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Penn State Men’s Hockey Drops Game One Of Big Ten Quarterfinals To No. 12 Ohio State 4-3

Penn State men’s hockey’s defensive struggles cost them a game one loss to No. 12 Ohio State in Columbus.

Despite outshooting the Buckeyes all night, the Nittany Lions were unable to overcome a rough ten-minute stretch between the second and third periods, as the Buckeyes now stand one win away from a trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

How It Happened

As the team announced earlier this week, sophomore goaltender Liam Souliere would make his third straight start, which was no doubt the biggest of his young collegiate career.

The Nittany Lions came out of puck drop as the aggressors in this one, outshooting Ohio State 5-0 in the first 90 seconds.

Both defenses were strong and physical early on, as there were no big scoring chances for either side in the first ten minutes.

The first penalty of the game was called on Buckeyes senior forward Jake Wise for tripping Penn State forward Tyler Gratton. Entering the game, the Nittany Lions were just one for their last 16 on the man advantage.

Despite the opportunity to strike first, Penn State’s struggles on the power play continued as Wise exited the box with the game still scoreless.

Ohio State, with momentum from the penalty kill, went the other way and had its best scoring chance of the game thus far, but a great save from Souliere kept the puck out and the game scoreless.

The Nittany Lions were gifted another man advantage with just over six minutes remaining in the first period. Senior defenseman Ryan O’Connell was whistled for a hit to the head on Penn State forward Christian Sarlo. The play was reviewed for a potential game misconduct but was deemed to be just a minor penalty.

Just eight seconds into the power play, freshman forward Ryan Kirwan was called for tripping, sending the game to 4-on-4 hockey for 1:52. Nothing came about for either team despite the extra skating room. The game returned to even-strength hockey for the final four minutes of the opening period.

A scoreless first period came to an end with Penn State leading in blocked shots (8-4), faceoffs (14-8), and shots on goal (15-8). The Nittany Lions were no doubt the better team in the first period but had nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.

The first big chance of the period came off a rush up the ice from a defensive zone faceoff by Penn State. Tyler Paquette rang one off the post, just missing the game’s first goal by a matter of inches.

Paquette’s strong shift continued as the forward drew a roughing penalty on Buckeyes defenseman C.J. Regula. Ohio State was able to kill the penalty with ease, staying a perfect 3-3 on the penalty kill for the first 24 minutes.

Five minutes into the second period, the game remained scoreless, with shots still in favor of Penn State 19-13.

Nearly ten minutes elapsed with no big scoring chances for either team and no penalties. Neutral zone hockey was a big factor in the second period.

For the second time in the period, the Nittany Lions stormed up the ice off of a defensive zone faceoff win. This time, it was Kevin Wall and Ben Schoen putting the pressure on the Buckeye defense. Despite some quality chances, nothing came about for the Nittany Lions.

Minutes later, Ohio State finally broke the scoreless tie with a breakaway goal 16 minutes into the second period. Georgii Merkulov netted his 19th goal of the season to give the Buckeyes a big 1-0 lead late in the second. The goal was assisted by C.J. Regula, his first of the season.

Less than two minutes later, Ohio State found the back of the net, once again, doubling its lead to 2-0. Graduate forward Eric Cooley beat Souliere for his fifth goal of the year. Patrick Guzzo and Cole McWard were credited with the assists.

The second period came to an end with Ohio State leading 2-0 after a late period surge. Goals by Merkulov and Cooley were the difference as Penn State’s problems finishing around the net continued. The Nittany Lions face an uphill battle in period three if they want to avoid dropping game one in a best-of-three series.

Despite the two-goal deficit, Penn State outshot the Buckeyes 32-22 after two periods.

Using the momentum from their late second-period charge, the Buckeyes continued to pull away in game one. It only took two minutes and nineteen seconds for senior forward Preston Quinn to give the Buckeyes a 3-0 lead early in the third.

Things slowly started to unravel for the Nittany Lions as no more than a minute later, Adam Pilewicz was whistled for a roughing penalty to put the Buckeyes on the man advantage up three goals. A good kill by the Nittany Lions sent the game back to even strength with just over 15 minutes remaining.

After a rough 10 minutes dating back to the end of the second, Penn State was finally rewarded for its efforts, offensively, finding the back of the net and cutting the Buckeye lead to two with just over 11 minutes remaining. Tyler Paquette was the goal scorer.

Penn State tacked on its second straight goal less than three minutes after its first. Connor McMenamin beat Dobes on the short side for his fifth of the season, cutting Ohio State’s lead down to one, entering the final ten minutes of the third period.

Trying to end Penn State’s run of unanswered goals, Ohio State, once again, got behind the Penn State defense for a breakaway. Georgii Merkulov blew by the Nittany Lion blue-liners again for his 20th of the season to give Ohio State its two-goal lead back.

It was a two-goal lead that didn’t last long, less than a minute later, Kenny Johnson picked a perfect time to score his first-ever collegiate goal, putting the Nittany Lions back within one. Connor MacEachern was given the sole assist on the play.

Gadowsky then elected to pull Souliere, giving Penn State the extra attacker with 2:17 remaining.

The Nittany Lions had their share of chances with the extra man, but nothing found the back of the net as time expired.

A late charge by Penn State proved not enough, as the Buckeyes held on to take game one 4-3. Total shots on goal were in favor of Penn State 52-31.

Takeaways

  • Freshman goaltender Jakub Dobes was solid for the Buckeyes in game one. He stopped all but three Penn State shots en route to his 21st win of the season. The Nittany Lions threw a lot at the young goaltender, but Dobes had the answer for everything. The freshman was a huge reason for Ohio States big win in game one. Fellow freshman Georgii Merkulov had himself a huge game, scoring two goals, including the game-winner to seal the win for the Buckeyes.
  • After a strong period and a half, Penn State’s defense failed in the latter stages of the game. The Buckeyes were consistently able to get behind the Nittany Lion defense, forcing Souliere to stand on his head more often than they’d like. A better defensive performance on their own end is needed if the Nittany Lions want to avoid elimination in game two.
  • While the penalty kill was excellent tonight for Penn State, its effort on the power play was disappointing. The Nittany Lions had four opportunities on the man advantage (including empty net time) and were unable to create any significant scoring chances. Special teams was a key heading into this series, and despite being given opportunities, Penn State was unable to convert.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions need a win in game two on Saturday night to keep their season alive. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. from Columbus on BTN+.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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