Penn State came into this game looking for their first ever win in Columbus on the ice, after splitting a series with the #15 Minnesota Golden Gophers last weekend. The Lions started hot, with Tommy Olczyk putting the first goal home just 31 seconds into the game. They continued the onslaught, sending shot after shot at Christian Frey, but the sophomore net minder held firm and kept the Lions off the board for the rest of the period. Later on the in period, Ohio State would tie things up on the first of two goals by Matthew Weis.
The second period saw a shift in the momentum. The Nittany Lions still held the shooting advantage in pure volume alone, but the quality of the chances decreased dramatically. On the other side, Ohio State was starting to find more and more space to work with, and eventually took advantage of some poor defensive play by Penn State to tally home two more goals. Penn State would add one in the period as well, off the stick of Dylan Richard.
Trailing 3-2 in the third period, the Lions came out firing once again. However, the trend that began in the second period, continued in the third. The Buckeyes started skating more and more freely and with ever-growing confidence. The Bucks were able to put home two more goals in the period to take a commanding 5-2 lead. Penn State got a late goal thanks to captain Patrick Koudys in what was his first goal of the season, but it wasn't enough to get them back in the game.
Before most of the fans had even taken their seats, Penn State found themselves ahead. After slipping away from his defender, Tommy Olczyk found himself sitting right in front of a wide open net, and a rebound bouncing his way. The senior calmly tucked the puck inside the netting to cash in his seventh goal of the season. It was a fantastic start for the Nittany Lions, who need a strong showing this weekend in order to keep themselves in the running for first place in the Big Ten.
After Olczyk's goal, Penn State kept the offensive pressure turned up. Shot after shot came flying in, as the big men in front of the net were searching for deflections. Despite their best efforts, goalie Christian Frey proved to be up to the task, and kept his team in the game. The Buckeyes nearly tied things up on a Nick Oddo breakaway, but P.J. Musico was up to the challenge, and made a beautiful save (not the last he would make on the night) to keep the lead in tact. There would be a follow up attempt on the resulting rebound, but the defense was able to deflect the shot away to protect their goalie.
Soon after, Scott Conway and Luke Stork of the Buckeyes would take offsetting minor penalties to set up some four on four hockey. Just as the teams were about to move back to full strength, Matthew Weis took advantage of a Penn State lapse on defense, showed off his very quick hands and five-holed Musico to tie things up.
A few minutes later, Max Gardner was called for tripping to send Ohio State and their "worst in the Big Ten" power play unit out onto the ice to try and break Penn State's 3rd ranked (in the Big Ten) penalty killing unit. Predictably, the Lions were able to hold down the fort, and the team traded shot attempts for the rest of the period after that.
After One: Penn State 1 Ohio State 1
The second period didn't start off well for Penn State, as Casey Bailey took a tripping penalty just 35 seconds into the period. This, of course, prompted one very stupid Black Shoe Diaries tweeter (who shall remain nameless) to tweet this..
The Lions have the third best penalty kill in the Big Ten, while Ohio State has the worst powerplay in the Big Ten. #Mismatch— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) February 28, 2015
Of course, you can probably guess what happened next.
...you can blame us for that one. Ohio State scores after some very nice passing. 2-1 Buckeyes.— Black Shoe Diaries (@BSDtweet) February 28, 2015
Senior Tanner Fritz put home the power play goal on a very well set up play by the Buckeyes. Very smooth and crisp passing left Fritz all alone in front of the net to simply redirect a strong pass sent his way straight past Musico to put the Bucks up 2-1. Not only did it give Ohio State the lead, but it gave them their first goal with the man advantage in their past five contests.
Penn State would go on the power play right after the goal, but weren't able to do anything with it. The Lions did find themselves about to be down 3-1 though, when P.J. Musico made a brilliant save.
Despite the save, Ohio State kept the momentum on their side. Penn State found themselves firing the puck at the net more often, but the Buckeyes were doing a better job with finding open lanes to shoot and making Musico work. Eric Sheid had a chance to tie things up for the Lions right in front of the net, but was stoned by Frey. The Bucks then found themselves up 3-1 after all, as Matt Weis found the back of the net once more when he was left uncovered in the middle and deked his way past Music for the easy backhand goal.
Though they were getting dangerously close to losing control of the game, Penn State struck back. Scott Conway took the puck away in the middle of the ice and proceeded to fire on one net. Frey was able to absorb most of the blow, but the puck still found its way over his shoulder and bounced slowly towards the net. Sophomore Dylan Richard won the race to the puck, and was there to tap it home to put the Lions within one. It was an impressive play by the British freshman, Conway, who was coming off of a two-goal game in the overtime win over Minnesota.
The rest of the period continued in similar fashion, with Ohio State finding good chances, but Music keeping things in line for the time being. Penn State went into the break needing a jolt of energy to bring out in the third to have a chance at grabbing a victory.
After Two: Ohio State 3 Penn State 2
Coming into this game, Ohio State had an impressive record when leading in the third period, going 8-0 in such situations. The Lions would need to break that streak in order to continue their climb up to Michigan and Minnesota in the Big Ten standings.
As the final frame got going, Casey Bailey missed tying things up by a few inches on a wrap around attempt. The net was open for just a split second before Frey closed it down with his pads. On the other end, Musico countered Frey's save with one of his own on a point blank shot attempt from about six feet out. Scott Conway was sent to the box for elbowing a few minutes later, but Penn State was able to hold the lead. In fact, the Lions nearly put home a short handed goal to tie the game.
With 8:02 gone by in the third period, Ohio State struck with what would prove to be the deathblow. Sophomore defenseman Josh Healey stood with the puck in front of the blue line and decided to send a shot in. It was't a particularly hard or deceptive shot, but the massive amount of traffic in front of the net made it impossible for Musico to see it coming. The puck snuck inside the bar to put the Buckeyes up 4-2. Less than a minute later, they would tally again. This time, freshman Luke Stork stole the puck away in Penn State's end, danced across the middle of the ice and fired it in with a wrist shot off the crossbar.
With hope all but lost, Penn State did manage to give the fans a feel-good moment for the night. Senior captain, Patrick Koudys, was fed a pass on the far side of the ice, and decided to one time it towards Frey. Whether it was from the pass or the shot itself, the puck fluttered in mid-air, making it tough for Frey to get a beat on it. The dancing rubber flew over Frey's shoulder and into the crossbar before deflecting downwards behind the goal line. After a brief review, it was found that Koudys had scored his first goal of the season.
With three minutes remaining, Guy Gadowsky decided to mimic Patrick Roy's playbook and pull Musico in favor of the extra attacker. The six man attack was fearlessly attacking the net putting shot after shot into play. David Glen missed a goal to pull the team within one by centimeters, as his deflection attempt hit the post and shot out wide. A tripping penalty on Matt Weis gave Penn State a six on four for the final 1:26 of the game. They fought hard and got a few more shots on net, but couldn't breach Frey's defenses. The Buckeyes picked up their tenth win of the season, and their fifth Big Ten win.
Third Star ★★★- Anthony Greco
The junior forward from Queens did a great job setting the tempo all night, and was rewarded with two assists to go with his six shots on goal.
Second Star ★★- Matthew Weis
The freshman from Freehold, NJ was a spark plug for the Buckeyes all night, and found himself in the perfect position to take advantage of some lackadaisical play from the Penn State defense. He showed off his famously quick hands while putting home two goals on four total shots.
First Star ★- Christian Frey
The sophomore net minder played an outstanding game and was only beaten due to a missed assignment by his defenders, a puck that snuck over his shoulder and was barely tapped in before being knocked away and what might have just been a knuckle puck. Frey was outstanding all night, blocking shots of all kinds, including some right up in his grill from one of the best front lines in college hockey. He ended the night with 46 saves.
- The teams will be back at it tomorrow night at 7:00. The Lions will be looking for a split in what could be considered a must-win game. As things stand right now (with Michigan State beating Minnesota 1-0), the Lions will drop to fourth place in the Big Ten. With the final two series coming against Michigan and Minnesota, Penn State needs to grab any wins they can. The game will be broadcast on the American Sports Network, but will also be available on BTN2Go.
- Check out Penn State's Men's Hockey's recap of the game.