Coming off a split with the Spartans, Penn State (13-7-2) has a much tougher opponent this weekend when Ohio State (13-5-4) enters Hockey Valley. The Buckeyes are currently atop the Big Ten standings and are also No. 5 in the PairWise Rankings.
If you scroll down the PairWise Rankings you will find Penn State sitting at 16. It is far too early to make much of the standings; the Lions started last week outside the top-10, beat MSU on Friday night and were No. 8 on Saturday morning. A loss to the Spartans dropped Guy Gadowsky’s squad into the final position to make the NCAA tournament were the season to end now.
In reality a safe PairWise Ranking, in order to garner an at-large big to the NCAA tournament, is somewhere in the No. 12 or lower area. A few of the 16 bids will go to winners outside the top-16 that got a bid automatically by winning their conference title.
We will begin to get more specific about the moves up and down the standings in about a month, mid-February. For now we just give them a quick glance in order to notice how the incoming opponent has been playing up to this point.
Up to this point, Ohio State has played well.
Scouting The Buckeyes
While the 13-5-4 record of Ohio State does not look like a dominating effort, this is hockey, and their winning percentage is good for ninth in the country. The wins have come against some quality opponents as well. Initially the two wins versus Arizona State to open the season were not noteworthy but with the Sun Devils sitting at No. 12 in the rankings even that series was an impressive sweep on the road.
Ohio State is one of 3 teams to hand top-ranked Massachusetts a loss. Outside of a sweep of Wisconsin, the Buckeyes split with Notre Dame and Penn State, and played even with both Minnesota and Michigan State.
Mason Jobst leads the team with 25 points off 13 goals and 12 assists. Goalie Tommy Nappier is second in the nation with a .945 save percentage and OSU knows how to protect him with a team-wide defensive scheme. Sean Romeo played well in net last year and has been solid this season, platooning with Nappier. Romeo is 5-4-2 and Nappier is 8-1-2 this season.
- The game on Saturday was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. but with the weather expected to get rough later in the evening, the game was moved ahead to 3 p.m. in an effort to make travel a little safer.
- The Lions lead the nation with 4.86 goals scored per game and also are atop the shot charts with over forty per game.
- Coming into the season Penn State had 3 wins in program history versus top-5 opponents. This season the Lions have gone 2-2 against top-5 opponents and have a chance to improve that this weekend. It won’t be easy, the Buckeyes have just one road loss this season.
- Ohio State has 23 points in Big Ten play, the Lions have 17. With 6 points on the line, a sweep would put the Lions at or near the top of the standings, depending on how other games around the conference play out.
- With Aarne Talvitie out for the season and Evan Barratt not quite at 100% following his return from playing in the World Junior Championships, the impact of the two players taking part in the event is still being felt. Barratt’s legs were a little weak versus the Spartans with all the extra games while the rest of the league rested over Christmas. He should be back to full form this weekend.