If you haven't been paying attention, No. 15 Penn State surprised the country last weekend with a massive sweep of No. 11 Minnesota on home ice. Because of those two wins, the Nittany Lions earned the maximum six points for the series and leap-frogged the Golden Gophers in the Big Ten standings -- effectively locking down fourth place in the conference and home-ice advantage in their upcoming quarterfinals matchup with, once again, Minnesota.
With the sweep, the Lions moved up in the PairWise rankings (the public standings that most accurately display to the hockey layman the teams who might end up with a tourney berth) to No. 13, and college hockey analysts have taken notice of Penn State's last-minute push to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.
As of Wednesday morning, the Lions are now projected by USCHO writer Jayson Moy to face No. 3 Cornell in the Midwest Regional section of the tournament's first round.
Bracketology: This weeks movement shows Penn State in, Omaha out https://t.co/o58oOOKFrf
— USCHO.com (@USCHO) February 28, 2018
This comes as good news to Penn State, who is serving as one of the host schools for this year's tourney. The Midwest Regional is going to be held in Allentown, Pa., and that means the Nittany Lions automatically get placed there if they make the tournament.
At first, the projections had them facing No. 5 Notre Dame, one of the best teams in college right now, but due to rules against intraconference matchups, it bounced the Fighting Irish and brought in Cornell. The Big Red are a really tough club as well, so don't take this as a victory. At least Penn State played Notre Dame a few times this season in conference play and could've used that to its advantage.
That being said, these are only projections. Penn State needs to continue racking up wins if it wants to stay in the tournament conversation, starting with a rematch of the Golden Gophers at Pegula this weekend.