Preview: No. 4 Ohio State Comes to Town for a Crucial Series Against No. 13 Penn State

By Sam Watson on January 18, 2019 at 11:30 am
Penn State Forward Denis Smirnov
RLR Staff
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Ohio State Buckeyes
13-5-4 (6-3-3 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 p.m. ET – FRIDAY, JAN. 18
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA
3:00 p.m. ET – SATURDAY, JAN. 19
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSITY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA
Game 1: BTN PLUS | GAMETRACKER
Game 2: BTN PLUS | GAMETRACKER
Read: Barratt and Limoges nominated for Hobey Baker

Penn State split at home against Michigan State last weekend. Although the three points was enough to bring the Ice Lions from sixth to fourth in the Big Ten Standings, losing to the Spartans at home dropped Penn State's Pairwise ranking to 16th and pushed the team from a three seed to on the bubble. If you thought Penn State was going to comfortably cruise to Allentown, well, I have some news for you.

Scouting the Buckeyes

Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State all made the Frozen Four last year (Minnesota-Duluth won the national championship), and right now only one of those teams is truly playing like it is a national championship favorite. Luckily for Penn State, that team is Ohio State. Also luckily for Penn State, Ohio State plays really well at Pegula. It should be a fun weekend.   

The Buckeyes are currently first in the Big Ten with 23 points (Penn State has 17), a strong fifth place in the Pairwise rankings, and a 13-5-4 overall record. After an 8-2 loss to Bowling Green back in October (that I definitely need to remind everyone about), Ohio State has been solid. In conference play, they've swept Wisconsin, split at home against Penn State, swept Minnesota, split with Michigan State, and split with Wisconsin. The Spartan's proved in a 7-7 tie two weeks ago that the Buckeyes are occasionally vulnerable, but Penn State will have its work cut out this weekend. 

Forwards Outlook

Ohio State plays a much more defensive game than Penn State, but they still have one of the most dangerous groups of forwards in the conference with Mason Jobst (13g, 12a), Tanner Laczynski (7g, 13a), and Dakota Joshua (6g, 11a) leading the way this season. These three have been the key to Ohio State's offensive success over the last couple seasons and they are again driving the Buckeye's offense this year. Jobst and Laczynski have shown time and time again that they are elite scorers, and Joshua has the not so unique talent of being a thorn in everyone's side. The supporting cast has been solid for the Buckeyes as well. Carson Meyer (6g, 9a [nice]) leads the team with four multi point games, and Gustaf Westlund and Ronnie Hein have each cashed in 14 points so far this season. Ohio State's offensive balance is impressive and will be a tough task for Penn State's bad struggling defense. 

Defensive Outlook

Ohio State's strength is its defense, and the top pairing of Sasha Larocque and Tommy Parran have done a solid job leading the way. Larocque, the captain, has 7 points (2g, 5a) and a +13 plus/minus. None of Ohio State's top six defensemen have a negative plus/minus, and the team defense has posted a 2.15 goals against per game which is good enough for first in the Big Ten and 12th in the nation. 

Goaltender Outlook

Tommy Napier is having himself an incredible season so far. Although he and Sean Romeo have shared time this season, it's quite obvious that Napier is the best goalie on Ohio State's roster because his numbers are borderline insanity when you consider he's playing in a conference that emphasizes scoring and aggression much more than defense. Napier has a 0.945 save percentage and 1.58 GAA in 12 games. That's good for second in the nation in both categories and is only behind Quinnipiac's Andrew Shortridge (.961, 0.97). Napier could very well steal one or both of this weekend's games.

Keys to a Penn State Win

I wrote last weekend before the Michigan State series that I was not yet worried about the Nittany Lions' chances to get back to Allentown. After watching a win that did not come easy and a defensive collapse of epic proportions against the Spartans, I'm officially worried. This weekend will be a much tougher test, and Penn State will need to play a complete series for the first time in a long time if it hopes to avoid getting swept. 

The defense needs to be better this weekend than it was against Michigan State. Anything short of the total team effort we saw against Notre Dame and the results will not be pretty. Nikita Pavychev and his long reach are going to be crucial for slowing down either the Jobst or Laczynski line. Offensively, seeing the Limoges - Barratt - Folkes line get back to its old self after a weekend that left some room for improvement would go a long way to securing both wins. 

Predictions

Sam: Ohio State scares me. Not because they can't be beaten, but because their game seems tailored to exploit where Penn State is weakest. Ohio State is built to withstand pressure and then beat you on the few chances they get. Peyton Jones is going to have to stand on his head all weekend, and Penn State HAS to capitalize on the crowd energy early in both games. It's going to be a chippy and wild series. If Evan Barratt doesn't put the puck in the net like he failed to do last weekend, Ohio State is probably going to sweep. I do think Barratt scores this weekend, but I don't see Penn State putting together a strong enough defensive effort to get the sweep. Game 1: 4-3 Penn State. Game 2: 5-1 Ohio State.

Kaitlyn: Ohio State sits two points above Minny in the Big Ten standings, and with Penn State sitting back six points in fourth place, a couple wins would give it a big boost and be huge for its position in conference play. The Lions went into Columbus and managed a split, and my optimism leads me to believe they can at least split again. Friday’s tilt is a White Out, this series is on home ice in front of a great crowd, and I like to think Barratt and Limoges want to re-claim their top spot in points nationally. A sweep is entirely possible, but probably out of reach considering this team couldn’t earn one against Sparty. Penn State wins Game 1 5-3, and loses a heartbreaker 4-2 in Game 2.

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