It's not all bad news out of Penn State athletics right now. The PSU women's ice hockey team is looking forward to moving from club sport status to classification as a Division I varsity sport next year, and having a brand new arena to call home in 2013.
Tess Weaver from Windber grew up in ice rinks throughout the region, from Johnstown to Altoona, Monroeville to Pittsburgh.
Along with two Penn State teammates, she currently leads the Nittany Lion women's squad with eight points this season.
At the age of seven, Weaver, wanting to keep up with her hockey-playing big brother, traded in her figure skates for an ice hockey stick and helmet, and became the only girl on an all-boys team at the War Memorial in Johnstown.
Now on the verge of her 19th birthday, Weaver is seeing not only rising respect for her ice hockey expertise, but also a growing movement among young girls to take up the sport.
"It's definitely different," she said. "When I started out, I only knew one other girl who played ice hockey, now girls are more interested than ever. I hope it helps young girls see that they can do anything they want to do."
To reach the level of collegiate ice hockey took the dedication of not only Weaver, but her parents a well; thousands of miles were put on the family vehicles as Weaver traveled to compete with teams in Pittsburgh throughout the northeast, as well as in Colorado, California and Canada.
For one season, Weaver played on a team with the daughter of Mario Lemieux, whose support of women's ice hockey has been another big plus for the sport.
"It definitely got more girls in Pittsburgh involved," said Weaver. "I spend time teaching little girls to play ice hockey, and they're starting at three or four years old, and it's great."
Weaver can't imagine a time when she won't want to be near the ice. Planning to major in marketing, Weaver hopes to one day work in the front office for an NHL team.
"The Penguins would be the ultimate goal," she said, "a dream come true."
As for now, the immediate goal is to help the Nittany Lions win a national title; Penn State is undefeated in ACHA league play and ranked No. 10 in the nation.
Scholarships are not offered for club sports at Penn State, but Weaver could find out as soon as this spring if she might receive a scholarship as a D-I varsity athlete.
"It's great to see ice hockey gaining respect among the other sports; it's just more normal for women to play now," she said.
Of course, ice hockey, and all of the other Penn State sports have suffered from the football scandal, but she is still proud to put on her blue and white uniform and take the ice each week.
"I will be Penn State proud no matter what," said Weaver. "The whole situation has brought our team together, and we just want to show what Penn State is all about."
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.