie Gough, Mallory Uihlein, and Rene Gangarosa alongside freshman phenoms Maddy Christian and Tessa Janecke. Josie Bothun started in net for Penn State, while Sarah Coe tended the goal for the Tigers.

From the onset of the first frame, the Nittany Lions looked comfortable in the attacking third, possessing the puck and keeping shots low to hunt for rebounds.

Penn State was handed a face-off violation penalty after Mya Vaslet jumped the gun on the draw and went to work killing the penalty with an ultra-aggressive forecheck. As the unit pressured its opponents up the ice, Kiara Zanon forced a turnover and found space for a blocker-side snipe to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0. This also marked the senior captain’s 100th career point, making her one of four to reach a century in program history.

Forty-six seconds later, Zanon picked the pocket of another Tiger defender to earn a breakaway chance on Coe. She put the puck on a string to finish another shorthanded goal and set the score at 2-0.

The Nittany Lions had another chance to extend their lead with nine minutes to go in the first when Eleri MacKay took a one-timer from the goal mouth, but Coe made a big kick save and the chance went begging.

Penn State continued to badger its opponent deep into its zone and created too much chaos for RIT’s clear to leave its third as it turned the puck over to Olivia Wallin. She zipped the puck to Lyndie Lobdell, who found Courtney Correia in the slot for an upper-deck shot that beat the goalie’s blocker and extended the Nittany Lions’ lead to 3-0.

Maddy Christian was assessed a game misconduct penalty for cross-checking Jaymee Nolan in the head. After spending time with the training staff, the Tiger was able to return to the bench, and Penn State was tasked with killing a five-minute penalty.

Unable to generate much in the offensive zone, RIT left its power play advantage fruitless and the game returned to even strength. Penn State possessed the puck and rode out the rest of the period with a 3-0 lead.

The ice continued to tilt in Penn State’s favor as the second period began with the blue and white taking the lion’s share of the puck. This period featured a more reserved offensive strategy from the Nittany Lions, as they cycled the puck and sought higher-percentage shots than their rebound shots from the first frame.

Keeping the pace of play slow and methodical, time dripped from the clock as Penn State’s chokehold on the game remained secure.

The Nittany Lions were given a power play after Jordyn Bear was caught holding with seven minutes left in the second period. Utilizing a high umbrella, the advantage unit sniffed for an opening in RIT’s defense but couldn’t find a notch in the armor as the power play expired.

Neither team cashed in late as the period ended goalless with Penn State still leading 3-0.

Both teams returned to the fresh ice for period three, and the game looked instantly scrappier. The puck pin-balled from zone to zone as players finished their checks harder and tied each other up at the wall, not allowing sustained offensive pressure from either side.

Penn State found the break it was looking for when Wallin creeped around the net unopposed for a quick one-two punch on the doorstep, forcing the puck into the goal for the 4-0 score.

RIT wouldn’t be denied, though, as it ramped up shot creation and found higher percentage chances. Lindsay Maloney got a shot off from the high slot, and though it got caught in traffic, the deflection sent the puck up and over Bothun’s shoulder for the Tigers’ opening goal.

Wanting to answer their opponents quickly, the Nittany Lions regrouped in their defensive end before coordinating their zone entry and gliding into a threatening position. After cycling the puck, Rene Gangarosa unloaded from the right circle and Katelyn Roberts stuffed the rebound home. The goal wouldn’t stand, however, as RIT’s coach’s challenge was successful for goalie interference and the score stood 4-1.

Spurred on by the momentum of the disallowed goal, RIT quickly tacked on a second goal when Bear boxed out the blue and white for a snap shot that beat Bothun blocker side. With five minutes to play, the score stood 4-2.

Coe managed to defend the net from an onslaught of shots from Zanon, Janecke, and Wallin to keep the Tigers within two late in the period.

RIT opted for the extra attacker with 32 seconds to go in the contest but couldn’t get anything brewing as the game ended 4-2 in Penn State’s favor.

Takeways

  • Kiara Zanon led the scoring tonight and achieved a career milestone in points by reaching 100. While usually known for her offensive abilities, Zanon’s opportunistic instincts made her a master thief of the puck, as she terrorized RIT’s defense to generate two goals off unassisted turnovers.
  • Penn State elected to employ a seriously high forecheck, banking on its speed as a team to beat the Tigers to unsettled pucks. The Nittany Lions were rarely forced into their half of the ice as they stifled their opponents’ ability to clear the zone.
  • The Nittany Lions wore many different masks in the offensive zone, varying scheme and tempo to throw off their opponents. While the high-octane style of the first period put points on the board, the careful, possessive play through the second and third made sure Penn State’s lead was never in doubt.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will return to Pegula Ice Arena to wrap up their two-game series against RIT on Saturday, January 14. Puck drop is set for 2 p.m.

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About the Author

Jack Scott

Jack is a sophomore aerospace engineer from Pittsburgh, PA. Sometimes, he enjoys the misunderstanding of his friends and family that Penn State Club Ski Racing may be a D1 sport and usually won't correct them. Jack is way too into Thundercat for his own good. Follow him on Twitter @joscottIV and Instagram @jackscott._iv

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