No. 15 Men’s Hockey Falls To Ohio State 7-4 In Senior Day Game Filled With Streaks
The excitement of THON weekend across the street didn’t take anything away from the Roar Zone, who showed up ready for hockey’s senior day and its last home game of the season arguably the loudest we’ve ever heard them. A few questionable calls from the referees, the urgency of senior day, and determination in general lit a fire under Penn State, taking them from 0-3 to 4-3 against Ohio State. Unfortunately, it was a game filled with streaks, and after the Nittany Lions got hot, the Buckeyes went on another 3 point run and tallied an empty netter for a 7-4 final score. Seniors David Glen, Tommy Olczyk, Kenny Brooks, Eric Scheid, Curtis Loik, Luke Juha, Connor Varley, and Matt Skoff gave us a thriller to remember in their farewell to Pegula on Saturday.
How it Happened
Penn State started out uncharacteristically weak on the offensive front. Its first shot on goal of the game came in with 11:29 left in the first. The outlook was bleak for the Nittany Lions as the Buckeyes opened up scoring with three in a row early on. Penn State wasn’t making the necessary transition from defense to offense, and it showed through a lack of presence around Ohio State’s goal. The team that survived a five-on-three last weekend looked pretty different in this first period, but Kevin Kerr and seniors Scheid Olczyk kept hope alive with consistent effort.
The Nittany Lions woke themselves and the rest of Pegula up with a late-period surge of shots. Hungry to get on the scoreboard, Olczyk connected with speedy Scheid who fed it to a net-front Chase Berger with 1:54 left in the first. A flurry of shots after that had the team skating into the second period with momentum after a disheartening 17 minutes of hockey.
Penn State entered the second on a more assertive tone. It improved in all aspects, most notably clearing the puck and shoveling it out of harm’s way, a necessary step before offense can even start firing off chances. A previously shaky Matt Skoff denied Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey a shorthanded breakaway chance with 14:10 left in the period. Pegula roared in protest as a trailing ref sent Erik Autio to the box for cross-checking about halfway through the second.
Penn State killed the penalty, building up the crucial confidence it lacked early in the game. Andrew Sturtz finally translated the comeback efforts into tangible results when he skated past the entire Ohio State defense and slotted the puck past Tomkins with 9:17 left in the second to dwindle the Buckeyes’ lead to 3-2. Calls got questionable once again when Vince Pedrie was shoved to the ground and the refs were silent with 7:09 left in the pivotal period. The Roar Zone ensured that official knew what they really thought with a “if you’re blind and you know it you’re a ref” chant.
A pair of penalties for both teams followed by another Ohio State interference call put Penn State on a 4-on-3 extra man opportunity for 50 seconds with 5:40 left in the second. David Goodwin capitalized on the powerplay, sniping a 3-3 equalizer in with 4:51 left in the period. His efforts and Skoff’s sharpened-up game between the posts put fans on the comeback alert. Penn State snatched another power play opportunity with 1:55 left in the second, and a quick breakaway almost put the Nittany Lions in the lead, but the teams closed out the middle period tied 3-3.
Skoff started the final twenty minutes of play with the same confidence he built up throughout the game. A sprawling save kept Penn State in the game and gave offense an opportunity to do its thing. Kerr’s consistency throughout the game paid off with a top shelf beauty that put Penn State up 4-3 at 17:07 and closed scoring for the Nittany Lions. Shortly after, the Buckeyes’ Weis tied it back up 4-4 with 15 minutes to play. Ohio State’s Wiitala took notes from Kerr for a lead-stealer of his own, a shifting the scoreboard 5-4 in favor of the Buckeyes with 14:17 left. Penn State’s fifth power play of the game was fruitless and Weiss rung one off the post in his decisive second goal of the game, putting Ohio State up 6-4 with 5:05 left in the third. Gadowsky pulled Skoff with 2:32 left in regulation, and the Buckeyes decided to add insult to injury with an empty-netter for a final 7-4 score.
Despite the score, seniors gave it their all, most notably Scheid and Olczyk chipping away on the offensive front and Skoff with some mid-game saves.
Player Of The Game
Guy Gadowsky said it best in his post-game presser: “Kevin Kerr is smarter than everybody.” His hockey IQ has led to an early adaption to Division I hockey. He had most of the team’s early chances and gave Penn State its only lead of the game.
The Nittany Lions head to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers again after sweeping them in Pegula Jan. 8-9.