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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Face Tall Order In Michigan With NCAA Hopes In The Balance

by on March 11, 2016 2:00 PM

There aren't many different ways to frame this weekend's series for the Nittany Lions.

Two games left in the regular season, at least one game in the Big Ten tournament. If Penn State wants to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history it will probably take two wins, or a win and a tie in the final nine periods of hockey to get the job done.

As on the bubble as you can get, wins help the cause, losses don't. There's no middle ground here. Especially after Penn State's late comeback against Wisconsin came up a goal short last Saturday night.

In truth it's a tall order the Nittany Lions face, heading into Ann Arbor to face one of the best top lines in all of college hockey at a place where teams simply never win. The Wolverines have national title hopes in their sights while Penn State is simply trying to get into the dance. So it's safe to say motivations will be plenty present for both teams when they take the ice on Friday and Saturday night.

“When I’m thinking forward to Friday night, and I’m visualizing my past experiences, obviously I’m able to think about good times I’ve had individually,” Penn State forward David Goodwin said earlier this week. “I go in there with a lot of confidence, but definitely a lot of excitement. I want to recreate some of those memories I’ve had in the past.”

And there are plenty of memories to be had. Penn State and Michigan have both had their fair share of memorable moments in their brief but entertaining series at the Division I level. Penn State has yet to beat the Wolverines this year in their previous two meetings, but took a one-goal lead into the third period before finally falling 6-3 after an avalanche of goals in the final 20 minutes of play.

What happens this weekend is anyone's guess, but once again these two teams meet with a lot on the line and a lot to gain and perhaps even more to lose. 

While missing out on the NCAA tournament would be a difficult pill for the program to swallow, it's hard to imagine Penn State's third season at Pegula Ice Arena being anything other than a success. At 20-10-4 the Nittany Lions have already set a new single-season wins record and have sat ranked on the poll for nearly the entire season. A nationally recognized goaltender in Eamon McAdam has helped pave the way for several wins while younger goal scoring talent has laid the foundation for an even brighter future.

So yes, missing the NCAA tournament would be a disappointment for many, but it's hard to say that conclusion to the season would mark the entire campaign as a failure.

But yet again, there are three games to go, and if Penn State hockey is good for anything, it's keeping things interesting until the very last shot.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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