Guy Gadowsky’s Penn State hockey team is riding a ten-game streak without loss dating back to November 11. The Ohio State Buckeyes come to Hockey Valley having won its last six games, dating back to the last time the two teams met. In the first week of December the Lions traveled to Columbus and returned home with a win and a tie, including a shoot-out win, good for five of six possible points for the series.
This weekend OSU will try to return the favor, hoping to win a road series in the very competitive Big Ten conference. With the students returning from break earlier in the week, the Roar Zone should be packed and ready to make noise all weekend.
Game one of the series will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Pegula Ice Arena and will be broadcast on BTN-Plus. The second game of the series will be televised on the Big Ten Network on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The teams are currently both in position to make the NCAA tournament as at-large invitees, while there is a considerable amount of season yet to unfold. Ohio State is rated fifth in the PairWise and Penn State is in the No. 12 position. With Minnesota sandwiched between the teams, currently holding the No. 9 slot, a win for either team would keep it in the upper-tier of the national standings.
Notre Dame is running away with the Big Ten regular-season championship, holding a perfect 12-0 record, good for 36 points. Ohio State (22) and Penn State (20) are fighting for the next spot in the B1G standings, with a small gap opening up between the top three and Minnesota (14) and Wisconsin (14) at the midway point through the conference schedule.
The Buckeyes have been one of the top teams in the country defensively this season, holding opponents to 2.05 goals per game while scoring 2.95 goals per contest. Penn State is the top goal-scoring team in the country, averaging 4.09 per game while allowing three goals per game. In December the teams skated to a 5-5 tie on opening night before the Lions decimated the Buckeyes 4-0 the next night. While it is entirely possible for this series to go the same way for Penn State, it is not going to be easy against a team playing as well as OSU, looking for revenge.
The last time the teams met, Penn State was undergoing a great deal of adversity. Erik Autio was out with an injury. Offensive wizard Denis Smirnov was returning from injury and so too was Kevin Kerr, two key players for the team. Kevin Kerr made his return from injury for the series but has since been sidelined once again. Both Autio and Smirnov are back in the lineup, while Kerr is expected back very shortly. Goalie Peyton Jones was just coming out of a stretch of games where he struggled mightily the last time the teams met; now he is in mid-season form.
Ohio State was 7-3-2 in its twelve games prior to the last meeting, with two of the losses coming at the hands of a tough Notre Dame squad. Penn State broke up that streak and since OSU has been 6-0-0. That’s good for 13-1-2 if you back out the two series with the Fighting Irish and PSU. The Buckeyes have been one of the hottest teams in the nation, even with the in-conference setbacks.