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Men’s Hockey: No. 6 Ohio State splits two-game series with No. 13 Penn State

Ohio State sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski controlls the puck during a 4-0 loss to Penn State on Dec. 2. Credit: Nick Hudak | For the Lantern

The No. 6 Ohio State men’s hockey team (15-5-4, 8-5-1-0 Big Ten) split its weekend series against No. 13 Penn State (13-8-3, 6-5-3-2 Big Ten) in State College, Pennsylvania, dropping Friday’s game 5-2 , then rebounding with a 5-1 win the next day.

Game One

Penn State sophomore goaltender Peyton Jones made 45 saves on 47 shots in a 5-2 win against Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ loss ended their season-high six-game win streak.

Penn State struck early in the opening period when sophomore forward Denis Smirnov fired a shot past Ohio State redshirt junior goaltender Sean Romeo 5:18 in the first period to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead.

Later in the period, the Nittany Lions got loose on a two-on-one breakaway. Smirnov feathered a cross-crease pass to sophomore forward Nate Sucese, putting the Penn State up by two goals near the end of the first period.

Ohio State mounted multiple fruitful offensive attacks in the second period.

Early in the period, the Buckeyes capitalized on a power play. Buckeyes junior forward and captain Mason Jobst put in a rebound off a shot from sophomore forward Tanner Laczynski, making it a one-goal game.

Penn State struck back with a power-play goal of its own, when freshman forward Evan Barratt found the back of the net at 7:46 of the second period.

The back-and-forth play continued with another power-play goal for the Buckeyes. Jobst showed patience in the slot before sniping it into the top corner of the goal, over the glove of Jones. It was Jobst’s second goal on the power play.

Ohio State had 22 shots in the second period, totaling 37 through the opening two periods.

Penn State made a push in the third period that began began with the power play. Penn State junior forward Andrew Sturtz skated through the slot, dragged the puck through the Buckeye defense and beat Romeo with a quick shot through the five-hole to restore the two-goal lead.

Barratt added an empty-net goal, his second goal and third point of the night, to ice the game for Penn State.

Ohio State’s special teams were seemingly at the center of everything that happened Friday night. The Buckeyes went 2-for-4 on the power play, but went 1-for-3 on the penalty kill.

Romeo made 31 saves in Ohio State’s loss.

Game Two

The Buckeyes enacted their revenge in the second game, snapping Penn State’s 11-game unbeaten streak in a 5-1 victory.

Head coach Steve Rohlik made some drastic changes to the starting lineup before the game, starting freshman goalie Tommy Nappier and removing Jobst from the first line. It was Nappier’s third career start and Big Ten debut.

Ohio State capitalized on a turnover early in the first period when junior forward Freddy Gerard found Laczynski on the backdoor for the sophomore’s 11th goal of the season on the backdoor to give the Buckeyes a one-goal lead.

After a long shift in the Buckeye zone, Penn State sophomore forward Nikita Pavlychev found the puck through a crowd and beat Nappier between the legs to tie the game at one.

Later in the period, a major penalty was called on Sturtz for kneeing Ohio State senior defenseman Janik Moser, giving the Buckeyes a five-minute power-play. Moser did not return to the game.

Sophomore forward Ronnie Hein made a backhand pass from his knees to set up Gerard on the far post to score Ohio State’s second goal of the game.  

Shots favored Ohio State 14-11, which helped the Buckeyes stake out to a  2-1 lead heading to the second period.

The Buckeyes started the second period right where they left off the first, with a power-play goal. Junior forward Dakota Joshua tipped in a shot from sophomore defenseman Gordi Meyer to give Ohio State its second power-play goal and a 3-1 lead.

Shortly after, Penn State senior forward James Robinson had a breakaway chance as he burst out behind the Ohio State defense, was hooked and awarded a penalty shot. Nappier made the save on the Penn State captain to keep the two-goal lead entering the third period.

The third period was all Buckeyes, who added two goals late in the period to seal the victory.

Gerard and Laczynski both finished with three points in the win. Nappier was solid, making 30 saves on 31 shots, while Jones made 33 saves on 37 shots in the losing effort.

The Buckeyes will have next week off before hosting arch-rival Michigan for a two-game weekend series, which begins at 7 p.m. Jan. 26. Both games will be held at the Schottenstein Center.   

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