The Penn State hockey schedule was released earlier today and there are some notable weekends on the calendar. Last season the team started its schedule with an International game at home and then eight consecutive home games. This year will be similar, but the home stand will be nine games long following an International game with Ottawa on October 6.
First up on the regular-season schedule is a pair of games on October 11 and 12 with Sacred Heart University. Sacred Heart is not expected to be in the top-half of the standings this season, and with the Lions bringing back its best team in program history, it should be a good chance to get the season started out right.
The next weekend will be a Thursday and Friday series with Alaska-Fairbanks on the same weekend as the football game at home versus Michigan. Robert Morris will come to town the following week for a single game. On November 1 and 2, the Lions play the first Big Ten series of the season, facing Wisconsin. A series against Michigan State closes out the long home stand to open the season.
The first road trip will be a very tough test, on the road against a Minnesota team looking to rebound from a disappointing 2018-19 season. Ohio State will come to Happy Valley the next week for a pair of games.
The team will head to Massachusetts for a game on November 29 against Merrimack, and on the following night the Lions will play nearby against Lowell. This will be a great chance to not only face a couple of solid non-conference teams, but also, to showcase the Lions in a state that has a boatload of college hockey players.
The fall semester closes out with two road series, one in Ann Arbor and one in South Bend. There will be a twenty-day break between the fall and spring semester games as there was a year ago. This year, however, instead of beginning a slate full of only Big Ten games to finish the season, there will be two games at home versus Niagara to kick off the second semester. After that, a single game in Pittsburgh versus Robert Morris will end the non-conference slate.
From there the remaining Big Ten series are home against Michigan on January 17 and 18. The next weekend the team will travel to Michigan State before returning home against Notre Dame. Two road series, versus Ohio State and then Wisconsin, come before the season finale at home against Minnesota.
Breaking It Down
The schedule has a good mixture of competitive non-conference games and also well-placed games to spread out the off-days. There is no true bye week during the season for the Lions this year, as two one-game series with Robert Morris took that full week of rest away.
Following the Big Ten regular season, however, is a bye week for the Lions. The last weekend of the season falls on February 28 and 29, Thursday and Friday, but Penn State will have the advantage of resting before the conference tournament begins.
Another nice change this year is the home series to kick off the second semester versus Niagara. Last year the team faced Minnesota on the road to begin the spring semester, which kicked off a 2-6 start to the second half of the year, a stretch that may have doomed the Lions’ chances to make the NCAA tournament. Those games came not only after the holiday break, but without the use of Aarne Talivitie and Evan Barratt, who were playing in the World Junior Championships.
Should the Lions be fortunate enough to have players selected this year to the WJC, they will have a lighter schedule while short-handed in late December/early January. The Lions have one four-game home-stand in the conference schedule and have to play on the road for two four-game stretches. That is nothing out of the ordinary.
The final regular-season series at home comes on the same weekend as THON, so the team will be home for the festivities. With the games being against the Gophers, and the crowd on campus for the event, it should be a wild weekend.