Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Have Work Left To Do With NCAA Tournament In Sight
Penn State hockey can find peace in knowing that it controls its own destiny over the next several weeks, but there's no avoiding the obvious, the Nittany Lions are sitting on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble. At No. 16 in the PairWise rankings Penn State would be the last team into the NCAA field, and maybe the first out if a conference tournament is forced to award an automatic-bid to a Cinderella story.
The good news, according to CollegeHockeyRanked.com four or five more wins to close out the year would be more than enough to make for a comfortable selection Sunday, and that doesn't even include a run in the Big Ten Tournament. The road to a second consecutive postseason appearance is there, and it's far from an impossible journey.
The bad news, Penn State still finds itself in the midst of a scoring slump. Just two goals in the past eight periods and little in terms of easy competition to close out the season.
If there is a silver lining to it all though, Penn State has done it before. The Nittany Lions did not waltz into the postseason last year either, it took a handful of must-wins to finish off a historic season. And with so many returning players from that piece of history, they just have to do what they've already done before.
“That starts with our attitude in practice,” junior forward Chase Berger said on Monday. “If you start thinking about the negatives and the outside stuff, we’re slipping and things like that, that’s just bad energy and I don’t think that helps anybody.”
Penn State can take a bit step in the right direction this weekend as the Nittany Lions travel to face No. 18 Wisconsin, the Badgers coming off a series split against No.1 Notre Dame, now the only team in Big Ten play to upend to Fighting Irish. With Penn State taking five out of six points from the Badgers already this year, neither team looks to be short on confidence heading into the weekend.
From there the Nittany Lions will return home to host No.1 Notre Dame. A win either night would do wonders for Penn State's resume and a sweep would almost certainly finish the job. A road series at Michigan State will have to winnable games and a season finale at home against Minnesota will be one final chance to boost the portfolio before the Big Ten Tournament begins.
Back-to-back postseason appearances? It's not out of the question, there's just work left to be done.
“We believe in them and we believe they’re going to do it again,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I guess we can be thankful that we’re in the position, we’re in the conversation.”