Road games in the Big Ten are never easy, as Guy Gadowsky's men earned a series split on the road against the fifth-ranked Buckeyes this weekend. Friday's game was a 4-3 Penn State victory, and Saturday's a 5-2 Ohio State win.
The first game of the series was full of the back and forth hockey that we've come to expect out of the Big Ten. Ohio State's Mason Jobst scored the game's first goal on the power play at 16:34 of the first period. Penn State wasn't able to tie the game until 4:27 of the second period after Kris Myllari stretched a pass to Evan Barratt who was able to score through the arm of Ohio State's Sean Romeo. Penn State took its first lead of the game at the halfway point of the second period. Liam Folkes, continuing with his absolutely elite passing, set up Brandon Biro who was able to poke the puck by Romeo.
Ohio State tied the game on an Austin Pooley short handed goal at 11:43 of the second period, but Cole Hults had Penn State's answer 49 seconds later. Hults pinched in from his blue line and received a Nate Sucese pass from along the boards. Ohio State's defenders gave Hults all the time and space in front of the net, and he made no mistake.
Ohio State would again tie the game at 2:32 of the third period after John Wiitala beat Peyton Jones. But Denis Smirnov would have the last laugh. The Russian forward notched his third power-play goal of the season after receiving a pass from Hults and flicking the puck on net.
Penn State's defense and Peyton Jones stood tall to close out the third period and clinch the win. Jones made 21 saves during the third period and finished the game with 41 saves on 44 shots.
Saturday's game again started with an Ohio State goal by Jobst at 4:32 after he was able to put a rebound past Jones. It was looking like the first period would end with Ohio State up 1-0 until Aarne Talvitie flashed his incredible wrist shot with one second left in the period.
Penn State started the second period with a power play, and Alex Limoges would cash it in after some incredible passing from Sucese, Kevin Kerr, and Biro.
Much like Friday's game, Ohio State had the answer for a Penn State second period lead. Ohio State's Ronnie Hein scored using his back on the power play at 12:56 of the second period. Neither team would score again in the second period.
Most of the third period went by without any tallies. Penn State was able to kill two penalties and keep the game tied, until noted broom thrower and Penn State nemesis Dakota Joshua beat Jones at 17:43.
The Nittany Lions were able to get a power play after the Joshua goal, but couldn't tie the game. Ohio State added two empty net goals to make the final score 5-2.
- The only time I'd be unhappy with a road split in the Big Ten would be against Michigan State (although even Sparty is looking tough this season), so to leave Columbus with points is a win in my book. Like Michigan, Ohio State is returning much of the talent that carried it to last year's Frozen Four.
- Peyton Jones started both games this weekend and deservedly so. Jones was outstanding on Friday with his 41 saves and .932 save percentage and good on Saturday with 28 saves and a save percentage better than .900. Jones's third period performance Friday sealed the victory.
- Penn State's scoring continues to be balanced with Barratt, Biro, Hults, Smirnov, Limoges, and Talvitie all scoring for Penn State this weekend. Its power play has also been excellent of late. The Lions have scored a power play goal in seven straight games.
- The name of the game from now until March is to keep pace with Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State in conference standings, and although there are still areas to work on, a .500 start to conference play is a good beginning.