By Jessi Pierce
OK, so the ponds may not be frozen over just yet and there is little snow on the ground to remind me that it is indeed December in Minnesnowta, but that doesn't stop my mind from wandering to the excitement of college hockey showcased at its purest form not once but twice this year, as Ohio State takes on Michigan at Progressive Field and Penn State faces NCAA DIII Neumann University as part of the Winter Classic action at Citizen's Bank Park in the latest announcement of outdoor hockey stages.
There's no doubt that these outdoor games are fan favorites--shown especially by the record-breaking 113,411 crowd at the Big House last year--and they continue to rise in popularity with more than 25 played stateside at varying levels since 2001. With the trend only going upward you can now find as many as four big-named games a year being played outside, including three Big Ten Teams faceing-off outdoors next month.
- Current Conferences: Michigan - CCHA, Ohio State - CCHA
- Number of Games Played Outside Before Jan.2012 Meeting : Michigan - 3 (T,L,W), Ohio State - 1 (L)
The Wolverines have struggled this season, sitting at just 9-8-3 but mustered out a win and tie with Michigan State last weekend.
Ohio State has been hot, riding a nine-game win-streak in November and currently comes in with a 13-4-1 record along with a No.4 ranking in the USCHO Polls (even receiving a lone first-place vote) this past week. I won't go into much of preview for the match-up (save that for a post closer to the date) but it's going to be a good one.
While the Buckeyes took home the wins earlier this season and look to be the favorite, they only beat Michigan by one goal in both contests. Put that on a scale in a venue that holds 43,441 and its sure to be a sight to see. Michigan fans tend to travel well and with the animosity between Buckeye and Wolverine fans, I'm sure plenty Ohio State fans will be making the trip too.
PENN STATE & NEUMANN UNIVERSITY at CITIZEN'S BANK PARK (Jan.4, 2012)
- Current Conferences: Penn State - ACHA (last year) Neumann - NCAA DIII
- Number of Games Played Outside Before Jan.2012 Meeting: Neumann University - 0, Penn State - 0
The Icers currently sit atop the ACHA standings at 13-1-0 and will face a tough prospect in Neumann, who are ranked No.15 in the USCHO Div.III pollings. In addition, Neumann is a previous 2010 Div.III title holder.
Why is this such a great move for Penn State? Heading to Citizen's Bank Park and playing just two days following the Winter Classic match-up between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers will only continue to build the fanbase and further expose the Icers as a Div.I contender in the 2012-13 season. If that's not enough, Penn State announced that Pegula Arena will be opened in conjunction with the outdoor game. Boom. Prepare for the media spectacle.
Penn State's official release
Up next on B1GIH: A look at team's we think should host/play in an outdoor game