The first weekend of the NCAA hockey tournament is held at four off-campus locations and a nearby school is selected to be the host of the tournament. Penn State was awarded the honor of hosting next season’s NCAA Midwest hockey regional in Allentown.
The event will be held at the PPL Center, which was opened in 2014. The facility holds 8,420 for hockey and is the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, the NHL’s top minor-league system. Casey Bailey recently had success at the PPL Center when he played in the AHL All-Star Classic, scoring two goals. The video gives a good look at the stadium, as well as Bailey, the first and so far only former Penn State hockey player to reach the NHL.
The location was selected to host both the 2018 and 2019 Midwest regionals, and Penn State will be the host each year. If Penn State were to make the NCAA tournament following either or both of the next two seasons, it would be given geographical preference to play in Allentown. The NCAA hockey selection process for the 16-team field is a cold and lifeless computer model that is well-known and followed completely. The only human element to the tournament field is the location of which team plays where, a detail that the selection committee weighs in their decision-making.
While some may wonder why the Midwest regional is being held in a town that is a couple of hours drive from New York City, it makes sense in the college hockey universe. The locations are listed as the Northeast, the East, the West, and Midwest.* Either way, no one associated with Penn State hockey or the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is questioning the decision; this is a great chance for both entities to showcase their qualities to a national audience.
This is additional incentive for the Penn State hockey team to earn a return trip to the NCAA tournament. The Lions got a taste of the post-season for the first time a month ago, winning the first game versus Union 10-3, before losing to eventual National Champion Denver. Should Guy Gadowsky’s squad play in Allentown, the home-ice advantage would be incredible regardless of the opponent. Billy Joel might even sing the national anthem, but that’s probably getting ahead of ourselves.
Congratulations to Sandy Barbour and the athletic department for gaining the program and university this great opportunity.
"This is a tremendous way for the University to continue to establish the Penn State Hockey brand," - GG on PSU hosting Midwest Regional pic.twitter.com/jyXIB2mZYa— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) April 18, 2017
*It reminds me of the dilemma of naming the Southeast Conference’s football divisions. They settled on East and West since no team in that league would have been down with being a part of the ‘North’ division. Another suggestion was to have one division named ‘South’ and the other one ‘Souther.’ I guess we can’t throw stones, you know, with the whole ‘Legends and Leaders’ deal.