Penn State University, located in University Park, Pennsylvania, has a rich history when it comes to hockey. The Nittany Lions have been a dominant force in college hockey for decades, with a passionate fan base that spans generations. As the team continues to make strides in the sport, it is important to look back at some of their most important matchups and rivalries, which have played a significant role in shaping the program.
One of Penn State’s most intense and long-standing rivalries is with Ohio State University. These two teams have been competing against each other since the early 1970s, and their matches have always been highly anticipated by fans. The rivalry reached a new level in 2012 when both teams joined the Big Ten Conference, making their matches even more meaningful as they now compete for conference titles. The rivalry has been fueled by close and intense matches, with each team constantly looking to outdo the other. In 2014, the Nittany Lions claimed their first victory against the Buckeyes in a 5-4 overtime win, further solidifying their rivalry.
Another important rival for Penn State is their in-state neighbor, the Pittsburgh Panthers. This rivalry dates back to the late 1960s and has always been a heated one. Both teams have a long history of success in the sport, and their matchups have been intense and closely contested. With only a few hours separating the two teams, fans from both sides often travel to away matches, making for a lively atmosphere. In 2017, the Nittany Lions beat the Panthers for the first time in four years, further intensifying this classic rivalry.
But perhaps the most famous rivalry for Penn State is with Michigan State University. These two teams have been playing against each other since the 1940s, and their matchups have always been highly anticipated. The rivalry has seen some of the most exciting and memorable moments in college hockey history, with both teams trading victories over the years. The intensity of the rivalry was further elevated in 1999 when the Nittany Lions joined the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA), the same conference as the Spartans. Although the teams are no longer conference rivals, their matches still hold significant meaning for both teams and their fans.
As Penn State’s hockey program continued to grow, so did their rivalries. In 2014, the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten Conference, and along with it came new rivalries. One of the most notable is with the University of Minnesota. This rivalry has been fueled by the fact that both teams consistently rank among the top programs in the country, making for highly competitive and intense matches. In the 2017-2018 season, the Nittany Lions clinched a crucial overtime win against the Golden Gophers, further solidifying this new rivalry.
In recent years, Penn State has also formed a strong rivalry with Notre Dame. This rivalry began in 2019 when the Fighting Irish joined the Big Ten Conference, and since then, their matches have been highly contested. With both teams being perennial powerhouses, every matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Fighting Irish has been a nail-biting and emotional battle. This budding rivalry has already seen some memorable moments, and fans from both sides can expect many more exciting matchups in the years to come.
For many fans, college hockey is about more than just the sport. It’s about traditions, legacy, and rivalries that go beyond the ice. Penn State’s rich hockey history is a testament to this, with their long-standing rivalries shaping the program and creating an unbreakable bond between past and present players and fans.
As the Nittany Lions continue to grow and thrive in the world of college hockey, their rivalries will undoubtedly continue to play a crucial role in the team’s success. Whether it’s battling for conference titles or bragging rights within the state, Penn State’s matchups with their historic rivals will always be a highlight of the season for fans and players alike.