It was a long path to home ice in the Big Ten Tournament once again for the Lions. For the second year in a row, it came down to the final game of the regular-season. The team and fans will be rewarded with extra games in the friendly confines of the Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State (19-13-2) will host Wisconsin (13-16-5) this weekend in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
There remains a great deal to play for, as the Lions’ hope of advancing to the NCAA Tournament is still alive with a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament. At the moment, the PairWise Predictor has the chances of Penn State making the tournament at 31%. With each win, that probability will increase.
If the Lions win four more games, they will take home the Big Ten’s automatic bid for the second time in three seasons.
The Badgers won their final three games of the season, including the second game of the series at the Pegula Ice Arena two weeks ago. Had Wisconsin not swept Michigan last weekend, Penn State would be playing on the road.
So we have the Badgers to thank for this weekend series in Hockey Valley.
Defensive star and leading scorer at the time of his injury, K’Andre Miller, is still not in the lineup for the Badgers. Wisconsin gets points from every player on the team, so not having one sniper is not a problem. This season 17 Badgers scored 10 or more points but the team lead is 23. There are 3 players on the team tied with 23 points, and 2 others have 22 points. The scoring is truly balanced.
In net there has been a lopsided platoon with Daniel Lebedeff getting 25 starts and Jack Berry 15. Lebedeff is 10-10-2 and Berry 3-6-3, with both of their vital stats being relatively the same. Berry has an .895 save percentage while Lebedeff is at .890. Their save percentages are 3.31 and 3.19 with Berry having the slight edge there.
Wisconsin is playing solid hockey, as witnessed by their sweep of Michigan last weekend. The Lions should be up to the task and the home crowd may prove to be the difference if Penn State can advance to the next round, and one step closer to an NCAA Tournament game in Allentown, Pa.