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Preview/Open Thread: Penn State Hockey Takes On Ohio State

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After a grueling series with #10 Minnesota the team will travel to the Buckeye State for a pair of winnable games.

Photo Credit RIcky 'Giraffelover' Bortz

When: Friday 6:30 p.m. / Saturday 7 p.m.

Where: Value City Arena, Columbus, Ohio

Television: Friday-Big Ten Network/ Saturday-American Sports Network

Stream: btn2go.com

Playing on the road is always a challenge in Big Ten play. This weekend the Lions have a solid chance to win while away from home against Ohio State (9-17-2). Following a series-split at the Pegula Ice Arena during THON weekend against Minnesota, a road sweep is not out of the question. A sweep may be necessary if the Icers want to stay in contention for the top spot in the Big Ten.

Penn State has a record of 3-3 on the road in-conference this season. It has had a split in Michigan against a very good Wolverine squad, a sweep in Madison, Wisconsin, and was swept at Michigan State. With only this series and a pair against Minnesota remaining on the road schedule, the games this weekend have become critical. Ohio State has talent on the roster and could prove to be tough to beat this weekend.

Even with that being the case, Guy Gadowsky's chances of winning this weekend on the road are greater than what they will be on the final weekend in Mariucci Arena in the home of the #10 Pairwise ranked Gophers.

The trip to Minnesota on the final weekend of regular season play will be the toughest task of the entire season for the Nittany Lions. This was believed to be the case when the schedule was released in July and nothing has changed since then.

Entering the weekend Penn State is tied for third place in the Big Ten regular season standings with six games remaining. It will have a chance to close the gap against Michigan and Minnesota, the two teams it trails, in the coming weeks. There is a four-team race at this point for the top two spots in the Big Ten tournament. The top two teams will get a coveted bye in the first round.

The exciting events last weekend weren't limited to the overtime win against the Gophers on Saturday night. Once the game ended the players went across the street to the Bryce Jordan Center to take part in THON festivities. The winning ways for Guy Gadowsky's squad continued as it took home the THON team dance competition trophy.

Since We Last Met

On January 9, Ohio State beat the Lions at Pegula Ice Arena on a goal in the final minute of overtime. Following that game the teams have gone in different directions. Penn State ripped of an unbeaten streak of eight games, with a record of 6-0-2. The Buckeyes proceeded to lose the next six games. In the past four games the team from Columbus has found some success in splitting series against Wisconsin and a very strong Michigan team.

The rebuilding Buckeyes are currently in 5th place in regular season Big Ten standings with six games remaining on the schedule. It leads sixth-place Wisconsin by two points and trails fourth place by 13 points so the only positioning left to play for is to remain out of the cellar.

In the win over Michigan, Matt Johnson scored for the 11th and 12th time. Johnson also gained an assist on a Tanner Fritz goal that would turn out to be the game winner. Christian Lampasso and Tanner Fritz scored multiple points in the win as well.

Players to watch include Anthony Greco (14 goals 3 assists), NIck Schilkey (7 goals 9 assists), Matthew Weis (4 goals 11 assists) along with Lampasso,  Fritz and Johnson. The defense and net-minding has been a sore-spot for the team this year. Christian Frey (5-10-1 3.29 goals against average) and Matt Tomkins (4-7-1 3.29 goals against average) have split time between the pipes and each have had mediocre results.

Notes:

  • The comment section of this article will be used as the in-game open-thread discussion for the Friday night game.
  • Penn State's Scott Conway is second in Big Ten scoring for freshmen, topped only by Michigan's Dylan Larkin, a player likely to leave for the NHL before becoming an upper-classmen.
  • Tonight's game will be Ohio State's Teddy Bear Toss game, which will take place after the first intermission. The event will benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charity and Nationwide Children's Hospital.
  • Check out the 9th episode of the Penn State Hockey Story.