The hockey team released its full schedule for the upcoming season, here’s what is in store.
Fall Semester Schedule
|Sun., Oct. 1||vs. Ottawa (exhibition)|
|Fri., Oct. 6||at Clarkson|
|Sat., Oct. 7||at St. Lawrence|
|Thu., Oct. 12||at Minnesota|
|Fri., Oct. 13||at Minnesota|
|Thu., Oct. 19||vs AIC|
|Fri., Oct. 20||vs AIC|
|Fri., Oct. 27||vs. Michigan|
|Sat., Oct. 28||vs. Michigan|
|Fri., Nov. 3||vs. Mercyhurst|
|Sat., Nov. 4||vs Mercyhurst|
|Fri., Nov. 10||at Notre Dame|
|Sat., Nov. 11||at Notre Dame|
|Fri., Nov. 17||at Arizona State|
|Sat. Nov. 18||at Arizona State|
|Fri., Nov. 24||vs. Michigan State|
|Sat., Nov. 25||vs. Michigan State|
|Fri., Dec. 1||at Ohio State|
|Sat., Dec. 2||at Ohio State|
|Fri., Dec. 8||at Robert Morris|
|Sat., Dec. 9||vs. Robert Morris|
Penn State will play a couple of split series in 2017-18. After starting with an exhibition game versus Ottawa on Sunday October 1, the team will go on the road in New York. In Pottsdam, the team will kick off the season with a single game versus Clarkson on October 6. The next day the team will make its way to Canton for a game with St. Lawrence. In December the team will play a split series with Robert Morris. On Friday December 8 the teams will square off in Pittsburgh and the next day they will move the series to University Park. College hockey teams that are close in proximity regularly play a home-and-away series but for PSU this is the first in program history.
The Lions will kick off the conference schedule on the road with Minnesota on October 12 and 13. The opening series at Pegula Ice Arena will be played the same weekend as the Michigan football game. On October 19 and 20 the hockey team will host American International University; the football team will host the Wolverines on Saturday October 21.
The series with AIC will kick off a six-game home series. Michigan and Mercyhurst will come to Hockey Valley as part of the home stand.
November 10 and 11 will be the first time Penn State will square off with Notre Dame while the Golden Domers are members of the Big Ten hockey conference. Penn State has played a two-game series with the Fighting Irish in each of the past two seasons, so the teams are very familiar.
The following week the team will travel to sunny Arizona to take on the Sun Devils in Tempe. The escape to warmer weather as fall is becoming winter in Pennsylvania will be a nice addition to the travel schedule.
Guy Gadowsky’s squad will be home for the holidays, as it will return for some home cooking at the Peg for the week of Thanksgiving, hosting Michigan State on Friday and Saturday.
The first week in December the Lions will have Buckeyes on the menu, as the team will travel to Columbus on the first and second day of the month. The home-and-away series with RMU will come next following a 26-day break for finals and winter break.
|Fri., Jan. 5||vs. Wisconsin|
|Sat., Jan. 6||vs. Wisconsin|
|Fri., Jan. 12||vs. Ohio State|
|Sat., Jan. 13||vs. Ohio State|
|Fri., Jan. 19||at Michigan|
|Sat., Jan. 20||at Michigan|
|Fri., Jan. 26||at Wisconsin|
|Sat., Jan. 27||at Wisconsin|
|Fri., Feb. 2||vs. Notre Dame|
|Sat., Feb. 3||vs. Notre Dame|
|Fri., Feb. 16||at Michigan State|
|Sat., Feb. 17||at Michigan State|
|Fri., Feb. 23||vs. Minnesota|
|Sat., Feb. 24||vs. Minnesota|
The team will not play in a holiday tournament for the second consecutive season and will open the second semester with a home series on January 5 and 6 with Wisconsin. The following week the team will stay at home, hosting Ohio State.
The next four games will be played on the road, first in Ann Arbor with Michigan and then in Madison with the Badgers. On February 2 and 3 the Fighting Irish will come to Hockey Valley.
For the first time in two seasons, the team will be away from home during THON weekend. The team will spend February 16 and 17 matched up with the Spartans in East Lansing. The following weekend the team will play the final series of the season, hosting the Gophers.
Breaking Down The Schedule
As previously mentioned, the team is playing a home-and-away series with Robert Morris. This is notable not only due to the format but also the match-up. RMU extended what was at the time a generous offer to play in its annual holiday tournament in 2012. At the time the Lions were new to D1 hockey and were fortunate to have the chance to compete in-state versus established programs. That season PSU played a mixed schedule as it was unable to find a full season of D1 opponents. A few seasons later it became a point of contention between the programs, as PSU played in Pittsburgh four times with no games played at Pegula Ice Arena. It was an unfair arrangement once the team had equal status with Robert Morris. The Lions no longer needed the chance to play on the road versus its in-state rival, and wanted RMU to visit Hockey Valley. It did not pan out, and the teams did not play in 2016-17. This is not only a logistical compromise, but it gives the best two programs in Pennsylvania a chance to compete.
Playing on the road at two separate locations on consecutive days to begin the season is a bit of a risk. Clarkson has a solid program and St. Lawrence handed Penn State its only loss last season in its first 15 games. The upside is that it will be able to play throughout the fertile hockey recruiting grounds of New York early in the season, while likely being ranked in the top 5.
Home stands of six and five games mark the schedule and the team will be away from Hockey Valley for no longer than two consecutive weeks. It is hard to tell, within the conference, which teams will be the toughest to defeat. The balance of the travel, and playing Minnesota first and last, is a helpful break from recent seasons. Last season the team played four consecutive series with ranked conference opponents in the second half of the year. Next season the team will play seven conference series following the winter break. They will play Wisconsin twice and then each of the other Big Ten teams once. That is as balanced as it can get.
The conference schedule is balanced throughout the season for the first time as well. In 2014 Penn State played 4 conference games prior to the winter break, each other season it has played just 2. This year the Lions will play ten conference games in the first half of the season.
Notre Dame, new to B1G hockey next season, will add a quality foe to the entire conference’s schedule. The Fighting Irish made it to the Frozen Four last season and are expected to have a quality team for the near future.
Another feature of the now 7-team league will be the playoff format. The regular-season champion will have a bye in the first week of the tournament while the remaining six teams play a three-game series at the higher-ranked team’s campus. This change was badly needed, as the Big Ten tournament in Detroit struggled to get 1000 fans per game in the seats.
After the first week, the four remaining teams will play the semifinals on the campus of the higher-ranked team, a single game on March 10. The championship game will be played a week later. Not only does this format allow for a better fan experience, but it also spreads the action out over three weeks. That will be similar to the other conference tournaments and will allow the teams not competing in the championship to take a week to prepare for the NCAA tournament. In past years regular-season play ended in the second week of March, this season February 24 is the final game prior to the Big Ten tournament.
Last season four of the seven B1G teams made the 16-team field of the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin barely missed making it five teams. It is likely moving forward that at least a couple of teams will benefit from the rest provided by not making it to the conference championship. Last season the Lions played three consecutive games, including two double-overtime contests, a week before making its debut in the national tournament. If it makes it to the championship game next season, it will have a week off prior to playing a single game.
This is clearly the strongest non-conference schedule that the team has had since joining D1 hockey. It only contains four games, two each with Arizona State and AIC, which the team will face off with an opponent that is projected to finish in the bottom quarter of the college hockey standings. And that is possibly not being fair to ASU, who finished higher than a dozen teams in the PairWise standings last season, and could make a noticeable improvement this year.
In previous seasons the Lions had anywhere from 8-10 games with the lower-ranked teams in the sport. This was due to many factors that were not in the control of Guy Gadowsky, and was a point of criticism for the team while it made its historic run last season. The team proved on the ice that it was not the benefit of the weakish non-conference schedule that propelled the team, as it took home the Big Ten Championship and won its first-ever NCAA tournament game.
This year there will be no negativity dogging the team about its schedule, but expectations will be enormous. It will be interesting to see if Guy Gadowsky’s squad learned from its experience in January of last season. It reached the top of the PairWise rankings and voter polls and then had a losing streak that knocked it nearly out of an at-large spot for the NCAA tournament. Sometimes it is harder to play the front-runner than it is to be the underdog.