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No.11 Penn State Set To Play Denver In Allentown In The NCAA Tournament On Saturday

The Lions got their ticket on Friday night and now it has a dance partner.

Photo By Heather Weikel

Guy Gadowsky has his team playing its best hockey of the season when it matters most. For the second time in program history, and the second-consecutive season, the Nittany Lions will play in the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State will face returning National Champion Denver in the first round. The game will be played on Saturday at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN3.

The Lions lost to Denver in the second round of the Midwest Regional in Cincinnati last year.

This invitation to the tournament is special, as Penn State is the host institution at the Midwest Regional in Allentown and therefore has known for nearly a year that if it qualified for the field, it would play in its home state, just hours from campus.

Ohio State and Princeton will square off on the other side of the bracket, which could set up an all-Big Ten match-up in the second round.

Breaking Down The Field

Four Big Ten teams qualified for the sixteen-team field, the most for any conference, while Minnesota was the final team bumped from the brackets. The Gophers lost their last four games to the Lions and were teetering on the edge of the bubble late last night. The final goal of the season in all of the college hockey would determine its fate. Ohio State and Notre Dame went to overtime in the Big Ten Championship. Had the Buckeyes scored for the win, Minnesota would have gained an at-large bid. Instead, the Irish netted the goal for the conference title, and the Gophers were sent home for the season.

It has to be a bitter pill to swallow for many Gopher hockey fans, some which are still not completely happy with the formation of the Big Ten hockey conference. To make matters worse, the team was knocked from No.8 to No.13 at the hands of a team that did not have a Division One hockey team just a half-dozen years ago; had the Gophers won or tied just one game in its final four at the Pegula Ice Arena, its season would not be over. Toss on top of that the newest member of the Big Ten, the Fighting Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day, put the final nail in the coffin.

Air Force won the Atlantic Hockey conference and will be the only team in the field from that league, taking the 16 seed. The Hockey East will have three teams in the field; Providence, Northeastern, and Boston University. The ECAC, led by its surprising conference champion Princeton, will have three teams as well. Cornell and Clarkson join the Tigers as at-large invitees. Michigan Tech and Minnesota State will represent the WCHA. The NCHC will have three teams in the tournament; Denver, St. Cloud State, and Minnesota-Duluth.

Here is the complete bracket.