At around 12:20 p.m. Monday, as a trio of Penn State men’s hockey players sat behind a table at Pegula Ice Arena for the team’s weekly session with the media, a little history was made.
U.S. College Hockey Online posted its weekly poll on its website, and for the first time, the Nittany Lions were first on the list.
According to 30 of the poll’s 50 voters, Penn State has the best hockey team in the country.
“That does feel pretty good,” senior forward Ricky DeRosa said a few seconds after the poll was posted. “Kinda makes you think about all the guys that, you know, came through this program and laid the foundation. We wouldn’t be where we are today without those guys.”
The team will take its new ranking out for a spin for the first time when it hosts No. 11 Ohio State at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Penn State jumped from No. 4 in last week’s poll, and No. 2 the week before. The Nittany Lions had 964 points in the poll, while Denver was second with 16 top votes and 941 points. The Pioneers were No. 1 in last week’s poll but dropped after splitting a series with Western Michigan.
Penn State also stands No. 2 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll, swiping 16 first-place votes. No. 1 Denver earned the other 18 votes. The Nittany Lions (16-2-1, 5-1) also are tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten standings.
Thanks to 14 wins in the last 15 games, the nation’s best record and a program-best six series sweeps already this season, the team is getting recognized.
“We’re definitely proud of that,” junior defenseman Erik Autio said. “We still know that we’ve got to keep working hard and just not change anything right now.”
The Nittany Lions also have been either No. 1 or 2 for a couple months in the PairWise ratings, a mathematical formula that indicates which programs are in line to make the NCAA tournament.
The USCHO poll was released after head coach Guy Gadowsky had his session with the media. Still, he said that while the accolades and approval of the voters are nice, he was more concerned with the approval of his players, staff, alumni and fans.
He certainly has heard from fans whenever he ventures around town.
“Every time, it’s been pretty nice whether you bump into people getting gas, the grocery store, Dunkin Donuts, something like that,” Gadowsky said. “People have been very supportive.”