Before the Penn State women’s hockey entered the ice Friday night, the lights in Pegula Ice Arena dimmed.
A pump-up video featuring members of the team and past game highlights played on the scoreboard, as students and a pep band were positioned in the bottom half of the “Roar Zone,” which was behind Union goaltender Shenae Lundberg for the opening and final period.
But what started as a new setting for the Nittany Lions ended in a familiar outcome with the Dutchwomen. Union prevailed in the Nittany Lions’ home opener at their new arena, 2-1, going 2-for-2 on the power play.
“A lot of good things happened out there, a lot of good aggressive play,” Nittany Lions coach Josh Brandwene said. “Both teams played well. Sometimes you play well, (but) you don’t get the outcome you want. It was a historic night. There’s still a lot to be thankful for.”
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The Nittany Lions (1-3-1), who played their first season of Division I ice hockey last year, have lost all three of their meetings with the Dutchwomen (3-3), all by one goal.
Stefanie Thomson scored the Dutchwomen’s game-winner slightly more than four minutes into the third period.
Appearing to be stopped initially, the puck trickled past Nittany Lion goaltender Nicole Paniccia, slowly gliding over the crease.
Union opened the game’s scoring on a power play in the first period, 11 seconds after freshman Laura Bowman was whistled for checking. A few yards in front of the blue line, Courtney Turner, the Dutchwomen’s points-leader, found the net on a shot from the left wing.
Between the two goals, forward Shannon Yoxheimer tallied the Lions’ first goal inside Pegula Ice Arena.
Yoxheimer, who led the Lions in goals last season, took a pass from team captain Taylor Gross in the second period. Skating down the right wing, she beat Lundberg to the top shelf with a hard shot from just beyond the blue line.
It was the latest in a series of firsts for Yoxheimer. Last season, she scored the the team’s first goal as a Division I program at its former home, the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
“It’s kind of nice because it’s a first, which is part of why I wanted to come to Penn State, is so as a team we could have a bunch of firsts,” the sophomore said. “It feels really good to be able to do that.”
The tight game was matched by a close shot total.
After the Lions faced more than 50 shots in each game they played against Quinnipiac on Oct. 11 and 12, the Dutchwomen outshot them by only a 26-24 margin. Brandwene credited the change in shots to his team’s play in the neutral zone.
On the offensive end, the Nittany Lions had several near-misses. Centering passes during rushes almost resulted in goals more than once. Bowman had a few close looks on goal, including a shot that hit the post midway through the first period.
“When you get a great effort like that it stings a little bit more, but it’s what makes you want to come back for more,” Brandwene said of Bowman’s second line.
Brandwene also spoke highly of the crowd. The fans set a program record with 1,424 in attendance.
Last season, the highest recorded attendance at Greenberg was 408 in the team’s home opener against Syracuse.
The record attendance, along with the support from students, was something Paniccia said she noticed on the ice.
“Well, as an alum myself, never prouder to be a Penn Stater than I am tonight,” Brandwene said. “I just love the student body here, makes me proud to be a Penn Stater. Great community support as well, and I think they got a taste of what an exciting brand of hockey it was.”