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Penn State Hockey: Path To Postseason Clear As Big Ten Tournament Sets To Begin

by on March 16, 2016 2:00 PM

A week or two ago Penn State's path to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history was still well within reach for the Nittany Lions.

But a loss to Wisconsin and a series sweep by Michigan has all but ended that dream of an at-large bid. Sitting at No. 22 in the PariWise rankings (in which the Top 16 teams generally make the postseason) the Nittany Lions are effectively out of the picture for postseason play.

There is one route remaining though.

Win the conference tournament.

In any other conference that would be a tall order given the size of the field and tournament. But in the Big Ten it's just six teams, all but one (Michigan) Penn State has already beaten at least once this year. Finishing third in the conference Penn State will start that last push towards a postseason bid on Thursday at 5PM EST as the Nittany Lions face Wisconsin.

Fortunately for the Nittany Lion faithful, Penn State has a 3-1 mark against the Badgers this season and has managed to pick up scoring from 13 different players during that stretch with seven players scoring at least two goals against Wisconsin this season.

The catch, if Penn State can manage to make it out of the first round, it's Michigan waiting for the Nittany Lions in the second round of the tournament. A team that has throughly man handled the Nittany Lions in all four meetings so far this season, aside from Penn State's one-goal lead early in the third period at Madison Square Garden.

So no it's not ideal. And short forwards and defensemen the Nittany Lions will entered the tournament hobbled already facing a daunting task of having to win three straight to make it to the big dance.

But at 20-12-4, no matter how this season ends, it's hard to say that Penn State's third campaign in the Big Ten has been anything but a success.

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