Hockey is a weird sport. Some teams with objectively poor records can sometimes absolutely take it to one of the top teams in the country, and that's exactly what happened on Saturday night when Ohio State and Penn State clashed.
The Ohio State mens hockey team came close on Friday night, allowing No. 14 Penn State to tie it up with just a few minutes left in regulation before OSU fell in overtime. OSU came close last Sunday versus No. 6 Michigan, where poor goaltending and defense took out any chance they had despite scoring six goals. All those close calls came home to roost on Saturday where the Buckeyes finally blew out a team to make sure bad luck couldn't play a role.
Christian Frey firmly entrenched as the healthy starter certainly played a role in this, as Ohio State likely sweeps Michigan last weekend if their number one goalie was in and playing to his usual level. The goalie who almost singlehandedly got the team to the Big Ten championship two seasons ago playing as well as he can play never hurts.
This one looked good for the Buckeyes from the very start, as Craig Dalrymple put one home at just 3:30 of the first period. His third of the season gave the Bucks a lead they'd never relinquish. The Nittany Lions outshot OSU, 16-7, in the first period but with Frey on is game, the difference ended up inconsequential, for at least last night.
In the second, it'd be more of the same for the Bucks, if not more dominating. Nick Schilkey scored shorthanded for his 12th of the season at 11:33 and exactly five minutes later, Miguel Fidler scored his first of his collegiate career to make it 3-0. Penn State outshot OSU again in the second, 9-8, but with the Bucks up big, that little of a shot advantage says good things about the pressure Ohio State was still trying to put on the Nittany Lions with a lead.
Things got a little dicey at the beginning of the third. First, Penn State scored just 1:14 into the third on a goal by Eric Scheid and then at 1:37, Josh Healey was sent off on a major penalty and game misconduct for illegal contact to the head. Here we go again. Except OSU killed off that penalty and then at 13:10 put home a powerplay goal of their own on a tally by Mason Jobst, his sixth of the season. Dakota Joshua would add an empty net goal at 15:23 and the Bucks calmly took this one 5-1.
When a team keeps coming close and sometimes beating ranked teams in close games, you realize how strange hockey can be. The Bucks are ostensibly less talented than the other teams in the conference for the most part, and haven't played well enough to be ranked or anything close to it this year with their 7-13-2 overall record and 1-4-2-1 conference record, but hockey is a weird sport and sometimes those on paper worse teams can just take out a top team.
That's what happened on Saturday and it should've happened on Friday night too, albeit in a closer contest. The Bucks will look to keep the conference momentum going next weekend when they host Michigan State at Value City Arena.