Penn State is the No. 1 team in college hockey for the first time in the young program’s history.
The Nittany Lions are in their fifth season of Division I hockey and fourth as a member of the Big Ten. They earned the nation’s top ranking after sweeping Michigan State in the program’s 129th and 130th games.
Penn State (16-2-1) appeared in the Top 5 for the first time on Dec. 5 at No. 3. The Nittany Lions fell to No. 4 last week, but jumped to No. 1 this week after Minnesota Duluth and Denver each split their respective weekend series.
The Nittany Lions celebrated the feat with a tweet proclaiming “#WeAre No. 1” and posting a celebratory video.”
Some hockey critics questioned the validity of Penn State’s top ranking by comparing their record against ranked opponents with other teams. Penn State is 3-2-1 against top 30 teams, while Minnesota Duluth is 13-4-3. Penn State is 13-0-0 against bottom 30 teams and Duluth is 0-1-1.
The Bulldogs dropped to No. 4 in the USCHO poll after splitting with unranked St. Cloud State. No. 2 Denver, No. 3 Boston University and No. 5 Massachusetts-Lowell round-out the Top 5 rankings.
The Gophers (13-5-2) improved two spots to No. 7 after sweeping Michigan, but lost one of their top players, Tommy Novak, for the rest of the season. Don Lucia announced Monday that the sophomore forward will be sidelined with a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday's win over Michigan.
“We’re really disappointed for Tommy, and losing him for the year is a big blow for our program,” Lucia said in a statement. “The good thing is that we are lucky to have some of the top medical professionals in the country here at the University of Minnesota, and we know that Tommy will be in great hands as he recovers and rehabs from this injury.”
Novak had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 20 games this season.
Penn State received 30 first-place votes in the USCHO poll to claim the top spot, but earned only 16 first-place votes and came in at No. 2 in the USA Today/USA Hockey poll. The No. 1 ranking will be tested this weekend when the Nittany Lions host No. 11 Ohio State at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Gophers host Penn State at Mariucci Arena on Feb. 3 for what should be a Top 10 showdown. The teams share first place in the Big Ten standings with 15 points and a 5-1 record.