MHKY: Postseason Predictions
The hockey season for Penn State has been nothing short of a roller coaster. After an opening series split with St. Lawrence, the Nittany Lions were able to go unbeaten in their next 13 games, tying Notre Dame on the road.
The hot start shot Penn State way up in the polls, as they reached the top spot for the first time in program history. The start of 2017 did not treat them well as they failed to pick up a win in five straight games coming into the season series against Wisconsin.
Their postseason standing was not in good order as they were not playing great hockey defensively, which caused their PairWise ranking to drop to 11. A statement series against Wisconsin helped Penn State bolster their resume.
The Nittany Lions were able to sweep a surging Wisconsin team, winning both games by three goals. The wins help Penn State in Big Ten play, as it pulls them to two points behind second place Wisconsin.
More importantly, the team’s PairWise rating rocketed up to sixth after the weekend, meaning the Nittany Lions resume is in pretty good shape thus far. The one thing that will hold the Nittany Lions back is their nonconference strength of schedule.
Notre Dame and St. Lawrence were the two best teams Penn State faced in the nonconference and both teams are currently outside of the top 16 in the PairWise. While both teams are close to the 16th spot, the fact that a team as good as Penn State did not play a team in the field is a little unsettling.
Minnesota and Ohio State are the only two teams that Penn State has faced that would make the tournament if the season ended today. Unfortunately, Penn State has not fared well against both teams, as they have won one of the six games between the two.
The Nittany Lions played worse against Minnesota as they gave up 10 goals in the two games and only scored three. A good showing against the top team in the Big Ten would tremendously help Penn State’s case.
Winning against the Big Ten’s best would also improve the team’s standing in the conference as they currently sit in third. A second place finish would give the team one less game to play in the conference tournament.
One fewer game means the team is able to give their players’ valuable rest as the run to a championship is always a grind. Penn State would love to finish second in the conference as they have been one of the best teams in the Big Ten this year.
One factor that benefits Penn State is the number of wins they possess as 18 is tied for fourth in the nation. Any team with a high number of wins looks good for their chance to make the tournament.
The Nittany Lions should be tournament bound, granted they do not end the regular season on a losing skid.
Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.