Penn State hockey swept Alaska Fairbanks by scores of (3-2 W) and (2-1 W) this past weekend, for two non-conference victories. Both wins didn’t come as easy as expected.
This weekend the Nittany Lions play No. 17 Ohio State, followed by No. 20 Notre Dame, and unranked RIT.
The expectations are becoming fierce for Penn State Hockey, as they have now earned a top 10 ranking in the USCHO dating back to November 7th.
In addition to rising up the USCHO rankings, ESPN analyst John Buccigross lists Penn State as his No. 1 team in his latest rankings.
Here’s a breakdown of where Penn State Hockey stands in this week’s rankings:
USCHO Rankings – Top Five Sooner or Later?
Penn State Hockey has been creeping around the top five in the USCHO poll since November 7th (No. 8), November 14th (No. 6), November 21st (No. 7), and now November 28th (No. 6).
The Lions successfully jumped UConn, a team that came into November beginning the season 9-1-1 but faced much more adversity as of late. Since then, UConn tied Providence twice, split against Umass Lowell, and more recently lost 6-0 to Cornell.
It gets very complicated this late in the year to leap into a top-five USCHO spot, especially when two teams ahead of them in No. 4 Minnesota and No. 5 Michigan are conference foes. It resembles a constant battle between rooting for lower-poled big ten teams to beat up on Michigan and Minnesota, but not catching up completely to the Nittany Lions conference stature.
The most reliable answer to whether Penn State will be a top-five team by Christmas comes from finding opportunities for upsets in Minnesota and Michigan’s schedules.
The No. 5 ranked Michigan Wolverines play the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend, the only team below them in the big ten conference standings with no conference victories to date.
This would be a huge upset alert, dropping one or both games to the Badgers should certainly push Penn State Hockey to the top-five territory.
Another opportunity comes in the form of the fiery hot No. 13 Michigan State Spartans, who play No. 4 ranked Minnesota this weekend. Both represent the only two teams ahead of Penn State Hockey in the big ten conference standings, a Spartan win might propel them to a top 10 ranking come December 5th.
So, to clarify, Penn State fans should root for the Badgers and hope the Spartans can at minimum split the series against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, pushing Penn State up to No. 5 in the USCHO rankings.
Poll Prediction (December 5th): Penn State Moves to No. 5 in USCHO rankings