The scheduling gods gave Penn State’s rising ice hockey program a chance to rest up in the final weekend of the regular season. As such, that gave the Nittany Lions the opportunity to sit back and see how the rest of the Big Ten standings sorted itself out, with Penn State needing a bit of help from around the conference to secure the top seed in the upcoming Big Ten men’s hockey tournament.
They got it.
Ohio State and Minnesota each failed to pick up the necessary points to knock Penn State off the top spot in the conference in the final weekend of the season, with the Buckeyes struggling at home against Wisconsin and Minnesota unable to prevent Michigan from playing spoiler. With Penn State claiming the outright regular-season championship, the Nittany Lions were rewarded the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament. That gives Penn State a first-round bye while the rest of the field will open the tournament with a best-of-three series.
The 2020 Big Ten Hockey Tournament Bracket
Penn State will host a single-elimination game on March 14 against the lowest-seed remaining after the first round. If Penn State advances past the second round, the Nittany Lions will then host the Big Ten championship game, another single-elimination matchup.
The highest seeds serve as the hosts for each round of the Big Ten tournament, so the big Ten championship could potentially have to be won through
Happy Hockey Valley if all goes according to Penn State’s plan. But the Big Ten has been a hard-fought battle all season long, and this field could still be pretty wide open, especially once single-elimination enters the realm.
Ohio State still managed to hold on to the second seed after tying Michigan and Minnesota for second place in the standings. The Buckeyes owned a 3-1 record against the Wolverines and Gophers to help break the tie. That gives Ohio State a best-of-three opening series against the team they closed out the regular season with, the Wisconsin Badgers. Can Wisconsin continue to frustrate in Columbus, or will the Buckeyes rebound and get their revenge?
Michigan received the No. 3 seed and will host in-state rival Michigan State (No. 6 seed). And No. 4 seed Minnesota will get home ice against No. 5 Notre Dame.
The Big Ten hockey tournament drops its first pucks on Friday, March 6 in Columbus (Ohio State vs. Wisconsin), Ann Arbor (Michigan vs. Michigan State), and Minneapolis (Minnesota vs. Notre Dame). Games will be played through Monday if necessary, and the next round will be played on March 14. The Big Ten championship game is scheduled for March 21, leading up to the NCAA tournament after that.
So tape up the sticks and drop the pucks. The Big Ten hockey tournament is here!
Photo credit: Penn State Athletics