The Penn State hockey season will start with four games in six days, with all four games televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. The action kicks off first in Minnesota on November 19 and 20.
After just two days off, the Lions will play Wisconsin on their home ice on the 23rd and 24th in a rare Monday and Tuesday series. It will be a fun way to start the season and the national television exposure will be a great opportunity for Guy Gadowsky’s squad to reacquaint itself with NCAA hockey fans.
Mariucci Arena in Minnesota and also LeBahn Arena in Wisconsin feature larger ice widths than in typical arenas. At the Pegula Ice Arena the width is 85 feet, as it is in most college hockey arenas and all of the NHL. In Minnesota, the ice is 100 feet wide, as are Olympic ice rinks. The Badgers’ ice is 90 feet wide. The length of the ice at all levels is 200 feet, but the variations in width create nuanced opportunities that are not typical in skinnier arenas.
It has been a few seasons since the Lions have had any trouble adjusting to larger sheets of ice but it may change the way that the team plays, so what we see may not be exactly what to expect moving forward. The Lions will not play on any irregular-sized ice after the first four games, though it could be noted that the boards in East Lansing behind the goalies are so lively that it seems to make the arena smaller at times.
The Nittany Lions will then have 8 days to recover before squaring off against Michigan and then Arizona State to round out the games that will take place during the fall semester. The Sun Devils of ASU, the only team in the country without a conference, will play as though it were a member of the Big Ten for this season. Purists outside of the hockey world may not understand this, but it would be a fantastic addition to the B1G were Arizona State to become a full member.
The Sun Devils are the newest addition to Division 1 NCAA hockey, joining a few seasons after the Lions made the jump from club hockey. Like Penn State, ASU has found its stride quickly and for two seasons in a row have been a national contender, qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
Since there will be no regular-season out of conference games this year, adding 28 games with Arizona State will be a huge plus for the Big Ten. Also, all 28 games will be on the road for the Sun Devils, so the players from traditional B1G schools, and also Notre Dame, will not have to make the long trip to the Grand Canyon State. In the future it may be beneficial for Big Ten teams to make an annual trip to Arizona, to get a bowl game-like experience and a break from the cold weather.
Michigan State is the only team that is not ranked in the USCHO.com preseason top-25 out of the Big Ten. Arizona State is ranked 15. Following a break after the December 13 game with ASU, the Lions will come back in early January with a full schedule of games.
The Big Ten Network will be showing 12 games over a 24 day period between November 15 and December 9, so there will be plenty of hockey for fans to get back into the swing of things.
Notice something missing from the television coverage in the first half of the season? Yeah, that’s right, no Notre Dame. Don’t worry, though, the Golden Domers have a sweet deal with NBCSN, so their first game against Wisconsin, tomorrow night on November 13, will be broadcast nationally. One game with Michigan State and another with ASU will be shown on NBCSN for Notre Dame and also a complete series with Ohio State.
That means that there will be roughly one Big Ten hockey game per day televised nationally, including some double-headers, for the next month solid. It will be a great way for hockey fans to get back into the groove. Also, it should be remembered that no other conference other than the Hockey East has the same type of exposure on television. St. Cloud State, North Dakota, Denver and other traditional powerhouses do not need the publicity, nor does the Hockey East, but for the Big Ten, which is still growing its footprint, it is critical.
In the coming days we’ll give some information about the 2020-21 Penn State hockey team and what to expect when they take the ice in one week.