Penn State Looks to Repeat Last Year’s Big Ten Quarterfinal Performance Against Ohio State
New year, same playoff scenario for the 10th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions as they get set to take on the No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus for the Big Ten quarterfinals.
Last season the blue and white went on the road and upset the Buckeyes to knock them out of the Big Ten tournament and eliminate them from NCAA contention, becoming the first Big Ten team to win a road playoff series in the process.
This season, the Nittany Lions will be looking to repeat that feat, but this time with an improved squad and a path to the NCAA tournament all but secured.
While Ohio State is seeking revenge, head coach Guy Gadowsky’s squad is strictly focused on what lies ahead.
“It's not necessarily drawing on from last year but drawing on this team this year and the experiences that we've had,” Gadowsky said. “We’re an excellent team … I think there should be a lot of reasons for us to feel we can absolutely go and win on the road.”
The blue and white currently sit eighth in the PairWise rankings, the computer-based ranking system used to determine which teams make the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.
Right behind the blue and white are the scarlet and gray at ninth in the rankings, and although both teams have essentially locked up a spot for postseason play, neither team is willing to look past this series.
“It’s another weekend series that we have to go do our best and hopefully finish it on Saturday,” freshman defenseman Dylan Gratton said.
Gratton is one of five freshmen skaters for the Nittany Lions who will be experiencing their first taste of Big Ten playoff action.
Even with the nerves and uncertainty going into the postseason for the first time, upperclassmen like fifth-year senior Paul DeNaples believe the healthy mix of youth and veteran leadership is the perfect balance heading into Columbus.
“It’s good because we have a lot of older guys but we also have a lot of younger guys contributing, especially on the back end,” DeNaples said. “And even now, like late games, these guys are on the ice in the last couple minutes in one-goal games, which is incredible to see and they're handling it well.”
A huge component in last year’s upset series win for the Nittany Lions was the emergence of then-sophomore goaltender Liam Souliere.
The Ontario native stopped 83-of-90 shots in the three-game series for a .922 save percentage, and took the momentum from that series into the beginning of this season.
Now nearly 365 days returned from the career-altering series, Souliere is solely focused on the future that lies ahead with the playoffs.
“I’m not really dwelling on the past too much because every year is different but it’s for sure an exciting time,” Souliere said. “I know for a fact they are going to want to have their revenge so it’s going to be a tough weekend for us.”
Seemingly every weekend when these two teams collide has been deemed as “tough,” with six of the last seven contests being decided by one goal.
Despite the two teams being neck and neck, Gadowsky is confident in his team’s ability to move on to the Big Ten semifinals.
“We know we're a good team. We know we can beat anybody in the Big Ten, which is the best conference,” Gadowsky said. “I think by looking at the rankings and the pairwise we've been able to beat everyone. So that's what gives us the most confidence.”
Joshua Bartosik is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Second Year /
Josh Bartosik is a Second Year student from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in broadcast journalism. He is in his second year at CommRadio. Josh has been featured on several articles and podcasts for CommRadio ranging across all sports and topics. Josh had the incredible opportunity to broadcast the Women’s Frozen Four Semifinal matchups at University Park last winter and the EIVA Men’s Tournament Semifinal last spring along with several other broadcasts. Josh has also been named as a co-host for the Sin Bin and Phone Booth, two talk shows featured at CommRadio. Josh’s dream career is to be a play by play broadcaster or journalist for the NHL, NFL, or College Football.