The NCAA Tournament may still be a few weeks away, but Penn State’s weekend series with Notre Dame will certainly have the feel of postseason hockey.
As the two teams face off for the final regular season series of the year, they will not only be jockeying for positioning in the Big Ten standings, but also fighting for one of the final spots in the NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions (18-12-2) and Fighting Irish (17-12-3) are two spots removed from each other in the PairWise rankings. A weekend split wouldn’t help either team much. A win and a tie, however, would bump the victorious team up to No. 17, barring other results.
The Nittany Lions have had issues all season with completing weekend sweeps, but hope the opportunity presented this weekend will change that.
“We all kind of know where we’re at in terms of keeping our season going,” alternate captain Brandon Biro said. “If that doesn’t get you ready to be able to compete for two nights, then I’m not really sure what’s going to.”
The weekend will also impact the Big Ten Tournament. While Ohio State clinched the regular season title and a first round bye, the remaining six positions remain up for grabs, with just nine points separating those teams.
Depending on how the weekend shakes out, the Nittany Lions can finish anywhere from second to seventh.
Home-ice advantage could be vital for the Nittany Lions, who will likely face one of Minnesota, Michigan or the Fighting Irish.
While Biro’s optimism was tentative, one of the newest Nittany Lions believes in his team.
“I came here for a reason. I want to win a National Championship,” graduate transfer Ludvig Larsson said. “I’m really excited to go to the tournament. I’m confident in this team and I think we’re going.”