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Penn State Opens Big Ten Play Against Ohio State

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The Nittany Lions are back in the polls as they head to Columbus.

Russell Hons | North Dakota Athletics

A non-conference slate is typically used more as a tune up for conference opponents and to rack up wins that could prove to be the difference when the NCAA Tournament field is finalized.

That’s why, with all due respect to the likes of Long Island University and Niagara, Penn State welcomes the opportunity to face those teams of lower stature, to put it nicely.

With the Big Ten conference being what it is — arguably the strongest in the nation top to bottom — the Nittany Lions may not stand to gain much by scheduling, say, one of the most storied programs in college hockey history on a national stage.

“A very successful college coach once told me, ‘Don’t schedule yourself out of success,’” Gadowsky said ahead of Penn State’s one-off against No. 6 North Dakota.

Still, when the opportunity to put yourself back on the national stage presents itself, you’d be hard pressed to not accept. Suffice to say, the Nittany Lions made the most of that opportunity.

After defeating the Fighting Hawks 6-4 in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game in Nashville, the Nittany Lions climbed back into the national rankings at No. 16. Now they’ll look to stay there as they open Big Ten play this weekend against Ohio State.

Calling the victory monumental may be a stretch, but it should go down as one of the more important wins in Penn State’s still rather short history, not only because it snapped North Dakota’s seven-game winning streak in this destination game.

The Nittany Lions still find themselves in a sort of rebuilding/retooling/call-it-what-you-like year. The wounds of the 2019-20 team that was meant to win it all but never had the chance are still fresh in the minds of some in the program.

The anguish in last season’s sub-.500 record — their first since 2013-14 — are even fresher.

So to go to Nashville, with a crowd of 14,000-plus almost exclusively comprised of Fighting Hawks’ supporters, against a top-10 team and to come away with a rather convincing win? That ought to have the Nittany Lions riding high on confidence as they enter the main course of their schedule.

Scouting Ohio State

After a down year in 2020-21, the Buckeyes have gotten off on a better foot to start 2021-22, with a 4-2-0 record through six games.

The Buckeyes have been riding a strong defense that has allowed a Big Ten best 1.50 goals per game. Freshman Jakub Dobes has appeared in five games this season, posting a Big Ten leading .964 save percentage and 0.86 goals-against average.

On the attack, the Buckeyes return nine of their top 10 scorers from last season. Tate Singleton, who tied for second on the Buckeyes with six goals last season, currently leads the charge with three goals and five points. Travis Trealor, who led the team with 12 goals and 20 points last year, has just two goals and three points so far this year.