Penn State hockey jumped up to No.12 in the USCHO.com poll released on Monday. The newest rankings come out after the Nittany Lions completed a two-game sweep of the Minnesota and a fourth straight victory over the Gophers in nine days.
Previously the Nittany Lions had been ranked 15th, Minnesota at No.11. Following this past weekend the teams essentially swapped spots in the poll with the Gophers falling to No.15 while the Nittany Lions moved up to the aforementioned 12th spot.
Penn State heads on the road this Friday for a 5:30 puck drop against Notre Dame in the Big Ten Semifinals. The on-campus format for the conference tournament means that the game will be played in South Bend. The Semifinals are a single-elimination format.
This time of year it's worth repeating that the USCHO.com poll is a good gauge of national respect of any given team, but far less important when it comes to the selection of the 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
For that the committee will turn to the PairWise rankings where Penn State currently sits at No.11. This, short of an exceptional number of upsets in conference tournaments, ought to be more than enough to ensure Penn State's second-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. As a regional host, the Nittany Lions are guaranteed to play in Allentown in front of what stands to be a very pro-Penn State crowd.
The Nittany Lions are currently 18-13-5 this season and nearly beat the Fighting Irish in overtime during their final regular season meeting of the year. Notre Dame is currently No.2 in the PairWise rankings. Penn State has yet to beat the Irish this season but have played games with the final scores of 5-3, 1-0, 5-3 and a 2-2 shootout loss that goes on the record as a tie.
This Friday's game will be carried live on ESPNU.