The Penn State men’s hockey team released its schedule Thursday, and some new wrinkles will greet the Big Ten tournament champions when they hit the ice.
The slate will feature first-time trips to upstate New York and the Arizona desert, more Big Ten games before the holiday break and a three-week conference tournament.
The season begins Oct. 6-7 with a “North Country” trip to Clarkson and St. Lawrence in the Adirondacks, followed the next weekend with the Big Ten opener at conference regular-season champion Minnesota.
The Nittany Lions will then host American International for the home-opening weekend Oct. 19-20, before welcoming Michigan the following weekend.
In its first season as an associate member of the Big Ten for hockey, Notre Dame appears on the schedule Nov. 10-11 when the Lions visit South Bend, Ind. The Frozen Four participant Fighting Irish will skate into Pegula Ice Arena on Feb 2-3.
“With the addition of Notre Dame to the Big Ten, we are adding four tough games against a 2017 Frozen Four team and a perennial hockey giant,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said in a news release. “This will make an already extremely competitive league that much more challenging.”
The schedule also is highlighted by a trip to Tempe to meet Arizona State on Nov. 17-18, and a home-and-home weekend with Robert Morris, with a visit to Pittsburgh on Dec. 9 and a rematch in State College the next night before the start of a 26-day holiday break.
Penn State also will host Ottawa for an exhibition game on Oct. 1.
Other home dates include Mercyhurst (Nov. 3-4), Wisconsin (Jan. 5-6), Ohio State (Jan. 12-13) and the regular-season finale against Minnesota (Feb. 23-24).
Road trips also include Ohio State (Dec. 1-2), Michigan (Jan. 19-20), Wisconsin (Jan. 26-27) and Michigan State (Feb. 16-17).
The Big Ten tournament format will change this season with seven teams involved. The first round will see a three best-of-three series on campus March 2-4, single-game semifinals the following weekend with the regular-season champion receiving a bye into the semifinals, and a one-game championship game at the home of the highest remaining seed. Penn State turned its conference title into a berth into last season’s NCAA tournament and a win over Union in the opening round before falling to Denver in the regional finals.