Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State logo.jpg
Institution: Pennsylvania State University
Location: University Park, Pennsylvania
School founded: 1855
Enrollment: 46,723
Home Arena: Pegula Ice Arena
Capacity: 5,782
Women's Team
Conference: College Hockey America
Coach: Jeff Kampersal

Penn State Nittany Lions women's ice hockey[1] is a college ice hockey program that has represented Penn State University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I and College Hockey America (CHA) since the 2012–13 season.[2] The program was preceded by a club team that competed at the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division 1 level, primarily as a member of Eastern Collegiate Women's Hockey League (ECWHL).[3][4][5] Penn State plays its home games at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania.

History[edit | edit source]

ACHA years[edit | edit source]

Penn State's first women's hockey team – a club team called the "Lady Icers" – began play in the 1996–97 season, after students Ellen Bradley and Kathy Beckford recruited players from around campus and Vinnie Scalamogna, the assistant manager of the Penn State Ice Pavilion (then the university's sole ice facility), as coach.[6] The Lady Icers' first game, a 5–4 win over the Susquehanna Rockettes (an adult club team), took place on February 1, 1997.[7] The team was intermittently successful over its 16 years of existence, winning six conference regular season or playoff titles and qualifying for the ACHA National Tournament six times, peaking with a third-place finish at the end of the 2001-02 season.[8]

Penn State concluded its time in the ACHA in February 2012, with eventual NCAA leader Josh Brandwene as head coach. That season, the Lady Icers played a mixed schedule, featuring ACHA and ECWHL opponents as well as eleven games against NCAA Division I and Division III teams. PSU finished the year by claiming the ECWHL regular season title, but then losing to Rhode Island in the league's playoff championship game.[9]

Move to NCAA[edit | edit source]

After years of speculation[10][11] the program transitioned to the NCAA Division I level along with the PSU men's ice hockey team for the 2012–13 season. The move was made possible thanks to a Penn State-record $88 million (later increased to $102 million) donation, announced on September 17, 2010, from Terrence Pegula, a Penn State alumnus and billionaire hockey fan, and his wife Kim.[12] The donation primarily paid for the completion of a new 5,782-seat, $89 million ice arena to replace the undersized and aging 1,350-seat Penn State Ice Pavilion, which was deemed inadequate for long-term NCAA play.[10][13][14] Pegula Ice Arena opened in September 2013, after the Nittany Lions played their first NCAA season in the Ice Pavilion.

In May 2011 the university hired Brandwene as the first varsity women's hockey head coach.[15] On June 21, 2011, former Lady Icers head coach Mo Stroemel and Gina Kearns joined Brandwene's staff as assistants. Kearns had been an assistant with the Neumann University Knights, coaching there from 2009 until 2011.[16] In September 2011, Penn State was accepted into College Hockey America for the 2012–13 season, becoming the fifth member of the conference after Wayne State abruptly ended their women's hockey program, dropping league membership to only four teams for the 2011–12 season.[17]

NCAA[edit | edit source]

The Nittany Lions launched their NCAA era in stunning fashion, with a 5–3 victory over Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse on October 6, 2012, helped by a pair of goals each from Micayla Catanzariti and Shannon Yoxheimer.[18] Behind a roster led by forward and captain Taylor Gross, forward Jenna Welch and goaltender Nicole Paniccia (each a transfer from the University of Connecticut), and featuring eight Lady Icers holdovers (including Gross) along with 17 freshmen, PSU climbed to 5–8–1 overall on November 17, 2012 with its first-ever CHA win, 3–2 over fellow former ACHA program Lindenwood.[19] The Nittany Lions skidded the rest of the way though, managing only two wins (both against NCAA Division III Chatham Cougars over the final 21 games of the season, including a sweep by RIT in the first round of the CHA playoffs.[20]

The 2013–14 season again began encouragingly, with another win at Vermont and a split in the team's first Pegula Ice Arena games, on October 18 and 19, 2013 against Union.[21] However, despite eight ties or overtime losses and thanks largely to scoring just 1.36 times per game,[22] the Nittany Lions regressed to four wins overall and were once again swept by RIT in the first round of the CHA playoffs.[21]

PSU found its greatest success in the NCAA era during the 2014-15 season, when the team posted its first winning record (17-16-4), highest CHA standings position (tied for third) and first CHA playoff series win (against Lindenwood) before falling to Syracuse in the CHA semifinals,[23] thanks largely to the Minnetonka, Minnesota-native duo of Laura Bowman and Amy Petersen, who combined for 27 goals. One obvious season highlight was a December 2014 sweep of then-No. 6 Mercyhurst, the Nittany Lions' first and second wins against a ranked team and against the perennially-powerful Lakers.[24][25] However, the team slid slightly backwards in 2015-16, matching the previous season's CHA standings placement and playoff results (a first-round sweep of RIT followed by a triple-overtime loss to Syracuse in the semifinals) but finishing only 12-19-6 overall.[26]

2014 offseason controversy[edit | edit source]

A few weeks after the conclusion of the 2013–14 season, a group of thirteen players spoke with Penn State Associate Athletic Director Charmelle Green to "express their frustration with Brandwene and concerns about the future of the program."[27] Seven of this group were subsequently cut from the team, including Jessica Desorcie, Darby Kern, Cara Mendelson, Brooke Meyer, Katie Murphy, Birdie Shaw and Madison Smiddy.[27] Murphy was the most outspoken of the cuts, telling Penn State student newspaper The Daily Collegian that "[Brandwene] talked to us like we were children. Three or four weeks he would go without even looking at me or without even talking to me. He’s a bully. That’s the best word I can think of for him," and that "The girls don’t respect the coach because he hasn’t earned our respect at all. He’s been my coach for three years and I tried my hardest to respect him and I still don’t have the respect for him that I should have for a head coach because he’s not a good coach."[27]

Over the days following Murphy's comments, others formerly involved with the program, including strength and conditioning coach Rob McLean[28] as well as outgoing transfer players Katie Zinn and Taylor McGee[29] also spoke critically of Brandwene.

2016 offseason controversy[edit | edit source]

The program again found itself the subject of negative headlines in March 2016, as Murphy, Mendelson, Shaw and others told or retold their stories to The Daily Collegian.[30] One of the chief allegations made concerned the handling of the 2014 complaint, with Murphy and Shaw claiming that Green promised the group filing the complaint confidentiality before subsequently burying the issue and turning their names over to Brandwene, who cut them - actions that would appear to be in violation of Penn State athletics guidelines. Several stories of emotional abuse were included as well. One anonymous former player said that Brandwene told her to lose weight in order to play more, while Shaw recounted an incident in which Brandwene physically knocked her stick from her hands while saying "don't worry, you won't be needing that today."[30] Shaw also said that Brandwene ruined the sport for her, to the point where she wouldn't allow her kids to play.

As with the 2014 situation, others came forward in the following days, including 2011-12 ACHA team players Katie Vaughan, Ashton Schaffer and Abbey Dufoe.[31] Vaughan said that "it became clear to me that this man has a destructive personality and he meant the team no well-being"[31] while recalling a conversation involving Brandwene pressing her about personal issues. Both she and Schaffer detailed other instances of emotional manipulation that almost caused them to end decade-plus playing careers, while Dufoe flatly said that "no one should be treated like that."[31] One father of an anonymous current player said that his daughter would transfer if Brandwene is retained as coach, and that "he has heard other parents say the same thing."[31]

After the 2016-17 season Brandwene announced his retirement.  On June 1, 2017 longtime Princeton Tigers women's ice hockey coach Jeff Kampersal was named as the new head coach of the team.  He had compiled 327 wins in 21 seasons at Princeton.

Arenas[edit | edit source]

Head Coaches[edit | edit source]

Season by season results[edit | edit source]

Season GP W L T GF GA Pts Finish Conference Tournament GP W L T GF GA
College Hockey America Overall Record
2012-13 20 1 17 2 22 81 4 6th L, QF 3-2 (ot) (RIT) 35 7 26 2 69 109
2013-14 20 1 18 1 24 73 3 6th L, QF 2 games to none (RIT) 36 4 29 3 49 130
2014-15 20 9 9 2 42 46 20 3rd W, QF 2 games to none (Lindenwood) L, SF 2-0 (Syracuse) 37 17 16 4 72 88
2015-16 20 6 8 6 33 35 18 3rd L, SF 3-2 (3ot) (Syracuse) 37 12 19 6 65 76
2016-17 20 8 10 2 47 54 18 4th L, QF 2-1 (RIT) 35 9 21 5 74 104
2017-18 20 6 7 7 43 36 19 4th W, QF 2-1 (Lindenhurst) L, SF 7-2 (Robert Morris) 36 10 15 11 65 69
2018-19 20 6 9 5 40 46 17 4th W, QF 4-1 (RIT) L, SF 2-1 (Robert Morris) 36 13 14 9 73 72
2019-20 20 7 8 5 38 42 19 4th W, QF 4-1 (RIT) L,SF 4-1 (Mercyhurst) 36 13 15 8 42 121


Players[edit | edit source]

Notable alumni[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Gentile, Eddie (November 20, 2008). Lady Icers bond through adversity. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on September 13, 2010.
  2. Staff (September 17, 2010). Penn State to Add Men's and Women's Varsity Ice Hockey. Penn State University. Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  3. Riley, Duncan (January 24, 2009). Miss America Finalist Tara Wheeler also an Ice Hockey Goalie. The Inquisitr. Retrieved on September 13, 2010.
  4. Penn State University Records. ACHA (2010). Retrieved on September 13, 2010.
  5. ECWHL Teams. ECWHL (2006–2007). Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  6. Lello, Michael. "Women's hockey team takes the ice", The Daily Collegian, November 12, 1996. Retrieved on August 9, 2014. 
  7. Lello, Michael. "Lady Icers pick up win in inaugural game", The Daily Collegian, February 3, 1997. Retrieved on August 9, 2014. 
  8. Fact Sheet. Penn State University (September 17, 2010). Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  9. Rodas, Mark. "Lady Icers staying motivated", The Daily Collegian, February 22, 2012. Retrieved on March 23, 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Giger, Cory (August 6, 2010). Penn State 'close' to adding arena, Division I hockey. Altoona Mirror. Retrieved on September 13, 2010.
  11. Starman, Dave (September 13, 2010). Which Way Will Dominos Fall After Penn State’s Introduction?. U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved on September 13, 2010.
  12. Staff (September 17, 2010). Pegulas Commit Historic Gift To Penn State For New Arena And Hockey Program. Penn State University. Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  13. Ciskie, Bruce (September 13, 2010). Penn State Reportedly Set to Add Hockey. FanHouse. Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  14. Wodon, Adam (September 16, 2010). Penn State Announcement Expected Friday. College Hockey News. Retrieved on September 17, 2010.
  15. AP Staff. "Penn St turns to veteran coach, administrator, alum Josh Brandwene to lead D-I women's hockey", Daily Journal, May 31, 2011. Retrieved on June 23, 2011. 
  16. Penn State Women's Hockey Adds Stroemel and Kearns to Coaching Staff. Penn State University (June 21, 2011). Retrieved on June 26, 2011.
  17. Staff (May 27, 2011). Wayne State drops women’s program; CHA left with four teams. U.S. College Hockey Online. Retrieved on May 27, 2011.
  18. Nittany Lions Take Inaugural Opener at Vermont, 5–3. Penn State University (October 6, 2012). Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  19. Women's Hockey Earns First CHA Win, 3–2, over Lindenwood. Penn State University (November 17, 2012). Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  20. Penn State Nittany Lions (Women) 2012–2013 Schedule and Results. College Hockey Stats. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Penn State Nittany Lions (Women) 2013–2014 Schedule and Results. College Hockey Stats. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  22. Penn State Nittany Lions (Women) 2013–2014 Team Statistics. College Hockey Stats. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  23. Penn State Nittany Lions (Women) 2014–2015 Schedule and Results. College Hockey Stats. Retrieved on March 25, 2016.
  24. Penn State Upsets No. 6 Mercyhurst, 2-1. Penn State Athletics (December 12, 2014). Retrieved on March 25, 2016.
  25. Nittany Lions Sweep No. 6 Mercyhurst. Penn State Athletics (December 13, 2014). Retrieved on March 25, 2016.
  26. Penn State Nittany Lions (Women) 2015–2016 Schedule and Results. College Hockey Stats. Retrieved on March 25, 2016.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Nelson, Kristen (April 21, 2014). Seven women's hockey players cut from team. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  28. Nelson, Kristen (April 24, 2014). Former women’s hockey strength and conditioning coach voices opinion on Brandwene, player cuts. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  29. Nelson, Kristen (April 23, 2014). Transfers react to recent women’s hockey cuts. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on August 9, 2014.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Mallon, Morganne (March 21, 2016). Former Penn State women's hockey players allege emotional abuse by current head coach Josh Brandwene. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on March 21, 2016.
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 31.3 Mallon, Morganne (March 25, 2016). More former Penn State women's hockey players voice allegations. The Daily Collegian. Retrieved on March 25, 2016.
  32. Nittany Lion Alum Welch Signs Pro Contract. Penn State University. Retrieved on August 26, 2014.

External links[edit | edit source]




College Hockey America

Lindenwood | Mercyhurst | Penn State | RIT | Robert Morris | Syracuse

Former Teams

Findlay | Niagara | Quinnipiac | Wayne

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