Hockey Preview: Penn State Continues Road Trip in Columbus Against the Buckeyes

By Michael Green on January 8, 2021 at 1:52 pm
Penn State goalie Oskar Autio makes a save against Arizona State. Penn State goes on the road to take on Ohio State on Friday (January 8) and Saturday (January 9).
Penn State Athletics
Ohio State Buckeyes
3-3-2 (2-3-1 B1G)
5:30 p.m. ET – FRIDAY, JAN. 8
5:30 p.m. ET – SATURDAY, JAN. 9
Read: Lions Split with Spartans

Penn State had their four-game winning streak snapped their last time out against Michigan State. After seemingly finding its groove offensively against Michigan and Arizona State, the Lions ran into the brick wall known as Drew DeRidder. The Spartan goaltender held Penn State to just two goals in the two-game series. Fortunately, Lions goalie Oskar Autio shut out the Spartans in game one to help earn the split.

The offense will need to get back on track against Ohio State or it could be more of the same. The Buckeyes rely on strong goaltending to make up for a lack of scoring punch, though they've never seemed to struggle to put the puck in the net against the Nittany Lions.

If Penn State can regain its scoring punch, it could make for a great weekend in Columbus. If not, Buckeye goalie Tommy Nappier could send the Lions home looking for answers.

Last Season vs. Ohio State

Last Season Overall Comparison
  Overall Record Big Ten Record GF GA PP% PK% Pairwise Ranking
Penn State 23-10-4 12-8-4 3.56 2.59 27.1% 87.5% 7
Ohio State 20-11-5 11-9-4 2.83 2.28 27.3% 80.8% 10




Last Season Head to Head
  Record GF GA PP% PK%
Penn State 2-1-1 16 13 66.7% 69.2%
Ohio State 1-2-1 13 16 30.8% 33.3%

While the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten last season, the Buckeyes ended up as runners up. The competition between the two teams was just as tight on the ice.

In the first series in Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State eked out a 5-4 win. The Lions thought they had put the game away when Sam Sternschien's empty netter put Penn State up 5-2 with 2:15 to play. But Ohio State kept firing and scored two goals over the next 1:22 to put a scare into the home team. Game Two went to the Buckeyes by a final of 4-3.

The second series in Columbus started out with more of the same. Penn State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period. The Buckeyes scored goals in each of the final two periods to send the game to overtime. Neither team could score in the extra period and the game ended in a tie. Ohio State did pick up the extra point by scoring the only shootout goal. The Nittany Lions got their revenge the next night winning 6-3. Though the final score seems lopsided, the score was 4-3 before Penn State scored twice into an empty net to put the game away.

Offensive Comparison

The Ohio State attack is tied with Michigan State as the lowest scoring in the Big Ten with just 21 goals through ten games. 15 of those goals came in four games, so thus far it's been all or nothing.

The Buckeyes are led offensively by freshman Travis Treloar's nine points on three goals and six assists. Junior Quinn Preston leads the team with four goals.

Penn State is middle of the pack in the Big Ten with 29 goals. Take away the nine goals scored in one game and the Nittany Lions really aren't doing much better. The Lions are led by senior Alex Limoges ten points on six goals and four assists. His six goals also lead the team.

Defensive Comparison

Ohio State is led defensively by junior Ryan O'Connell, senior Grant Gabriele, sophomore Layton Ahac, and freshman Evan McIntyre. O'Connell was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round in 2017. Ahac was taken in the third round of the 2019 draft by the Vegas Golden Knights. Gabriele's three goals on the season are one shy of the career-high four he scored last season.

The Buckeyes are tied for fourth in the Big Ten with 28 goals allowed on the season.

Penn State on the other hand is dead last in the conference, having allowed a whopping 39 goals already. Believe it or not, the defense has been improving. After allowing five goals per game in its first four games, the Lions have allowed just over three per game in the last six. Granted, the last two of those games came against the offensively-inept Spartans.

The lineup has mostly settled in at this point. Paul DeNaples and Clayton Phillips have been the top pairing. Evan Bell, Mason Snell, Jimmy Dowd, Jr., Alex Stevens, and Christian Berger have gotten most of the minutes on the other two pairings.

Goaltender Comparison

Senior Tommy Nappier has played all but ten minutes in goal. Nappier has struggled some this season after putting together back to back superb seasons during his sophomore and junior campaigns. His goals-against average is up to 2.75 from 2.04 and his save percentage is down to .918 from .932.

Still, don't let his numbers fool you into thinking he's going to be easy to beat. He has given up three goals or less in nine of his ten starts. And he gave up four in the other game. So he has been steady all season and Penn State will need to be on its game to beat him.

Oskar Autio picked up his first shutout against a conference foe in his last start (he had two shutouts last season in non-conference games). That performance dropped his GAA to 3.16 and raised his save percentage to .883.  Both numbers will need to continue to improve if Penn State hopes to make a run at the NCAA tournament.

Liam Soulière wasn't as successful in his start against Sparty. He allowed two early goals in the first period and one each in the second and third periods. For the season, he's allowed 4.37 goals per game with a .850 save percentage.

Bold Prediction

Penn State will need to play better at both ends of the ice to beat an inconsistent Buckeye team. Offensively, the Lions need to improve on its 7.3% shooting percentage. The defense needs to be stronger in front of the net and do a better job of clearing rebounds. And the goalies need to make a few more saves, particularly early in games. Both teams have been inconsistent so far and I expect more of the same. I predict the two teams split the two games. Penn State wins 4-2 and loses 5-3.

Both games (Friday and Saturday) are at 5:30 PM and both will only be available on BTN+. As always, follow @RLRblog on Twitter and check back here for coverage of the games.