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Penn State Hockey: Reported Conference Tournament Changes Could Help Nittany Lions

by on May 23, 2016 2:00 PM

As Penn State hockey looks for its first ever postseason berth, a small but important change to the Big Ten conference tournament might just help the Nittany Lions' cause.

According to the StarTribune, the Big Ten is slated to shift the conference tournament away from neutral sites starting in 2017-18. The tournament would be played over the span of three weekends and feature a best-of-three quarterfinal round, two single-game semifinals and a championship game. All of the games would be hosted on the campus of the higher seed.

In addition the regular-season champion would receive a first-round bye starting in 2017 when Notre Dame joins the conference as an affiliate hockey member.

The change comes about for a handful of reasons largely the dwindling attendance at neutral site conference tournament games across all of college hockey. The WCHA announced similar changes last week after years of having its conference tournament at a neutral site for years.

For Penn State hockey the change is a clear positive. While the Nittany Lions have yet to win the regular season crown (albeit not without coming close) a Top 3 finish in the Big Ten would afford Penn State home ice advantage potentially for the first two rounds of what effectively amounts to playoff hockey. While the Nittany Lions have fallen to lesser teams on multiple occasions on neutral ice, Penn State's home ice advantage at Pegula Ice Arena has made the Nittany Lions a threat to beat nearly anyone.

Undoubtedly it's a small change when it comes to improving Penn State's overall shot at an NCAA tournament berth, but if the Nittany Lions aren't going to get in as an at-large bid an automatic qualifier from a conference tournament title is the only other way. And that might just be getting a bit easier.

If nothing else, playoff hockey at Pegula Ice Arena? That's going to be hard to top. 

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