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A Look At The Standings As Michigan Comes To Hockey Valley

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It’s conference games only for the rest of the regular season.

Photo by Heather Weikel

Penn State (16-6) will host Michigan (9-11-2) in front of the students that have now returned from break. It should be a great atmosphere inside The Pegula Ice Arena. The Wolverines struggled earlier in the season but have now reached No. 31 in the PairWise Rankings, coming off a sweep of Notre Dame.

Penn State is tied for 5th in the PairWise Rankings and is in first place in the Big Ten standings.

Michigan has given up only 11 goals over the past 7 games. Penn State has had a recent lull in scoring. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, gives. One thing we know for sure, the acoustics inside The Peg will be put to the test. It’s always fun to beat the Wolverines.

PairWise Season

With Penn State’s non-conference slate now concluded and teams inching closer to their respective conference tournaments, we’ve reached one of the more special times of year — PairWise season.

While coach Guy Gadowsky and most players say they don’t pay much attention to the rankings, they are mostly aware of its existence and how important it is to determining their postseason fate.

Some are more successful at shielding their eyes from the often confusing grid of percentages.

“Not too much, actually,” Alex Limoges said when asked how much attention he pays to it. “A lot of the other guys are always looking at the standings and PairWise.”

Limoges was quick to throw Nate Sucese under the bus when it comes to who gives the PairWise the most attention.

“He’s a big hockey nut and knows all the ins and outs,” Limoges said. “If I ever have a question I just go to him.”

Sucese: “Well I think we all know how important out-of-conference games are, especially when you look at the PairWise. You really hope that other Big Ten teams do well.” “There’s almost a bigger emphasis sometimes when you’re playing out-of-conference games because they mean so much.”

As the PairWise currently stand, only two Big Ten teams — Penn State and Ohio State — would make the NCAA Tournament, with Michigan State and Notre Dame on the bubble. With the lowest ranked team being No. 31 Michigan, the Big Ten’s parity may be the biggest factor in so few Big Ten teams making the field.

“In this league, there is no bottom,” Gadowsky said. “You take a weekend off against a Michigan who might be 31st, I mean, it’s just brutal.”

While he tentatively acknowledges this negative, he also sees the positives in having such strength top to bottom.

“The honest answer is, I think for development, for fan excitement, etc, a scenario where every team is loaded and you have to be at your very best to give yourself a chance to win, they’re great factors for development and excitement and entertainment,” he said.

Certain losses against the “bottom” of the Big Ten contributed to Penn State missing the NCAA Tournament last season

GG: “The honest answer is, I think for development, for fan excitement, etc, a scenario where every team is loaded and you have to be at your very best to give yourself a chance to win, they’re great factors for development and excitement and entertainment.”