Penn State (16-10-2) will take on Michigan State (10-15-5) for a pair of games this weekend on the road. The Lions are riding a three-game win streak after dropping the previous four games.
A month ago against the Spartans, the Lions had a chance to finish off what could have been a sweep at home. Instead MSU fought back and won the second game of the series 6-4. Penn State then got swept at home by a very good Ohio State team, followed by a loss on the road in Ann Arbor, and suddenly it appeared that the season was in jeopardy.
A win against Michigan in Madison Square Garden in the second game of the series stopped the slide, and a sweep against Minnesota last week put Guy Gadowsky’s squad back in position to win its way into an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
With six games left in the Big Ten conference regular-season, and two or more in the Big Ten tournament after that, Penn State can afford a couple of setbacks. It does not have to be perfect if it wants to play in its third-consecutive NCAA tournament.
Michigan State has had a solid season to this point, hanging in at a respectable 28 in the PairWise Rankings. It will not be easy for the Lions, on the road, but wins would help the team improve its No.18 ranking heading into the weekend. The Lions slid from 16 to 18 since Monday with just a few games played around the country, so the standings are far from set in stone. Right now just .0026 percentage points in the RPI separate teams 15-18, so every game will cause shifting in the order.
On Tuesday Brandon Biro became the second Penn State player to be named the NCAA First Star of the week this season. In November, Nikita Pavlychev was given the honor. The two are the only Lions to have been recognized with this award in program history. Biro had 2 goals and five assists during the sweep of Minnesota.
Penn State captain Chase Berger was given the honor of Big Ten First Star of the Week for his effort against the Gophers. Berger had two goals and three assists. He led the nation over the weekend with a plus-4 rating and managed to win 23 of the 33 face-offs he took. Berger has scored 49 goals and has 63 assists for a total of 112 points at Penn State. That puts him in second place for all three categories all-time for the Lions.
More impressively, Berger has become the third player from Penn State to be named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. David Goodwin was a finalist in 2017 and David Glen won the award in 2016. Berger has not missed a game in four years, and is the current active leader in the Big Ten with 143 games played.
Off the ice Berger has been exceptional as well, sporting a 3.98 GPA in Finance. He also helped start a program in 2017 along with Rickey DeRosa to encourage reading among elementary school children. Penn State players go to Easterly Parkway Elementary School once per month to challenge the children to a reading competition with the players. They play fun games with the children as well.