The Ohio State men’s hockey team (8-16-2, 3-7-2) will want to put a disappointing weekend at home in the past as it gets set to travel to Penn State (18-8-4, 8-5-1) for the first time this season.
The last time the two sides met was back on Jan. 23 in Columbus. That contest ended in a 5-1 Buckeye victory, and OSU will be looking for a repeat performance at the Pegula Ice Arena in State College, Pennsylvania.
OSU coach Steve Rohlik said the team is looking to get off to a strong start this weekend to avoid the large deficits early on, which is what happened against Minnesota on Saturday.
“If we’re determined and we play desperate, we’re a pretty good hockey team,” Rohlik said. “We just kind of ran out of time there on Saturday, but we put ourselves in a big hole against a team like (Minnesota), a 4-1 lead. It’s tough to come back even though all of us believed we could’ve.”
The Nittany Lions enter the series with a three-game unbeaten streak. The nation’s fifth-ranked offense scored five goals or more in two of those contests. Penn State’s last time out was a 2-2 tie against Michigan State, but eventually, it would grab the victory in the shootout.
OSU senior defenseman and co-captain Craig Dalrymple said he isn’t stressing too much about any drastic changes to the game plan despite the Nittany Lions’ offense prowess.
“We’re just going to keep to our game,” Dalrymple said. “We know they shoot the puck.”
Because of that, OSU will try to keep Penn State’s offense outside of the area right next to the goal. Outside shots and those from the safe areas are the ones the Buckeyes are “OK with,” Dalrymple said.
“We know shots are going to come, but we’ve just got to limit the Grade-A opportunities,” he said.
Rohlik said he hopes to bring some uniformity to the Buckeyes’ play. The last five games have been a mixed bag for the Scarlet and Gray, with two wins and three losses, including Friday’s overtime defeat.
“You guys can see it. We play good then all of a sudden, it’s like a turnover you just can’t explain, and it ends up being in the back of our net,” Rohlik said. “It’s some of the little things that end up costing us. If you could take back 50 seconds of a hockey game, all of a sudden that’s three goals.”
On the other hand, an example of consistency is junior forward David Gust, who has 16 points over his current 15-game point streak. He currently leads the Buckeyes with 20 assists and 27 points this season.
Power play powers
It will be a battle of power play offense versus shorthanded defense in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions currently lead the Big Ten in penalty kills with 46. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are tied for second in the conference with 10 power play goals. The Nittany Lions are also dangerous offensively while shorthanded, leading the nation with 10 shorthanded goals.
Gust currently leads the Buckeyes with 11 power play points, coming from two goals and nine assists. Fellow junior forward and co-captain Nick Schilkey leads OSU in power play scoring with five goals.
Schilkey highlighted his disappointment with the lack of points gained from the Minnesota series, but he said he is looking forward to facing the Nittany Lions once again.
“We’ve got to get back out there and get back to our game,” Schilkey said. “It’s frustrating to drop another two games to Minnesota. They’re a good team in our league, but we have another chance to play another good team in our league this weekend. We’re going to get back out there and get those points back.”
The goals keep coming
Despite their struggles on defense, the Buckeyes have still been scoring goals at a high rate. They have scored three goals or more in four of their last five games, which includes the 5-1 win against the Nittany Lions back in January.
The Buckeye offense will have to challenge Penn State’s standout junior goaltender Eamon McAdam once again, who currently leads the conference with a .931 save percentage. Even with his solid play, the plans put in place to score goals stays the game, Schilkey said.
“You’ve got to get shots on them, work them down low,” he said. “Get them moving side to side. Just like any other goalie.”
The puck is set to drop at the Pegula Ice Arena at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and again on Saturday at 3 p.m.