At 6 p.m. tonight the dancers will begin within the Bryce Jordan Center across the street from the Pegula Ice Arena. The student-run project known as THON has raised millions of dollars over the years to help with the fight against cancer. Each year a 46-hour dance marathon highlights the effort and increases awareness. The dancers, those that make it, will be on their feet until Sunday at 4 p.m.
In the meantime, across the street, the Penn State hockey team will host the Golden Gophers in what could be a very eventful series. Both games will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network, so the hockey team and also the good work that is done with THON will be on display.
The Lions and Gophers are tied for first place in the Big Ten Standings. The team that Guy Gadowsky has put together has the makings of a national champion, but to this point, they have not played their best for very long, just short spurts of the potential shined through along the way to a 19-10-3 record that has the team sitting in ninth place in the PairWise Rankings heading into the weekend.
Minnesota is currently in a three-way tie for 15th place nationally and needs to win some games down the stretch to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, something it has not done for a couple of years. There is a lot on the line for both teams.
A series win would all but guarantee the Lions would host a best-of-three series at The Peg in two weeks during the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. It remains possible, but unlikely, that Penn State can win the regular-season conference title with a series sweep. Another unlikely but possible scenario would be that if the Gophers took both games, this series will be the last time the fans in Hockey Valley will get to watch their team at home this year.
Minnesota has been hot since the spring semester began, losing only twice in 12 games with just 1 tie. The Lions have gone 6-4-2 in that same period of time, not horrible but definitely not lighting the world on fire, at least for a team that remains in the top-10 of the PairWise Rankings.
There are ten seniors on the Penn State roster that may be playing in their final series on their home ice. Names like Pavlychev, Folkes, Smirnov, Jones, Sucese, Biro and others will remain in our memories for years to come but this may be the last time some fans will see them play in person.
Next season will bring an almost entirely new version of the franchise, with Guy Gadowsky having to replace at least ten players, maybe more than a dozen. Whether that is a good thing or not will be seen next year. For the past four years, the senior class has been the face of the program, a group that took it from an up-and-coming new Division 1 team to a national contender.
It wasn’t too long ago that some insensitive Gophers called the Lions a ‘glorified club team’ which at the time had enough truth to it that it stung. Now Minnesota has plenty of respect for Penn State, as it has lost 11 of the past 13 games to the team from Hockey Valley.
It should be a very entertaining weekend.