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Men’s Hockey: Ohio State fails to bring same fire as Penn State in Big Ten tournament loss

Ohio State then-freshman goaltender Tommy Nappier covers up a puck during Ohio State’s 4-0 win against Wisconsin on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. Credit: Nick Hudak | For The Lantern

With 3:37 left in the first period, Penn State junior forward Liam Folkes found an opening, racing across the ice. In between him and the Nittany Lions’ first goal of the game was one player: Ohio State sophomore goalie Tommy Nappier.

Nappier represented what has gone well for the Buckeyes defensively, carrying a 93.7 percent save percentage, second best in the country. Folkes, coming into the game with 17 goals this season, represented one of the more aggressive offenses in the country: averaging 4.59 goals per game, best in the country.

This Penn State and Ohio State matchup has happened before, with the Buckeyes winning three of the four matchups earlier in the season. So Ohio State knew what Penn State was going to look like, and so did the Nittany Lions with the Buckeyes.

Folkes had an opportunity to set the tone for the Nittany Lions early, to give his team an early advantage against an Ohio State team that had won the past three meetings.

And that is what he did, making Nappier miss at goal and tucking it in the back of the net for the first score of the game, one of five goals on the night for the Nittany Lions in a 5-1 shellacking of Ohio State.

“Once they scored the first goal, we had a disappointing end to the first period, that’s for sure,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. “That’s a good hockey team there. They are going to capitalize and they did.”

What ensued was a Penn State offense that was aggressive, outshooting the Buckeyes 26-18 in the first two periods, creating a 3-0 deficit heading into the final period.

At points, Nappier, who made 31 saves on the night, did his best to keep Ohio State in the game.

After senior defender Sasha Larocque was assessed with a major penalty, leading to his ejection, Ohio State faced a five-minute penalty kill. In that span, Penn State attempted eight shots — two blocked by senior defender Tommy Parran and senior forward Brandon Kearney and six saved by Nappier.

But with 10 seconds to go, Penn State junior defender Kris Myllari passed the puck to senior forward Chase Berger who passed the puck to an open junior forward Brandon Biro for the third goal of the game.

Senior forward Mason Jobst said Ohio State did not start pushing its own offensive pace until late in the second and third periods. In the third period, the Buckeyes outshot the Nittany Lions 14-10.

To Jobst, he could see the fire that Penn State played with was something that Ohio State did not have.

“We talked about Penn State being desperate. That’s because if they lost tonight, their season was actually over,” Jobst said. “And as much as I hate to say it, maybe we didn’t have that desperation because we kind of knew we were in the tournament.”

Over the next two weeks, waiting for the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes now have an opportunity to use that same fire, the same offensive energy Penn State used against them.

And to Jobst, that mentality comes down to him and the rest of the senior class.

“Our lives are on the line every game from here on out, so I think we are going to bottle this up, we had another chance for another ring and that’s past us and we have one more chance,” Jobst said. “That’s desperate hockey in front of us.”

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