Penn State Hockey: Plenty On The Line In Weekend Series Against No. 6 Ohio State
A year ago Penn State hockey found itself atop the rankings, No. 1 in the nation by virtue of a small amount of luck and a lot of good hockey.
And then Ohio State came to town.
The first night the Buckeyes would win a shootout in a game that would go on the record as a 3-3 tie.
The next night Ohio State left little doubt, a 6-3 victory sending the Nittany Lions crashing down back to Earth. For the young program it was a learning point that would teach Penn State a valuable lesson. That turning into a good team was hard work, that staying that way would be even harder.
In the end the joke would be on Ohio State as Penn State worked its way to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a Big Ten Tournament title under its belt. But the lesson remained, the work never stops.
This weekend both teams meet again in similar circumstances, although this time neither team will be caught by surprise. For Penn State it's a chance to extend a 10-game unbeaten streak, more importantly an opportunity to pick up results against the No. 6 Buckeyes, something that would go a long way in the final stretch of cementing its postseason resume.
For Ohio State it's a chance to continue some of its own white-hot play, the Buckeye unbeaten since facing Penn State in Columbus earlier in the season, posting a 14-4-4 mark on the year and six straight wins.
"These are the kinds of games that you come to Penn State for," Coach Guy Gadowsky said earlier in the week.
In the bigger picture Penn State sits at No. 12 in the PairWise rankings. The PairWise is college hockey's unofficial BCS of sorts, mimicking the selection committee's own math and criteria. Generally speaking short of unexpected automatic bids awarded through conference tournaments, the Top 16 teams make the postseason.
For Penn State there is an added bonus for making the tournament the next two seasons as the Nittany Lions are slated to host regional play in Allentown at the PPL Center for the 2018 and 2019 tournaments. A bid Penn State presented to the NCAA not long ago.
"We want fans across the state to have the opportunity to support Penn State hockey," Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour told StateCollege.com "We've got a great hockey program."
Current NCAA Bracketology has Penn State facing Denver in a rematch of their 2017 showdown in the second round. The allure of playing that game in front of an almost guaranteed sellout, pro-Penn State crowd outside of Philadelphia would be too great an opportunity to let go to waste.
And that journey truly begins this weekend. Friday night's game is set for a 7:30 puck drop on BTN.