STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12: A fan cheers as Penn State Nittany Lions plays against Nebraska Cornhuskers at Beaver Stadium on November 12, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
The Penn State Nittany Lions will ice a Division 1 hockey program for the first time since the 1940s this fall, and they unveiled their schedule for the 2012-13 season on Tuesday. With that schedule, we learned that the team will play games at both the Wells Fargo Center in South Philadelphia and CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
The Nittany Lions come to Philadelphia for a game against Hockey East opponent Vermont on Saturday, January 19. The full schedule can be viewed at GoPSUSports.com.
In their inaugural season, PSU will compete as an independent program. College hockey is in the midst of conference realignment chaos much like other Div. 1 sports around the country, and the Nittany Lions are expected to join a new Big Ten hockey conference in 2013-14.
The University's brand new, 6,000-seat Pegula Ice Arena will be completed in time for the program's second season. For now, they'll play games at the Greenburg Ice Pavilion on the State College campus.
The inaugural schedule put together by coach Guy Gadowsky, formerly of Princeton, is relatively weak, as should probably be expected. The program will play opponents from all five major hockey conferences, but there aren't many strong opponents on the schedule.
They'll play four games against Division 3 opponents (including Aston Pa.'s Neumann University) and six games against ACHA club-level college teams, plus two exhibition games against USA Hockey's U-18 team. Of their 14 different Division 1 foes, only a handful could be considered strong. American International, Sacred Heart, Holy Cross, Connecticut, RIT, Air Force, Army and Robert Morris are all members of the consensus weakest conference in the nation, Atlantic Hockey, while fellow independent Alabama Huntsville is ... um, not all that good.
Defending ECAC champ and 2012 Frozen Four finalist Union College will host PSU on November 24 and 25, while 2012 national tournament participants Wisconsin and Michigan State will host the Lions for a pair of games each late in the season. There's also a chance PSU plays both Miami and Ohio State, two respectable programs, but that's as part of a holiday tournament in Pittsburgh, so there's no guarantee they play both of those schools.
It shouldn't really be looked at as a negative: It's their first season in Division 1, they're going to be bad, and power schools don't want to play weak teams. It's just the way it is. But if you had any hopes of Penn State making some sort of miraculous at-large bid to the national tournament in their first season, this schedule isn't going to get them there.