Penn State went to Columbus this weekend to meet the No. 11, heavily favored Ohio State Buckeyes and came away with an impressive series win. The story of Saturday’s game was the man behind the mask, Peyton Jones. His 33-save shutout was the third of his career and following a rocky start to the season, could be a potential turning point for him.
After the previous night’s wild finish, the two teams came out a lot slower in this one. Jones started in net for Penn State after backup Chris Funkey got the nod on Friday, and he got off to a good start despite not being tested too often. Ohio State led in shots 8-5 after 20 minutes with no goals allowed by Jones or Sean Romeo.
An early Buckeye powerplay in the second period gave the home team its best chance to score to that point, but Andrew Sturtz had other ideas. Shorthanded, he took advantage of a turnover in the Ohio State zone and picked the top right corner of the net to open the scoring. Just four minutes later, this time with Penn State on the powerplay, Denis Smirnov netted his first goal in a month after missing time with an illness. The second period was a lot busier as the Nittany Lions outshot the Buckeyes 18-16 and Jones continued his great game.
The momentum continued to swing Penn State’s way in the third period. Ohio State was the better team early, they played evenly in the middle frame, then it was all Nittany Lions late. The Buckeyes barely got any shots off and five minutes in, Brandon Biro put a hard shot on net and Romeo deflected it in with his blocker. After a weird sequence when Ohio State pulled its goalie for a full two-minute powerplay with eight minutes left, Liam Folkes beat Romeo on the short-side to make the score 4-0.
- This was a huge five-point weekend for Penn State. Before Minnesota plays Wisconsin Saturday night, the Nittany Lions are in second place in the Big Ten with trips to Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Ohio State already out of the way.
- The stat looks good on its own but the way Jones went 33-for-33 was even better. Probably only once or twice did he make saves that looked impressive -- in other words, he kept himself square to the shooter almost every chance and made it look easy. A lot of credit for his big game should also go to the defense, which is also in the midst of bouncing back from a slow start.
- Andrew Sturtz has been one of the best Nittany Lions for a couple years, but his start to this season has been insane. The program's leading goal-scorer had the game-tying goal and shootout winner on Friday then opened the scoring with a (*Buccigross voice*) twisted wrister on Saturday. He’s third in the nation in points and there’s no reason to think he’s slowing down soon.
- To any fellow Flyers fans out there: After Sturtz, Tanner Laczynski may have been the best player in this series and will be a ton of fun if he can stand out among Philly’s logjam of center prospects. Thanks.
- The Nittany Lions are back in action for a home-and-home next weekend with Robert Morris. On Friday, the teams will face off in the Penguins’ PPG Paints Arena, then they’ll return to Pegula the next night.