PITTSBURGH -- If there's a team Penn State football fans have come to recognize as their primary Big Ten rival, it's Ohio State.
The schools have met on the gridiron 28 times and have split those meetings almost down the middle. Ohio State leads the all-time series 15-13 (including vacated wins) and many of the games have been played with significant Big Ten championship implications.
With that history as a backdrop, the two schools met for the first time as NCAA hockey opponents on Saturday in the consolation game of the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center. And after the Nittany Lions earned a 5-4 victory, opinions were mixed about whether the programs, both set to join the new Big Ten hockey conference next season, can build a rivalry on the ice to complement their football-rooted hostilities.
"Coming into Penn State, you know that rivalry's already there with the football team and the other organizations at the school," forward Casey Bailey said. "I think to start that up in hockey is huge for us."
The two schools' backgrounds in hockey are significantly different, though.
Penn State is in its first year of NCAA competition, while Ohio State has been playing at the top level since 1963. The Buckeyes have six NCAA tournament appearances and a Frozen Four on their resume, while the Lions have yet to sniff such accomplishments.
So while his player was prepared to dub Ohio State a rival, coach Guy Gadowsky was more reserved on the issue.
"I think rivalries happen through not just geographics but other things," Gadowsky said. "I think a little bit more has to happen for this to develop into a true rivalry."
In the mean time, Ohio State associate head coach Steve Rohlik respects what Penn State is trying to build.
"Guy does a fantastic job," Rohlik said. "Look at his track record. That team's going to be reckoned with from day one."