Sunday marked the third and final chapter of Penn State and Ohio State’s Round 1 series, and in the end it would be the Buckeyes who moved on in the Big Ten Tournament.
Ohio State scored three unanswered goals en route to a 3-1, series-clinching victory.
While the Buckeyes did ultimately take care of business, this outcome was far from certain halfway through the contest. The opening 30 minutes of play routinely broke the Nittany Lions’ way.
During the first period, Guy Gadowsky’s coaching staff successfully challenged a would-be goal by Buckeye Mason Lohrei. After deliberation from the officials, the score was removed due to goalie interference and the game remained tied at 0-0.
From this point on, the opening period went by without any major mistakes from the Nittany Lions. They kept the pressure off goalie Liam Souliere following his large workload 24 hours earlier, as the defense limited Ohio State to only five shots on goal during the opening frame.
The blue and white also initially prevented the Buckeyes from taking advantage of special teams chances, as the home team was unable to score on its first-period power play chance or during a 4-on-4 stretch.
This success sustained itself early in the second period when senior Kevin Wall scored in transition to give Penn State a 1-0 lead. However, this marked the only time the Nittany Lions got on the scoreboard all night. Eventually, the game’s momentum shifted over to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State was persistent, but first had to deal with another overturned score. Senior forward Tate Singleton believed he tallied a game-evening goal, but after another successful Penn State challenge, it was taken away because Singleton inadvertently kicked the puck into the net.
A second goal removed from the box score may have demoralized some teams, but Ohio State kept fighting. Following a tripping penalty against Nittany Lion freshman Dylan Gratton, the Buckeyes gained their third power-play opportunity of the game.
This time around, things worked out for them, as sophomore Cole McWard zipped the puck past Souliere to tie the game while Penn State was down a man.
Less than four minutes later, Ohio State struck again by creating an energized three-man rush which generated a go-ahead score by senior Scooter Brickey.
While there was still more than an entire period left to play, Penn State would never respond.
Eventually, it had to resort to emptying the net at the end of the third, but this only led to a third and final Ohio State goal that added insult to injury and officially sent Penn State home from the tournament.
The Nittany Lions attempted to mount a comeback during the final period, but never truly got anything going offensively.
After controlling the face-off dot by a sizeable margin across the first two periods, the Nittany Lions were now dead-even with their opponent, as each team won nine draws in the third.
Penn State also didn’t capitalize on any of its three power-play looks throughout the game, continuing its trend of falling behind on special teams against conference rivals.
Now with its tournament run having concluded, Penn State will hope its season continues in the NCAA Tournament.
After their series against Ohio State, the Nittany Lions slotted in at No. 8 in the PairWise rankings and No. 11 in the USCHO poll. Whether these are enough to secure an at-large bid to the big dance remains to be seen.
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