When Penn State football wants to reaffirm its presence in Philadelphia, all it needs to do is schedule a few home-and-homes with Temple, and the Nittany Lions play in front of 68,000 people every other year at Lincoln Financial Field.
The basketball program could play alternate home-and-away games with any two of the City Six Schools and be in Philly every season – most likely at the Palestra.
Penn State hockey has needed to be a bit more creative. There is no Division I program in the city for the Lions to play.
Still, for the sixth time since becoming an NCAA program in 2012, Penn State played in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night, ending up with a wild 4-4 tie with Princeton.
The 9th-ranked Nittany Lions (11-5-2) led by three goals late in the second period, but the Tigers (3-8-2) fought back to get the draw. Ryan Kauffner scored with 1:09 remaining to push the game to a five-minute overtime that went scoreless.
In last year’s Philadelphia Faceoff, the Tigers beat Penn State, 5-4. Officially, this was a home game for Princeton. The Tigers lost at Penn State, 4-2, on Oct. 26. The teams are expected to return to the Wells Fargo Center next season.
“We have alumni all over the world,” said Penn State junior goalie Peyton Jones, who grew up in Langhorne and graduated from Holy Ghost Prep. “Wherever Penn State plays, people will be in the stands. That’s the advantage of going to a big school. This is good for our fans and the hockey program.”
Realistically, there is not a lot of incentive for Penn State to move games out of “Hockey Valley.” Pegula Ice Arena is a state-of-the-art, 5,704-seat arena that Nittany Lion fans have turned into one of the most intimidating places to play in the nation.
Since opening on Sept. 9, 2013, Pegula has hosted 105 Penn State hockey games and played to 96 percent capacity.
Last season, the Lions led the nation in home-attendance capacity (102.2 percent) and were sixth in total home attendance with 112,221 fans. The average home attendance of 5,906 ranked 5th.
Still, PSU is a national school with lots of alumni in the Northeast corridor.
Playing a game or two in an NHL arena such as the Wells Fargo Center, Madison Square Garden – they will play Big Ten rival Michigan there on Jan. 26-- and PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, where it has played nine times, makes good marketing sense.
For the players, it’s a chance to play in some of the top hockey venues in the world.
Playing in Philly was particularly nice for Jones and senior defenseman Kevin Kerr from Bensalem.
Sophomore forward Evan Barratt, a 2017 third-round pick (90th overall) of the Chicago Blackhawks from Bristol, was a scratch.