Analysis | 4 Penn State women’s hockey players with elevated expectations entering the 2022-23 season | Penn State Sports News

After capturing its first CHA regular-season title in 2020-21, Penn State entered the 2021-22 campaign with heightened expectations.

The Nittany Lions started on the wrong foot as they went 0-3-1 in their first four contests, but they quickly bounced back.

The blue and white finished with an 18-10-5 record, but its season came to a close with a loss against Mercyhurst in the CHA semifinals.

The playoff loss marked the fifth straight season under coach Jeff Kampersal that his team lost in the semifinals.

Here are four players who will need to step up next year if Penn State wants to surpass that mark.

Kiara Zanon

Kiara Zanon has recorded eye-popping numbers through her two-year career in Happy Valley and has been a driving force of the team’s offensive attack.

Zanon became the program’s first-ever national award honoree after she won AHCA National Rookie of the Year in 2020-21. She was also the fastest player in team history to reach 50 points β€” taking just 39 games to do so.

The Fairport, New York, native formed a dynamic duo with the program’s all-time point getter Natalie Heising.

Forward Kiara Zanon (11) is contested by her opponent for control of the puck during the Penn State Women’s ice hockey vs. Mercyhurst Skate for a Cure game on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2022 at the Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pa. Penn State defeated Mercyhurst 3-1.

However, the loss against Mercyhurst marked the end of Heising’s illustrious career, leaving Zanon to carry the offense.

Zanon is known for her elite playmaking skills, dishing out 46 assists over two years, but if the blue and white’s offense wants to score at the pace it did last season, she will have to find the back of the net more consistently.

Olivia Wallin

Playing alongside Zanon and Heising in 2020-21 was freshman Olivia Wallin, who excelled in her rookie campaign.

Despite playing in a shortened season, Wallin led the nation’s freshmen in goals with 13, and many thought she was poised to improve on that total by playing in a full season.

However, the Oakville, Ontario, native battled an injury during the early portion of the 2021-22 season, and when she was on the ice, she struggled mightily.

The rising third-year forward suited up in 25 games, tallying an even seven goals and seven assists with three of her scores coming in a 10-0 victory over LIU.

The Nittany Lions desperately needed someone to step up alongside Heising and Zanon, and now that Heising is gone, that need becomes more drastic.

Look for Wallin and Zanon to regain the spark they had during their first-year campaigns.

Julie Gough

After having a breakout sophomore season, scoring 11 goals and 19 points, forward Julie Gough had similar success a year later.

Gough found the back of the net 10 times while tacking on six assists, finishing fourth on the team in points.

The Newcastle, Ontario, native went on a tear early in the campaign, scoring goals in seven straight games, which tied a program record.

PSU Women's Hockey vs.  Lindenwood, Gough

Penn State forward Julie Gough (14) is chased by Lindenwood forward Megan Wagner (13) and defenseman Teagan Heaslip (18) during the Penn State women’s hockey game on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 in University Park, Pa. Penn State defeated Lindenwood 4-1.

Alongside Heising, Gough scored half of her goals on the power play, an area in which the blue and white struggled all year β€” converting just 17.6% of power plays.

Gough struggled mightily down the stretch, tallying just three total points in her last 13 contests.

The Nittany Lions are going to need more consistency from Gough to continue their success.

Lyndie Lobdell

Penn State has one of the deepest defensive cores in the CHA, with Rene Gangarosa and Izzy Heminger using their extra year of eligibility to return to the program.

A third returning defender is Lyndie Lobdell, who, in her first two seasons with the program, has provided stability on the blue line and shown great passing ability.

Lobdell has recorded 22 assists and 27 points in her collegiate career while blocking 58 shots.

This past season saw Mallory Uihlein break out and set the program record for points in a season as a defender with 19, and Lobdell has the same potential.

The next step for the Aurora, Illinois, native is to continue her playmaking skills while putting more shots on goal. She scored just one goal as a freshman and four this past season, but she tallied a couple of clutch goals for her team in the process.

With her team lacking in forward scoring, Lobdell can help the scoring attack by playing a strong two-way game.


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