Last season, Penn State began their foray into Division 1 ice hockey when the Nittany Lions made the jump to the NCAA from the club ranks, but it didn't really feel completely big league. They played in the tiny Greenberg Ice Pavilion, they didn't really play a tough schedule, they weren't very good and they didn't have a conference to call home.
That all changes this fall when the team hits the ice at the brand-new, $88 million Pegula Ice Arena as a first-year member of the newly minted Big Ten Hockey Conference. Terry Pegula, the natural gas magnate, PSU alum and owner of the Buffalo Sabres, paid for the arena project that broke ground in February 2012, and it'll be ready in time for the 2013-14 Nittany Lions season.
It's getting there already. Via OxBlue and the official construction webcam, here's are GIFs of the progress both inside and outside the arena since groundbreaking:
Lookin' good. The arena, which will hold about 6,000 fans, is set to be ready by early September. PSU's full 2013-14 schedule isn't out quite yet, but we do know they'll host Army in a home game on Friday night, October 11, likely the first Division 1 mens game at the new arena. The football team hosts Michigan the following day, so if you're a fan of Penn State athletics or just college sports in general, it might not be a bad weekend to make a trip to State College.
The Nittany Lions will play at the Wells Fargo Center yet again on October 26 of this year in what they're calling the second-annual Philadelphia College Hockey Showcase. Vermont -- the school where Nick Luukko, son of Flyers president Peter Luukko, plays -- will again be the opponent.
Back on January 19, a lockout-fueled crowd of 19,000+ filled the WFC for the game. It was the largest crowd ever assembled for a college game in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- even larger than the crowds that gathered in Pittsburgh for the Frozen Four this past April.
Philadelphia will host the 2014 Frozen Four. Chances of Penn State making it are very, very slim with what's expected to be another weak out-of-conference schedule and a very tough in-conference slate.