Ohio State finally beat Penn State in a sport besides football. It took four tries, but the No. 6 Ohio State hockey team defeated No. 13 Penn State, 5-1, on Saturday night in their last regular season matchup against the Nittany Lions to earn a split of their weekend series.
Tommy Nappier got the start in net after Sean Romeo faltered on Saturday, allowing four goals, and stopped 30/31 shots against for a sterling .968 save percentage. Freddy Gerard added two goals and Tanner Laczynski three points to help Nappier’s cause.
OSU was swept by Penn State in Columbus earlier in the season and was handed their first loss of 2018 on Friday to snap a 6-game win streak since the holiday break. If the Buckeyes wanted to show that they were the class of the Big Ten the polls viewed them as, salvaging at least one against a top 15 rival seemed paramount.
That urgency showed early as OSU took a 1-0 lead just over five minutes into the game. After trailing for nearly 55 minutes on Friday, Ohio State took a lead at nearly the same interval into the game on a Tanner Laczynski tally. Freddy Gerard coasted in and got PSU goalie Peyton Jones to go down and commit before sending a cross crease pass to Laczynski with an open net in front of him.
Penn State was able to keep their initial lead for the last 55 minutes of Friday’s game; Ohio State would not be so fortunate on Saturday. Penn State tied it just over seven minutes later as Nikita Pavlychev tied it up.
However, Andrew Sturtz would not be around long to celebrate the tie and continue to torment OSU. He received a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing at 13:43 of the first, giving the Buckeyes a five minute power play.
They’d take advantage.
Just 2:06 later, Tanner Laczynski started a nifty little possession, finding Ronnie Hein with his back to the net before Hein sent a cross crease pass to a streaking Gerard, who put it past an already prone Peyton Jones. Freddy’s sixth of the year would prove to be the game winner.
The Bucks wouldn’t be able to further capitalize on the major man advantage, but the damage was done. OSU outshot the Nittany Lions, 14-12, in the first and looked to keep pouring it on in the second frame.
They’d outshoot PSU, 14-9, in the second despite being up a goal going into the period— though they’d have two power plays courtesy of Nittany Lion mistakes. They’d take advantage yet again.
At 5:21 of the second, Nittany Lion Trevor Hamilton would be sent off for high sticking. Just over a minute later, at 7:03, Dakota Joshua made him pay. He tipped in a Gordi Myer shot from the point on the powerplay and it was 3-1 OSU.
Penn State would sure get a chance in the second, however. Wyatt Ege received a hooking penalty on James Robinson, who was awarded a penalty shot at 13:59 of the second. Nappier was aggressive and attacked the shooter, who didn’t have much room and didn’t try to skate around the 6-foot-3, 215-pound goaltender with a move. It didn’t end well for Robinson.
Jones would stop Ohio State on all of their attempts on him in the third, despite OSU having yet another man advantage, but luckily for Ohio State, not all of their shot attempts would come with a goalie in the net.
Penn State was unable to convert on any of their shots on Nappier in the third despite a powerplay of their own due to Hein taking a cross checking penalty at 8:10 of the third and had to pull Jones with just minutes remaining and down two goals.
Freddy Gerard would add his second of the game on an empty netter, with assists to Laczynski and Matthew Weis at 19:27, with Austin Pooley adding another, his second of the year, at 19:59.
Nappier’s first Big Ten win came at an opportune time as the Buckeyes improve to 8-5-1 in conference and show they can both outshoot and outscore Penn State for the first time this season. Nappier now has a .940 save percentage this season, albeit in limited action, while starter Sean Romeo has a pedestrian by comparison but objectively outstanding .924. Not since Christian Frey’s freshman season has OSU seen goaltending this consistently outstanding.
With the win, OSU jumps Penn State to No. 2 in the Big Ten standings, behind 12-0-0-0 Notre Dame, who stands as both No. 1 in the conference and, oh, the nation.
Possible goalie controversies and big bad Notre Dame notwithstanding, No. 6 Ohio State will have next weekend off before hosting rival Michigan, who stands at a disappointing 9-10-2 overall coming into Saturday night. Those are two games a top-10 team should win if they want a top two finish in the conference.