Penn State hockey sits at 17-8-3 on the year with just eight games left in the regular season before heading to the Big Ten conference tournament.
A lot can happen in those eight games. In theory the Nittany Lions could find themselves hoisting the regular season title, although that would take an extremely strong finish and probably multiple points on the road at Michigan. Penn State sits six points out of first with Michigan and Minnesota both with 27 points each. The Wolverines face Wisconsin this weekend while Minnesota takes on Ohio State. A second place finish would give Penn State a first round bye in the conference tournament.
Nevertheless there is a lot still within reach for a program only years into Division I play. Perhaps most enticing, a shot at the postseason and the NCAA tournament. According to USCHO bracketology Penn State sits just outside the cutline for the 16 team field that includes automatic bids for conference tournament winners and at-large bids.
So this weekend's two game series on the road at Michigan State is nothing short of crucial for both regular and postseason goals. A win on Friday night would tie Penn State's single season win total record, a sweep would keep the Nittany Lions in touch with Michigan atop the Big Ten standings.
While the Spartans have struggled at 7-19-2 on the year, a Michigan State split against Michigan last weekend shows that even in a down year the Spartans are still plenty dangerous when they get momentum heading their way. if nothing else the Nittany Lions will have to crack goalie Jake Hildebrand who continues to be one of the nation's best even with a poor record to his name.
In turn it will take another strong goaltending performance by both Matthew Skoff and Eamon McAdam in their own right this weekend backed by the Nittany Lions' goal-happy offense to take care of business against Michigan State on both Friday and Saturday.
A win, or even a sweep sets Penn State up for a big final home series against Ohio State before traveling to Wisconsin and Michigan to close out the regular season.
What will happen in eight quick games? Only time will tell.
But the clock starts ticking Friday night.