Elite Eighth? Despite Big Wins, PSU Makes Modest Rankings Gain

Despite defeating two of the newly-minted top three during the period for the third ACHA ranking of the season, issued Wednesday and including games played through January 18th, the Lady Ice Lions gained just three spots, to eighth.

Penn State's resume since being tagged 11th in late November was impressive, and included five games (of six total) against top-ranked Miami, number two Liberty and third place ECWHL rival Massachusetts, which jumped up from fifth. Those five matches included two wins, 4-3 against Miami this past Sunday and 2-1 against UMass on January 10th.

The victory over the RedHawks snapped MU's 31-game unbeaten streak spanning an entire calendar year, and was also the first time the defending national champs lost at their home Goggin Ice Center in 26 contests.

On the other side of the ledger were three one-goal losses, two of which came in overtime on the road to Liberty and in the back half of the home series with the Minutewomen. The Lady Ice Lions defeated unranked Ohio State in their other game during the ranking period.

Long story short, Penn State proved it belongs with the best in the nation, but the rankings are slow to reflect that demonstrated reality.

A primary culprit for PSU's relative stagnation was the computer poll, introduced this season as one third of the final ranking, along with the averaged vote of all division coaches and a list developed by a committee consisting of seven coaches. The latest iteration of the computer survey places the Lady Ice Lions 12th - exactly where they were prior to the big win over Miami.

After the RedHawks, Flames and Minutewomen, Adrian (up from eighth) and Michigan (up from tenth) rounded out the top five. The Wolverines have played two games against the other members of the current top five this season, losing 5-2 and 4-0 to Miami back in October. Adrian's only contests against the top five were also against MU, where the Bulldogs lost 5-2 and managed a 1-1 tie despite being outshot 39-8.

Grand Valley State held their sixth spot, while the ECWHL's Rhode Island tumbled from third to seventh. Number 15 Vermont, which held steady, was the only other ECWHL team and PSU opponent represented.

Overall record, strength of schedule, record versus ranked teams, games against common opponents, record versus the division and head to head performance are the primary considerations when determining how squads are slotted in the human elements. The computer looks at average goal differential as well as strength of schedule.

The next ranking carries a cutoff date of February 22nd and will be released the following week. Generally speaking, the top eight teams in that poll will qualify for the ACHA National Tournament, held March 4th through 8th in York, PA. However each of D1's three conferences - the ECWHL, CCWHA and WWCHL - are guaranteed an automatic bid to the tournament for their playoff champions and presently, there are no WWCHL teams within the top eight (Colorado State and Minnesota are the best teams from the league at tenth and 11th), so autobids could cost teams near the bottom of the top eight their at-large bids.

Following a week off, Penn State will return to Pegula Ice Arena on January 30th against Navy before a series on January 31st and February 1st versus Northeastern closes the regular season schedule. Puck drops are set for 10:15 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. respectively, with the middle game of the three serving as the Lady Ice Lions' annual senior night.

Here is the complete ranking:

Michigan State
Colorado State
Robert Morris
Grand Valley State
Rhode Island
Penn State

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