|Wisconsin||Pegula Ice Arena||Friday 7 p.m/ Saturday 8 p.m.||Sat- ASN||Fri- BTN Plus/ Sat- BTN2GO|
Penn State (20-8-2) is currently ranked No. 9 in the all-important PairWise rankings and is in position to garner an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Coming off a solid sweep on the road versus Michigan State, Guy Gadowsky’s team hopes to continue its winning ways while it plays at home for the final time this season. Wisconsin (18-11-1) is currently ranked No. 13 and has played its way into the post-season conversation with a great second-half of the season.
A bye position in the Big Ten tournament is on the line, as well as a spot in the NCAA tournament as an at-large team. While it is unlikely that either team will be able to secure the goals that dangle just in front of them over the weekend, the outcome of the series will define the stakes for the final week of the regular-season.
Wisconsin could clinch second-place in the Big Ten regular-season with a sweep of Penn State. That outcome would likely place the Badgers safely inside the NCAA tournament field as well. The Lions need a sweep to pull one point ahead of Wisconsin heading into the final weekend of Big Ten competition. That would put the Lions in a favorable position when the team faces Michigan to close out the schedule. Wisconsin will finish with a series versus Ohio State, a much more talented team than the Wolverines. Two wins over the Badgers may be enough for the Lions to secure the first NCAA tournament invitation in program history.
The series will impact several teams around the country that are hoping to improve their PairWise position. Whether the college hockey world wants to admit it or not, their eyes will be cast on the Big Ten and Penn State this weekend. It is still possible for three Big Ten teams to gain at-large spots to the NCAA tournament and a fourth team to gain the automatic bid by winning the Big Ten tournament. OSU, PSU, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could all win their way to at-large bids, and each team is capable of winning the automatic bid in Detroit later this month should they find themselves left with only that option as a path to the NCAA tournament.
There has never been such an important series, in terms of its effect on the landscape of college hockey, than the one this weekend at the Pegula Ice Arena. It is also the final series in Hockey Valley for this historic team and special group of seniors. The stakes could not be higher, the anticipation greater, or the tension thicker than it is leading into this weekend.
The teams squared off three weeks ago in Madison. The Badgers entered the series as one of the hottest teams in the country, on an 8-2 tear to pull into contention for an NCAA tournament invitation. The Lions swept the two-game series, ending a horrible 0-4-1 losing streak that came after reaching No. 1 in the PairWise rankings and national voter polls for the first time in program history. Since then each team has stabilized into positions that are likely to be sufficient to gain an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. A weak finish in the final four games could scuttle each team’s season-long efforts.
Addressing the Seniors
Four years and several scores ago, those who will become known as the forefathers of the Penn State hockey program brought forth on this continent, a new hockey team, conceived in generosity, and dedicated to the proposition that all hockey programs are created equal. It was a monumental task, one that may have seemed greater than a four-year undertaking at the time. As the group laces on their skates for the final time on their cherished home ice, the team is in fact on a level playing field with every school in the nation.
The senior class first skated onto the ice as Penn State hockey players on the day that the Pegula Ice Arena opened in 2013. There were very little expectations for the team in terms of winning and losing. Everything was new; each day it seemed that the team experienced something for the first time. The idea surrounding the team was that it would be one of the first building blocks in the foundation of what would become a national-contending hockey program. It was a selfless objective, as the current group of seniors were not expected to be around to taste the success of the culmination of the years of effort. With a few more games remaining, the five senior players may be a part of the first group of Penn Staters to skate in the NCAA tournament.
Seniors David Goodwin, Zach Saar, Dylan Richard, Ricky DeRosa and David Thompson will play for the final time inside of The Pegula Ice Arena this weekend. They are the first graduating class that played all four years with the Lions while competing in the Big Ten and with one of the greatest facilities in all of college hockey.
Saar and Thompson have provided much entertainment for PSU hockey fans and have produced along the way on the ice for the program. This season, as the younger players that join the team continuously become more and more talented, the two players have been bumped into positions as mentors. Thompson has added two goals and two assists in nine games of play. Saar has chipped in 3 goals and four assists in 15 games.
Dylan Richard has been productive for his entire career. This season he added 7 goals and 12 assists through 26 games. Ricky DeRosa plays an all-around game on the ice but his efforts have paid off to the tune of 4 goals and 5 assists, to go with countless penalties that he has drawn with his notable trash-talking skills.
David Goodwin, the captain of the team, is the all-time scoring leader at Penn State and has 8 timely goals and 23 assists this season. Goodwin is the front-runner for the Hockey Humanitarian Award and also the Senior CLASS Award, two great acknowledgements of a players’ effort off the ice as being a great representative for the school and sport.
These five players have contributed greatly to the Penn State program, and have made the venue of the Pegula Ice Arena one of the most notable in college hockey. But, in a larger sense, they cannot dedicate, or hallow, this ice. The hard-working men, some on the team and some having moved on, have consecrated it, far above our power to add or detract. The group of leaders will always remain a part of the history of this new, great program. Even if the area is not renamed ‘Goody’s-burg’ over Hockey Valley, Goodwin and company will not be forgotten.