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Penn State Hockey Takes Advantage Of Opportunity To Play At PPG Paints Arena

No. 6 Penn State hockey dispatched Robert Morris 6-2 at PPG Paints Arena in downtown Pittsburgh on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions have now made nine appearances at the home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, and they improved their record in the building to 4-5-0. Six of those games were against the Colonials, who are based just outside of the Steel City and play some of their home contests at the Penguins’ home rink.

Our hockey beat made the trip out to western Pennsylvania for the contest, which gave us the chance to soak in one of the NHL’s newer facilities. Here are our observations from the quick trip to Pittsburgh.

A Home Of Champions

After going to Saturday’s game, I’ve now been to six of the NHL’s 31 home rinks. That’s admittedly a very small sample size, but none of the other five had a higher quantity of Stanley Cup flexing than the Penguins.

The first thing you see when you get off the elevator at ice level is Pittsburgh’s five replica Stanley Cups honoring the 1991, 1992, 2009, 2016, and 2017 championship teams. The arena’s concourse and rafters are lined with photos of hockey greats like Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin.

Why wouldn’t the Penguins flex about their storied history as much as they do? Pittsburgh is the only team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions during the NHL’s salary cap era, which began following the lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season, and it’s also produced some of the greatest talents to ever step foot on a sheet of ice — including Lemieux and Crosby.

I didn’t grow up cheering for the Pens, but it was hard not to appreciate the huge amount of NHL history inside their home rink. My personal favorite decoration was a larger-than-life photo of Crosby and Malkin kissing the Stanley Cup together after winning it all in 2017 against the Nashville Predators.

Penguin Connections

Speaking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a pair of skaters played at their (potential) future NHL home as Nittany Lions.

Smooth-skating defenseman Clayton Phillips and imposing center Nikita Pavlychev are both part of the Penguins’ prospect pool. Pavlychev was selected in the seventh round (No. 197 overall) in 2015, and Phillips was the Pens’ third-round choice (No. 93 overall) two years later.

This was the first time that each player got live game reps at PPG Paints Arena. Pavylchev has a host of experience in NHL rinks — including a strong performance in last year’s game between Penn State and Michigan at Madison Square Garden and three games played at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena in the 2017 Big Ten tournament.

Food Review: PPG Paints Arena’s Chicken Basket

If you’re at a stadium or arena to watch Penn State, you really only have one choice when it comes to food: a classic chicken basket.

I’m happy to report that PPG Paints Arena’s chicken basket did not disappoint. The chicken was tender and struck a perfect balance when it comes to moisture, and the accompanying waffle fries were surprisingly great. They’re seasoned a bit differently than those in Beaver Stadium’s chicken basket, but I really enjoyed them despite this.

I wouldn’t say this chicken basket was as good as Beaver Stadium’s, but that’s a given. Beaver Stadium’s chicken basket has no equals. It is above all.

Pegula Ice Arena West

Saturday’s game was ~technically~ a home game for Robert Morris — as evidenced by the university’s pep band, the scoreboard’s graphics, and the PA announcer’s enthusiasm for the Colonials. However, it’s safe to say that Penn State’s fans heavily outnumbered Robert Morris’ supporters by an approximate 85-15 ratio.

The Roar Zone, Penn State hockey’s notoriously-rowdy student section, even made the trip out on the Saturday before classes began, filling up two rows of section 101 behind Penn State’s bench. The students started a few “We Are” chants that made their way around the whole rink.

Unsurprisingly, the upper level of PPG Paints Arena was curtained off, and the lower bowl never filled to capacity. However, Penn Staters definitely succeeded in taking over the building and giving the Nittany Lions a unique home-ice advantage.

Also, PPG Paints Arena’s goal horn is LOUD — a fact that was amplified by the lack of crowd noise when the Colonials scored.

Saturday night’s contest was an all-around success for the Nittany Lions, who emerged victorious and improved to 16-6-0 on the year. Getting to cover games at professional, first-class venues like PPG Paints Arena is always an absolute privilege, and the Penguins’ rink is definitely up there as one of the best in the business.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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