The first period began pretty horrendously for the Nittany Lions. Untimely turnovers, bad breakouts, and an unsightly effort in the defensive zone were all things Ohio State tried to capitalize on, but never managed to find the back of the net. Even with chance after chance being given to them, the Buckeyes were stoned cold by Peyton Jones.
Penn State was also struggling to land a shot on goal, and it went about 10 minutes after its three initial chances without a tally in that department. That was until a huge penalty kill propelled Alex Limoges to feed a perfectly placed pass to Liam Folkes at Tommy Nappier's doorstep to put the Lions up 1-0 and cancel out their slow start.
Liam Folkes. So hot right now. pic.twitter.com/1YOa6FNTrO— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 17, 2019
Liam Folkes (17)
Alex Limoges (23)
Brandon Biro PPG (16)
Nate Sucese (18)
John Wiitala (9)
Nate Sucese SHG (19)
With that helper, Limoges took sole possession of Penn State's single-season points record with 49. And with just one second before the end of the opening period, he then potted his 50th. Evan Barratt found him alone in front, and he got a favorable bounce of Nappier. That tied the national lead with fellow Big Ten player Taro Hirose (who just signed with the Detroit Red Wings and isn't playing in college anymore) and gave his team a back-breaking 2-0 advantage.
Limo with a backbreaker right at the end of the first.pic.twitter.com/ZY2ghz75mF— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 17, 2019
The second period was pretty quiet until Ohio State captain Sasha LaRocque leveled Adam Pilewicsz into the boards to earn himself five minutes and a game misconduct. After the penalty was settled, Mason Jobst led a short-handed breakaway try but got turned aside by Jones to keep Penn State's two-goal lead afloat. Despite the Buckeyes' best PK effort, they didn't manage to kill the entire five minute major, and with just 10 seconds remaining, Brandon Biro knocked one home on a wide-open cage after being given a beautiful pass by Kris Myllari.
Berger MyllariBiropic.twitter.com/QLq9XMHzKG— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 17, 2019
With just 2:24 left in the middle frame, Philadelphia Flyers' prospect Tanner Laczynski wristed one past Jones bottom corner to cut the Lions' lead to 3-1. But there was some deliberation on if Ohio State was onside during its initial entry, and after a short review, the goal was ultimately called off. The Lions maintained their three-goal lead after 40 minutes of play.
Nate Sucese effectively put the nail in the Buckeyes' coffin with an early third period goal to grow Penn State's lead to a dominant 4-0. He beat an Ohio State player diving for the puck as it brushed up alongside the team benches, pulled it onto his stick, skated cleanly into the offensive zone, and ripped it past Nappier.
Nate Sucese's 18th of the season may be the nail in Ohio State's coffin.pic.twitter.com/YiT4c370HF— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 17, 2019
In a last-ditch effort to chip away at Penn State's lead, the Buckeyes pulled Nappier with a little over five minutes left in regulation, and it paid off. John Wiitala put in the work as the final seconds of Ohio State's power play ticked down to spoil Jones's shutout and get the Buckeyes on the board 4-1.
Ohio State tried to find twine after pulling its goaltender for a second time, but Sucese collected his second of the game on the empty-net that he couldn't have made look more difficult if he tried.
Sucese ices it with one of the better empty netters you'll see.pic.twitter.com/SUmCFcCkxr— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) March 17, 2019
5-1. Buckeyes, beat. Bring on Notre Dame.
- Despite playing really sloppy in the beginning of the contest, Penn State stayed composed, got a few big time saves, and used a crucial penalty kill to take advantage of the slight lapse in Ohio State's momentum and go up 1-0, even though in no way did it deserve to. That penalty kill effectively saved the Lions' championship hopes. There's no doubt about it.
- Speaking of big time saves – huge stick tap to Peyton Jones and his play in net. His numbers this season are less than spectacular, but only giving up one goal against the top team in the Big Ten and falling just 4:22 short of a shutout speaks volumes for his confidence going into a showdown with Notre Dame next Saturday.
- With former Michigan State Spartan Taro Hirose signing a deal with the Red Wings this past week, Limoges (and Evan Barratt) have a wide-open opportunity to finish 1-2 in the final NCAA points standings. That's huge for a Penn State team still trying to prove itself on the national stage.
- Buckeyes' goaltender Tommy Nappier came into this contest with a sparkling .937 save percentage and a 1.70 goal against average line. He could've easily taken over this game and shut down the Nittany Lions. Instead, Penn State put four past him.
- He didn't end up on the score sheet, but Ludvig Larsson had a fantastic game. Making the NCAA Tournament has to be high on his list of goals for this season, as before today's game, the conference semis are the furthest the Swede has ever gone in college play.
- Penn State is starting to play its best hockey. This championship game vs. the Fighting Irish is going to be fun, folks.