Ohio State has now won the season series against both teams ranked No. 1 in the current USCHO and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. I don’t think many of us would have expected that coming into the season in our wildest dreams.
Nobody thought Penn State would be ranked No. 1/2 coming into the year either, and the case that they’re actually not that good as they’re not just .500 versus 3-3 officially versus top 30 teams. But hey, no matter what the circumstances, Ohio State just took a weekend series with two wins (one in a shootout) versus one of the teams currently ranked No. 1. I’ll take it.
The Buckeyes improved to 2-1-1 on the season versus the much improved Penn State squad that’s at the top of those rankings and to 3-2-1-1 in Big Ten play while Penn State fell to 5-2-1 in conference play. OSU improved their record to 12-4-6 while Penn State is now 16-3-2 overall.
The most encouraging part of this weekend series was doing it without Nick Schilkey and Tanner Laczynski, who were both out for both games. Schilkey was out with the always mystical hockey injury of a “lower body” and Laczynski was sick. But Ohio State still found a way to pour in six goals versus Penn State, generating more offense than it looked like they were capable of in Friday’s game, where they only registered 27 total shots on goal to PSU’s 59.
They’d only have 28 shots on goal in this one, but held Penn State to 44, keeping the play more in Penn State’s end than it had been the night before. Penn State was trailing for virtually all of this game, yet still couldn’t put the kind of pressure on OSU they did the night before.
I say virtually the whole game, because they actually struck first and held that lead through 11:50 of the first period. David Thompson (not the 1970s basketball player) scored first for PSU at 2:38 and his second of the year gave them the only lead they’d have for the entire night.
At 11:50, John Wiitala scored his eighth of the year unassisted and Mason Jobst gave the Buckeyes the lead at 18:20 on the powerplay. Jobst’s 10th of the year had helpers from Dakota Joshua and David Gust.
Ohio State took that 2-1 lead into the dressing room and would double up that lead in the second. Joshua scored unassisted just 18 seconds into the second period to give Ohio State the 3-1 lead. Penn State wouldn’t go away that easily, however.
Kris Myllari scored his third of the year almost exactly seven minutes later, at 7:17, to narrow the Ohio State lead to one goal and then Ohio State got a 5 minute major penalty they had to kill off to keep that lead. Kevin Miller got the first 5 minute major for interference that I’ve ever heard of, but somehow, Ohio State found a way to kill it off.
And then allow a goal anyway with just 25 seconds left in the period to cough up the lead.
Andrew Sturtz scored his 15th of the year to tie it heading into the third and it sure looked like Penn State had any and all momentum going into that third period. But momentum can lie, or just not be real, and Ohio State would not let Penn State take advantage of that moral boost headed into the dressing room.
Just 38 seconds into the third, Matthew Weis scored what would ultimately register as the game winning goal. His sixth of the year from Jobst and Miguel Fidler would give Ohio State a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Luke Stork doubled up the Ohio State lead with his sixth just 1:03 later, at 1:41. OSU’s two goal lead was restored in almost literally seconds. Gust had the lone assist.
Penn State wouldn’t be able to get one past Christian Frey, who rose to the challenge again, stopping 41 out of 44 shots and held OSU’s lead throughout the third period.
Christian Lampasso would score his first of the year, getting more time with Schilkey and Laczynski out, at 17:10 of the third, with assists to Stork and Miller, to put it away, as Peyton Jones couldn’t match Frey’s effort in net as he stopped only 22 out of 28 shots for Penn State.
OSU closed out the game and held on for the 6-3 victory, giving them the 2-1-1 season victory over Penn State. Things aren’t going to get markedly easier for Ohio State, however. They host a much improved Wisconsin squad, that currently stands at 11-8-1, on Thursday night before traveling to New York City of all places for the second game on Saturday night.
I don’t know who’s going to see Ohio State versus Wisconsin hockey in New York City, but this world doesn’t make any sense anymore, so it’ll probably be a packed house.