Happy Valley is quickly turning into a hockey valley.
Within five years of going online as a NCAA Division 1 program, Penn State has quickly emerged as a top-flight program competitive in the Big Ten, a young-but-strong conference with five other storied programs in Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State joining the Nittany Lions.
On Monday, Penn State was officially deemed the best in the nation, the Lions being named the No. 1 team in the nation in the latest USCHO.com poll on the heels of a 16-2-1 start to the season. Its lone blemishes came via an early season loss to St. Lawrence along with a setback against Ohio State on January 6th.
The Nittany Lions have a national-high 4.58 goals per game while allowing just two goals per game, which is tied with Army for third in the nation. Penn State has plenty of balance, as leading scorer Denis Smirnov’s 29 points is tied for 12th in the country. The Nittany Lions have 10 players with double-figure goal scoring.
The Lions supplant Denver atop the poll, as Pioneers split with Western Michigan over the weekend. To add injury to insult, leading scorer and Team USA World Juniors hero Troy Terry is out indefinitely after suffering an upper-body injury on Friday.
Boston University jumped to third from fifth, the Terriers highest ranking since October 10th, the second poll of the season, when BU was ranked second to reigning national champion North Dakota.
Omaha entered the poll, checking in at No. 19.