SERIES PREVIEW

 

NO. 15 GOPHERS VS. PENN STATE

7:05 p.m. on Friday and

Saturday at Mariucci Arena.

 

TV/live stream/radio: getTV (channel 23.2 and Comcast digital channels 212 or 251 in the Twin Cities) on Friday and FSN Plus on Saturday; BTN2Go both nights; 1500-AM both nights (if the men’s basketball team continues to advance in the Big Ten tournament, the hockey games will air on 107.1-FM)

 

Minnesota (19-12-3, 10-5-3 Big Ten): The Gophers aren’t overlooking the opportunity to win a fourth consecutive conference championship this weekend, but their biggest concern is improving their status for an NCAA tournament berth. Entering the final weekend of the regular season, they’re on the bubble. Two wins against Penn State would go a long way to help the Gophers’ chances of earning an at-large bid into the postseason; otherwise a Big Ten tournament title and its automatic bid could be required to continue their season. Even one win might not be enough to improve their standing and that’s all they’ve been good for over the last three weeks, settling for a split each time out. The senior leadership is unsure why they’ve been unable to put together back-to-back wins, but there’s no more room for sluggish efforts.

 

Penn State (18-12-4, 10-7-1): In just its third year with a varsity men’s hockey program, Penn State is in contention to win a Big Ten Conference championship. It will take some help from the three other teams in the regular-season title race, but coach Guy Gadowsky said this sort of success wasn’t expected so soon. The Nittany Lions suffered a setback throughout February with a 3-5 record, but they put themselves back in the race after a sweep at home against then first-place Michigan, last weekend. Winning on the road, however, has been a problem this season. They’re 4-7 away from Pegula Ice Arena and aren’t used to playing on an Olympic-sized rink, the size of Mariucci Arena’s ice sheet. The Nittany Lions are hopeful that the nation’s fifth-best goal-scorer Casey Bailey (22 goals, 18 assists) is able to jump-start the nation’s seventh-best offense (3.47 goals per game average).

JASON GONZALEZ