This weekend, the current leaders of the Big Ten will face off against the 2018-19 regular season champions.
Atop the conference standings, No. 6 Penn State will take on No. 11 Ohio State in a two-game series at Pegula Ice Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions have won three straight contests, tied for their longest winning streak of the young 2019-20 campaign. They are 5-1 in Big Ten play, and have swept two conference series thus far.
“We have nine wins, that’s all we’ve done, and that doesn’t get you anywhere,” Guy Gadowsky said. “Really, all we have is another opportunity Friday night to get another one.”
Penn State has been extremely consistent this season, scoring four goals or more in eight of its eleven games. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions have held their opponents below four goals in all but three contests.
“We just have the same mindset every game,” forward Kevin Wall said. “It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing, whether it’s a team not in the top 20 or it’s the No. 1 team in the country, I think you got to have the same mindset and you can’t take anyone lightly.”
Penn State is coming off a sweep of Minnesota last week in Minneapolis. The Nittany Lions crushed the Golden Gophers, winning 8-2 and 6-3.
“We took a lot of positives from that weekend,” forward Denis Smirnov said. “Hopefully we can translate [it] to games against Ohio State as well.”
The Buckeyes come into Happy Valley fresh off a sweep at the hands of Notre Dame. Despite the losing streak, Ohio State has a 6-3-1 overall record and a 2-2 Big Ten mark.
Penn State struggled against the Buckeyes in 2018-19, going 2-3. However, the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State 5-1 in a conference tournament semifinal matchup last March in Columbus.
“I think they play similar to us,” Smirnov said. “They play physical. They go up to the net, that’s where they score most of their goals.”
The Buckeyes have the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing fewer than two goals per contest. Veteran goaltender Tommy Napier, a goalie Penn State has struggled against in the past, ranks in the top 10 nationally in goals against average and save percentage.
Despite their opponent’s excellent statistics and shut-down defense, the Nittany Lions are focused on playing their style.
“As long as we have that mindset that we had against Minnesota [and] Wisconsin, I think its going to be a very special year for us,” Wall said.