The No. 6 Ohio State men’s hockey team (14-4-4, 7-4-1-0 Big Ten) will try to keep its win streak intact when it travels to State College, Pennsylvania, for a weekend series against a streaking No. 13 Penn State (12-7-3, 5-4-3-2 Big Ten) team Friday and Saturday.
Penn State hasn’t lost in regulation in 10 games, with the lone blemish coming in a 2-2 shootout loss to Michigan State. Ohio State has won its past six games, which include series sweeps of Big Ten rivals Michigan State and No. 9 Minnesota.
Ohio State’s last two losses came to the Nittany Lions in a series in early December. The Buckeyes lost in a shootout after a 5-5 tie in the first game and were shut out 4-0 in the next game.
“We’re different, they’re different from a month and a half ago and what not,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. “We’re going in there with the expectation that we got to go in there and play better, be better, to go in there and try and beat a good hockey team.”
Penn State boasts the top offense in the nation, averaging 4.1 goals scored per game. The Nittany Lion offense is led by junior forward Andrew Sturtz, who has 10 goals and 28 points in 21 games this season. Penn State sophomore forward Denis Smirnov has nine goals and 17 points in 14 games, while leading the team with five power-play goals.
Ohio State redshirt junior goalie Sean Romeo said he is ready for a Penn State offense that averages 40 shots per game.
“They shoot a lot, so I know what to expect on that front,” Romeo said. “I just have confidence from how we have been preparing and how we’ve been playing, so definitely feeling good going into the weekend.”
Rohlik said Penn State has relentless players who frequently push the puck in front of the net, and Ohio State will have to play strong defense to slow down the Nittany Lions’ attack.
“Everything is to the net, they crash the net, they’re relentless, they work extremely hard, they stick to their system. They are who they are. That’s what makes them great,” Rohlik said. “For us, we just need to be disciplined with our five-man defense… I think that’s the biggest thing, we can’t control, you know, Smirnov is gonna get loose and some of those guys are gonna get loose, but again, we’re concentrating on five guys, not just one.”
Ohio State holds one of the best road records of any team in the country at 9-1-1.
“I think for some reason our team just gets a little excited hearing that student section going against us,” Romeo said. “I think that give us a little boost. I know this weekend will be pretty hectic, so I think we’ll come out flying.”
Puck drop for the first game of the series will happen at 7:30 p.m. Friday and the second game will begin at 7:00 p.m. Saturday. Both games will take place at Pegula Ice Arena.