Penn State Hockey Happy With New Big Ten Tournament Format
No. 15 Penn State men’s hockey is largely satisfied with the changes made to the format of the conference’s postseason tournament.
Since a seventh team — Notre Dame — was added to the conference prior to the 2017-18 season, changes to the tournament’s format were necessary. In previous years, the top two teams in the conference standings at the end of the season earned a bye to the semifinals as the bottom four teams battled in the quarterfinals at a neutral site.
This season, only the regular season champion earns the right to a bye to the semifinals as the bottom six seeds do battle in the quarterfinals. No. 2 Ohio State will take on No. 7 Michigan State, No. 3 Michigan will take on No. 6 Wisconsin, and No. 4 Penn State will take on No. 5 Minnesota in the quarterfinals.
The biggest difference from this year to last is the location of all of these games. The games will be held at the higher seeds’ home rinks instead of a neutral site in Detroit or Minneapolis. The second, third, and fourth seeds in the conference earned home-ice in the first round for a best-of-three series.
Penn State earned its right to play postseason hockey at Pegula Ice Arena; a sweep of Minnesota in the two teams’ regular season finale vaulted Guy Gadowsky’s program above the Golden Gophers and Wisconsin for the fourth seed in the conference. Gadowsky is fully in favor of the new format, and not just because his team is hosting postseason hockey.
“I actually really like it,” he said. “I think it’s great. The Big Ten is an extremely tough conference, and one of, if not the best, in the nation, which is a real benefit. I support this format 100 percent. Some of the best, most exciting hockey will happen in the playoffs, and it will be great to show our local communities that hockey.”
Gadowsky mostly supports the format due to how spread out all of the teams are in terms of location, acknowledging how difficult it may be to get teams out to one neutral site for what may be just one game. Although having home-ice advantage is great, Gadowsky knows that playing on home ice doesn’t give the team a tangible advantage on the scoreboard.
“We’re still playing, and we’re still playing Minnesota,” he said. “Absolutely, we love playing here and not having to travel for sure, and that’s a benefit. But once the puck drops, the puck drops. All that stuff, to me, is thrown out the window. I’m very happy we’re not traveling, but [home-ice advantage] isn’t giving us a goal up. It’s still 0-0 when the puck drops.”
Senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton is also extremely happy with the new format, despite the fact that the old one gave him the opportunity to play in the Joe Louis Arena — an NHL rink just 20 minutes from his hometown of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. He’s happy that the team doesn’t have to play on the international-sized ice at Mariucci and can work with the smaller rink at Pegula.
“I think having the crowd behind you and knowing the ins and outs of your rink is an advantage,” Hamilton said. “If we had to go to Minnesota, we’d have to play on an Olympic-sized sheet. I think just knowing each and every single aspect of the rink gives you more confidence.”
Sophomore RW Brandon Biro is extremely excited to host playoff hockey at Pegula Ice Arena and is mostly happy about the lack of travel this week.
“I don’t think there’s really any disadvantages to [hosting playoff hockey],” Biro said. “Getting to stay at home is unbelievable, especially considering it didn’t look like we’d get home-ice advantage going into last weekend. It was super nice to come up with two wins in front of the fans here. We’re definitely a better team at home than we are on the road.”
The best-of-three series between Penn State and Minnesota starts Friday at 7 p.m. Games two and, if necessary, three of the series will also feature 7 p.m. puck drops at Pegula Ice Arena.