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Penn State Hockey: Two Years Later, Nittany Lions Look To Pull Off Another Key Weekend Against Minnesota

by on February 21, 2020 1:40 PM

Guy Gadowsky never said it at the time, but even he was skeptical that Penn State was going to pull it off.

Nearly two years ago to the day it was Penn State sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble getting ready for a key series against Minnesota. Much like 2020, the second half of the 2017-18 season had not been kind to the Nittany Lions. They had lost, tied, lost, won and nearly won. If there was a way to win or lose, they had done it. In turn a promising year had become a mad dash to pump up PairWise numbers to keep those postseason hopes alive.

The test this time, beat Minnesota. Twice if you could, to close out the regular season, and then again in the first round, best-of-three Big Ten Tournament. No worries, just four-straight wins, that ought to do the trick.

Of course the trap here was history. Penn State had beaten everyone in the Big Ten by this point, there wasn't a team until Notre Dame joined the conference that gave Penn State problems quite like the Gophers did. So winning four times, how about just winning one of those games?

And then they did, kind of inexplicably as well, scoring at least five goals in each games to win four-straight and effectively punch a postseason ticket.

Then the 2018-19 season, two more wins at Pegula, two more games of at least five goals on the Nittany Lions' side. Forget old history and expectations, suddenly Minnesota had gone from the team Penn State couldn't beat to the team it was beating on.

But a lot changes over the years, and then again so much stays the same. 

Enter this weekend, Penn State not so much on the NCAA Tournament bubble at No. 9 in the PairWise as the Big Ten regular season title bubble. A sweep and the Nittany Lions could very well clinch the trophy this weekend despite being idle for the final week of the regular season.

All they have to do is sweep Minnesota, or get at least five points. No big deal, right? Beyond that Penn State needs: Michigan gets no more than 3 points in its series with Notre Dame while Michigan State and Ohio State split their series or there’s a tie

And in reality that's not an outrageous line of results, Penn State's own up and down play perhaps the largest obstacle to overcome.

Then again, winning four-straight seemed impossible two years ago and the Nittany Lions made that look easy.

Puck drop is set for 8:30 tonight with the game on the Big Ten Network.

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