Know Your Enemy: No. 13 Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. No. 6 Ohio State
After taking five of six points from Wisconsin at Pegula Ice Arena last weekend, No. 13 Penn State men’s hockey will play another crucial Big Ten series against No. 6 Ohio State this weekend.
Although the Nittany Lions had plenty of success against the Buckeyes earlier this season, Ohio State boasts one of the best away records in college hockey. The Roar Zone prepared for this series by calling for a student section white-out and Penn State is one of the hottest teams in the country. Will these factors be enough to knock off the sixth-ranked team in the nation?
Ohio State (14-4-4, 7-4-1 Big Ten) currently sits in second place in the Big Ten with 22 points to its name. Penn State is two points behind the Buckeyes and could leap-frog them with a strong performance this weekend.
This certainly won’t be an easy task against one of the best road teams in the nation. The Buckeyes’ record away from home is 9-1-1; their only loss outside of Columbus came on October 7 against Wisconsin.
On paper, Ohio State has an extremely strong lineup that can hold its own with the best teams in the country. The danger man up front is Tanner Laczynski, who plays on the Buckeyes’ top line alongside Freddy Gerard and Matthew Weis. Laczynski is tied for second in the nation with 29 points in 22 games played; the sophomore needs just three points to match his production from the 2016-17 season.
Weis is second on the team with 23 points, followed closely by winger Mason Jobst (21 points), but after that, no other Buckeye forward has tallied more than 14 points. Based on the numbers, Ohio State’s attack may seem top-heavy, but there are plenty of others who can contribute and burn Penn State this weekend.
Dakota Joshua excelled at Pegula Ice Arena last year; he scored a goal and an assist and made an impact during every single one of his shifts. He’s fourth on the team with 14 points in 21 games and is listed as the team’s third-line center.
On the back end, the story of the Buckeyes’ season has been the strong play of goalie Sean Romeo. The redshirt junior transferred from Maine after the conclusion of the 2016-17 season and has dazzled in Columbus. His .927 save percentage ranks sixth in the country and he’s tallied a goals-against average of 1.94 through his first 20 starts.
Sasha Larocque and Wyatt Ege make up the top defensive pairing in front of him; the two veterans have combined for a +15 plus-minus rating so far this season.
Although some of the individual numbers may suggest otherwise, Ohio State is one of the strongest teams in all of college hockey. Excellent goaltending and the contributions of a star up front have helped the team build a strong NCAA tournament resume through 22 games.
As a team, the Buckeyes have allowed 45 goals in 22 games; their 2.05 goals-against average ranks fourth in the country. On paper, this looks like a matchup between an unstoppable force and an immovable object; Penn State’s 4.09 goals per game makes Guy Gadowsky’s squad the top scorers in the nation.
Penn State has shown in the past that it can score against the Buckeyes; the team put nine goals past Sean Romeo in two games in early December. There’s no reason to believe the Nittany Lions can’t do it again on home ice this weekend.
The sweep during the first weekend of December sparked Penn State’s current nine-game unbeaten run. Game one of the series ended in a 5-5 tie, but Penn State won a shootout to take the extra point in the Big Ten standings. The Nittany Lions came back the next afternoon and dominated all facets of the game, winning 4-0 in Peyton Jones’ first shutout of the season.
Anything can happen whenever Ohio State visits Hockey Valley; neither a Penn State sweep nor an Ohio State sweep would surprise me. However, I think a split is incoming, with Ohio State taking game one 5-4 and Penn State winning game two 4-1.