The Penn State men’s hockey team is venturing higher and higher up the ladder of national respect.
The Nittany Lions hit No. 12 on both national voting polls released Monday, and are a stunning No. 2 in the PairWise rankings.
Penn State (7-1-1) will be taking its national rankings and one of the nation’s best winning percentages (.833) into this weekend’s games with Alaska-Anchorage (1-7). The games will face off at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena.
The No. 12 rankings, the highest in program history, are in both the U.S. College Hockey Online and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
“It’s too early to get too excited about the rankings,” coach Guy Gadowsky said Monday at his weekly session with the media. “Nothing’s changed. We don’t really think much of it. We’re just moving forward.”
The PairWise rating is not a popular vote like the other polls. It is much like the Rating Percentage Index used in other sports, and the RPI is incorporated in the PairWise along with record against common opponents and head-to-head competition.
The PairWise is a strong indicator of the NCAA tournament when that rolls around in March.
“It’s nice to look at (a No. 2 ranking), I got to be honest,” Gadowsky said. “If we were looking at that in March, or February, it’d be a much different story.”
Unbeaten in the past seven games, and the nation’s No. 4 scoring team at 4.22 goals per game, the Nittany Lions are enjoying the ride.
“Personally, I think we are a step or two ahead than years past,” senior forward Dylan Richard said. “We’ve had a lot of success early and we have a lot of momentum right now.”
Time for a change?
Gadowsky expects to make some changes to his starting lines, not because anyone was doing anything wrong, but to prepare for the future
“We might tinker with the lines a little bit to try some things out in the next couple weeks,” Gadowsky said. “So that we have an idea if we are forced to change down the road.”
Minding the net
The coach said Peyton Jones is planned to start both games this weekend, while next weekend Chris Funkey will get a start in goal for one of the two games against Arizona State. Funkey got his first career start last week, a 5-1 win against Niagara.
Robinson to sit
Junior forward James Robinson will sit out Friday’s game. He delivered an elbow to the head of the Purple Eagles’ Kris Spriggs in the first period Friday and received a five-minute major and game misconduct. Gadowsky said the play was not malicious, but he still plans to keep Robinson out of the lineup regardless of whether the Big Ten hands out a penalty.
“I think it’s being reviewed,” Gadowsky said. “We haven’t gotten an official word but he won’t be playing Friday regardless.”