Penn State hadn’t faced much adversity this year when it comes to wins and losses before a 3-0 setback at the hands of Big Ten rival Ohio State on Friday night.
Nittany Lions coach Guy Gadowsky had to be curious about how his team would respond Saturday night in the rematch against the No. 11 Buckeyes. In the end, he likely got more than he expected in that regard.
The No. 2 Nittany Lions opened a 3-0 lead in the third period, but had to hold on until the very end, shrugging off two Ohio State power-play goals on the way to a 4-2 victory at Value City Arena in Columbus.
“That’s a really big win for us,” Gadowsky said after his team improved to 14-2-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten. “That’s a tough team to play against, and we actually thought we had it in the bag. (Ohio State) didn’t give it up at all. They just kept coming and made it a very tight hockey game. Give them a lot of credit, but I’m very happy to get all three points here tonight.”
It might have helped Penn State that the shutout loss in the series opener wasn’t a bad performance by any stretch. The Nittany Lions held the shot advantage and played well in Gadowsky’s eyes, so there was no panic button to press.
In the finale, the Nittany Lions just stuck to the game plan that has moved them up the rankings all season, firing 43 shots in all at Ohio State goaltender Christian Frey and getting goals from Brandon Biro, Erik Autio, Ricky DeRosa and Chase Berger.
“We just wanted to keep playing our game,” Penn State captain David Goodwin said. “Being captain, I just made sure everyone was focused. We didn’t want to get away from our game plan. We felt confident if we played Penn State hockey, we’d have a good result.”
Ohio State’s captain, Nick Schilkey, scored twice in a 43-second span for the Buckeyes (10-3-4, 2-2-0-0) to bring the home team back into the game, but Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones held strong with 13 saves in the third on the way to a total of 24 in the win.
After the Nittany Lions had been shut out for the first 84 minutes and change in the series, Biro started the scoring early in the second. Goodwin fired in transition off the pad of Frey, who kicked the rebound into the slot for Biro to shovel home at 4:10 for his fourth goal of the year.
The rest of the second period could have been a game changer either way thanks to penalties, but both penalty kills did their job. Penn State’s nation’s best PK stopped a pair of two-man advantages for the Buckeyes, including one of 1:37, while Ohio State killed a full five-minute major after a contact to the head penalty taken by senior defenseman Josh Healey.
Autio went from potential goat to hero early in the third. The Penn State defenseman coughed up the puck at the offensive blue line in the opening moments to give OSU a 2-on-0, but Jones stopped Schilkey’s shot. Shortly thereafter, Autio picked the pocket of Buckeyes forward Ronnie Hein and led a two-on-one the other way, finishing with a shot past Frey’s glove from the left circle at 3:10.
Then at 7:57, DeRosa beat Frey to the blocker on a short-handed rush, a goal that at the time seemed to ice the game, but would eventually stand as the winner.
That’s because Penn State found itself into more penalty trouble midway through the third, and Schilkey made it 3-1 at 9:42 when he ripped a shot past Jones from the top of the right circle during another two-man advantage.
With OSU still on a power play, Schilkey struck again at 10:25, converting his team-best 15th goal past Jones from in close on a pass from Miguel Fidler.
Penn State collected itself, though, and Berger scored into an empty net in the final second to ice the win.
“We knew what they were going to bring,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “Our guys just hung in there and hung in there, and even when we got down three, to come back and get those two goals, we had plenty of time to tie it up. I give our guys credit for battling all night, and we just came up a little short tonight.”
Big Ten roundup
Wisconsin 5, Michigan State 1
Recent World Junior Championship gold medalist Luke Kunin scored twice in the second period to break a 1-1 tie for the Badgers as they finished the sweep of MSU with a 5-1 win. Seamus Malone, Peter Tischke and Matt Ustaski also scored for the Badgers, who got 23 saves from Matt Jurusik. Michigan State, which lost its seventh in a row, got a power-play tally from Carson Gatt.