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No. 14 Penn State Women’s Hockey Falls To No. 7 St. Lawrence In First Round Of NCAA Tournament

No. 14 Penn State women’s hockey (22-13-3, 14-4-2 CHA) fell to No. 7 St. Lawrence (28-10, 18-4 ECAC) in the opening round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

Goaltending was the story of the night as Katie DeSa made 43 saves on 44 shots and Emma-Sofie Nordstrom secured a 36-save shutout.

How It Happened

Much of the opening 10 minutes of the first period was a feeling-out process for both teams, as this was the first matchup between them this season. St. Lawrence appeared to have the upper hand early as it spent its fair share of time occupying the Penn State defensive zone. Despite the time in its defensive zone, Leah Stecker nearly got Penn State on the board off of an errant pass from Mae Batherson, but Nordstrom knocked the shot away with her shoulder.

The best scoring chance of the period for Penn State came courtesy of a shot off the rush from Maddy Christian with just under two minutes remaining in the period. As she rushed into the zone and past the St. Lawrence defense, Christian cut toward Nordstrom and managed to get a backhanded shot away, but Nordstrom got a piece of the puck with her blocker and St. Lawrence cleared the zone.

As the final seconds of the first period ticked away, the teams remained scoreless with neither team managing to take control of the game. Penn State clung to a narrow 8-7 advantage in shots on goal and DeSa made the necessary saves while not facing a true high-quality scoring chance.

Penn State came out of the locker room to begin the second period with confidence and its play in the opening 10 minutes showed this. The Nittany Lions found success in the offensive zone and peppered Nordstrom with shots, but the St. Lawrence goalie held her ground and the game remained scoreless.

St. Lawrence found itself on the first power play of the game with 9:12 remaining in the second period thanks to Lyndie Lobdell being sent to the box for body-checking. Boasting a 31% conversion rate on the power play, St. Lawrence had its chances with the advantage, culminating with a scrum in front of DeSa with the puck nearly slipping past the goalie. Tessa Janecke nearly scored shorthanded off a shot from the left circle, but Nordstrom once again came up with the save. Penn State killed the remaining seconds on Lobdell’s penalty and returned to full strength.

Despite not scoring on its power play, St. Lawrence continued to control the game with extended offensive zone time as it flung the puck around the Penn State defense. Showcasing some impressive passing, the Saints’ best chance of the sequence came on a cross-crease pass in which DeSa made a lunging save on a one-timer from Julia Gosling, once again keeping the game scoreless.

Attempting to retake momentum, Christian fought through contact along the boards and skated to the front of the net where she fired a slick backhanded shot at Nordstrom. Despite the St. Lawrence goalie once again coming up with the save, this gave Penn State enough confidence to finally maintain possession as the period came to a close and set up a winner-take-all final period.

It did not take Penn State long to notch the first scoring opportunity of the final period as Stella Retrum skated to the front of the net and received a nice pass from the point just 30 seconds in. The ensuing shot was once again turned away by Nordstrom, but Penn State had all of the momentum to begin the third period.

Rushing into the zone, Janecke sped by the St. Lawrence defense and dropped a nice pass to an oncoming Retrum, who had an open net but fired the shot off of the crossbar and Penn State would continue its search for the elusive first goal.

After yet another Penn State sequence in which the Nittany Lions nearly opened the scoring, St. Lawrence head coach Chris Wells opted to use his timeout to slow down the game for his team. His strategy paid off as the Saints immediately had a scoring chance at the opposite end of the ice. A scrum in front of DeSa after making the save led to Katelyn Roberts and Abby Hustler both being sent to the box for roughing with 10:29 remaining in the period, leading to two minutes of four-on-four hockey.

Continuing her remarkable night, DeSa robbed Hustler on a two-on-one with just under three minutes remaining in regulation. Hustler skated into the Penn State zone and opted for a shot from just inside the left circle, which DeSa made a flashy glove save on. The save was No. 36 of the night, which was already a new career high.

With neither team breaking through the opposing goalie as time expired, overtime was needed to decide who would move on to face Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Penn State opened overtime with a couple of high-quality chances in the opening 20 seconds, but Norstrom continued to shut the Nittany Lions down.

St. Lawrence dominated the overtime period after the initial flurry from Penn State, commanding the offensive zone and firing shot after shot at DeSa. Penn State only held out for so long before surrendering the losing goal. Kristina Bahl fired a shot from the point that made its way past DeSa to send St. Lawrence on to the quarterfinals and end Penn State’s season.

Takeaways

  • What more can be said about the play of DeSa? Her 43-save performance is yet another example of her capabilities as a starter heading into the 2024-25 season.
  • DeSa and the Penn State defense did everything in their power to will the Nittany Lions to victory but when their offense failed to score in over three and a half periods, it was difficult to win. What was a strength for Penn State the entire season ended up being the team’s downfall.
  • After securing the 1-0 win against Mercyhurst in the CHA championship, Penn State once again proved it is not a one-trick pony that cannot win more than one style of game. The Nittany Lions were at their best when playing an offensive-centric style of hockey, but the past two games proved they’re more than capable of defeating good teams playing in low-scoring games.
  • Even with another disappointing end to the season for Penn State, this team should hold its head high as it made its second consecutive tournament appearance and won yet another CHA championship. Returning star players such as DeSa and Janecke should allow Penn State to return to this stage.

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About the Author

Dennis Wilkins

Dennis is a third-year journalism major from Brick, New Jersey. He has a love-hate relationship with every team he roots for, especially the New York Giants. When he's not watching Jack Hughes highlights, he can be found playing golf or listening to music. Direct all complaints to him via email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@denniswilkins27).

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