Second-place women's hockey visits first-place Mercyhurst

February 13, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State (15-11-4, 9-5-2 CHA) visits the CHA-leading Mercyhurst Lakers for a Valentine's Day weekend series. The teams face off on Friday, Feb. 13 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 14 at 2 p.m.

Sitting atop the CHA standings throughout the regular season, Mercyhurst (20-7-3, 11-4-1 CHA) most recently swept RIT with 5-1 and 3-0 victories. The team's offensive spark and the reigning CHA Player of the Week, Emily Janiga recorded five points and 17 shots during the series, helping her to a team-best 24 goals and 38 points. The Lakers have two capable netminders in CHA Goaltender of the Week Julia DiTondo, who went 2-0 against the Tigers, and Amanda Makela. Penn State will have to contend with Mercyhurst's 14-1-1 record at home.

The Nittany Lions boast a 6-1-1 CHA record at home and a major reason is the Pegula Ice Arena crowd. Penn State sits eighth for attendance among Division I teams, welcoming an average attendance of 546 for its 14 home games, the second-most in the CHA. This season, the Nittany Lions hosted the third-largest crowd in program history for the weekend finale against No. 6 Mercyhurst (1,257) and welcomed 1,042 for the Skate for the Cure game against Syracuse.

Just two weeks remain in the regular season, followed by the CHA playoffs. The Nittany Lions are in sole possession of second place in the CHA standings, three points behind first place Mercyhurst. The first round consists of three games, on Feb. 27, 28 and March 1. The No. 3 team hosts the No. 5 team, and the No. 4 team hosts the No. 6 team. The No.1 and No. 2 teams receive a first round bye. The semifinals and championship games are on Fri., March 6 and Sat., March 7, respectively, at the No. 1 seed.

In their third varsity season, the Nittany Lions are producing the best campaign in the program's young history. Penn State has increased its conference win total nine-fold from each of the previous two seasons. The 15 victories this year is also more than 2012-13 and 2013-14 combined. The 2014-15 team, which is unbeaten in at least one game nearly every weekend this season, has set Penn State's win (15) and shorthanded goal (3) records. The Nittany Lions have also captured a program-best 13 CHA weekly or monthly honors. Individually, Celine Whitlinger (Garden Grove, Calif.) has the most career (15) and single season wins (11). Shannon Yoxheimer (Jackson, Mich.), who played in her 100th game in the weekend series finale at Lindenwood and is already the program's career goals, assists and points leader, now holds the season and career records for game-winning goals (4) and goals by a junior (9). Laura Bowman (Minnetonka, Minn.), who shares the season game-winning goals title, is the school's record holder for goals (16). Bowman also holds the class points record (30).

The Nittany Lions' special teams have been just that this season: special. Their power play is the seventh-best in the nation, resulting in a goal 20.4 percent of the time (20-for-98). Hannah Bramm's (Tampa, Fla.) five goals lead the team, ranking ninth nationally and third in the CHA. Bella Sutton (Shoreview, Minn.) has also been an integral part of Penn State's player advantage, recording the fourth-most power play points in the conference with nine (three goals, six assists).

Celine Whitlinger (Garden Grove, Calif.) was named the CHA Goaltender of the Month for the second-straight month after a 4-1-1 overall record in January and an undefeated 3-0-1 mark in conference play, helping Penn State to a second-place seat in the CHA standings. The Garden Grove, Calif., native posted a 1.48 goals against average and an outstanding .955 save percentage, allowing just nine goals in 364:05 minutes on the ice. Whitlinger, who is the program's winningest puck stopper, also made an average of 32 saves per game in January. The Goaltender of the Week for Jan. 19, Whitlinger led the Nittany Lions to a series sweep of RIT, their second-straight of a conference opponent

A major reason for the Nittany Lions' success this season has been the play of its goaltenders, Celine Whitlinger (Garden Grove, Calif.) and Hannah Ehresmann (Minnetonka, Minn.). The Blue and White is the only team in the nation with two goaltenders among top-15 in save percentage; Whitlinger is eighth and Ehresmann is 15th. Penn State is also one of only three schools with two netminders among the top-20 in goals against average (Ohio State, Harvard). Whitlinger is 16th at 2.11 and Ehresmann has the 18th-best goals against average nationally with a 2.29 mark.

Penn State concludes the regular season on Fri., Feb. 20 and Sat., Feb. 21 against Robert Morris. The Nittany Lions host the Colonials at 2 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday. 

Last Updated February 13, 2015