Penn State Men’s Hockey Series Grades: Ohio State
No. 9 Penn State hit the road to face No. 7 Ohio State this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio following a rough start to the 2023 calendar year.
The Nittany Lions entered the weekend 1-4-1 in their last six games, but with big implications atop the Big Ten standings, the beaten and battered Nittany Lions pulled off a series split.
The blue and white were victorious 4-3 in game one and fell 4-2 in the finale in another highly-competitive series between these two programs.
Let's take a look at how each positional group fared in the split.
While Penn State does not consider its way of hockey to be getting as many shots as possible, that is exactly what the Nittany Lions have done all season.
The Nittany Lions have outshot opponents in all but three games during the 2022-23 campaign, and all three of those times have been against the Buckeyes with two of them being this weekend.
Over the two-game set, the blue and white shot the puck 60 times, a number well below the 41 shots per game that it was averaging heading into Columbus.
Though the number of attempts was less, the Nittany Lions were able to beat Buckeye netminder Jakub Dobes six times over the weekend, five of which came from the forwards.
Connor MacEachern and Kevin Wall each lit the lamp twice in the series opener, while Tyler Gratton was the lone forward to score in game two. A big reason for this was the ability to find more high-danger chances compared to the last couple of series.
Following the Notre Dame series, now two series ago, the Nittany Lion defensive pairings wanted to get more involved in the attacking zone. While that goal was unsuccessful in Ann Arbor, the blue and white defense created offense in Columbus.
Christian Berger, Dylan Gratton, Simon Mack and Carter Schade all recorded assists in the four-goal effort on Friday night. Paul DeNaples kept the defense involved on Saturday as he set up Tyler Gratton right on the door-step of Dobes as part of the first Nittany Lion comeback in the finale.
The second lead Penn State erased in game two came as defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. found the back of the net for the fourth time this season.
That emphasis on offense could have been used on defense as well for the Penn State defensive pairings.
The Ohio State forwards had too much time and space that resulted in high-quality opportunities. One of those occasions was when Tate Singleton was left alone next to Liam Souliere and with no one around him redirected the game-winning shot in the second game.
For the first time since mid-October, the Nittany Lions rolled with a new starting goaltender in Noah Grannan.
Grannan made his third collegiate start, and despite looking jumpy at times, the freshman netminder made the most of the opportunity. The Wisconsin native stopped 32-of-35 shots en route to the third victory of his campaign.
As the Buckeyes pressured Grannan following Wall’s second goal in game two, Grannan showed poise and composure, not allowing the hostile environment to get the best of him.
Souliere was back in net for the finale, and after allowing nine goals in the previous series against Michigian, he looked more like the Mike Richter and Hobey Baker watch lists nominee.
The junior netminder allowed three goals while making 33 saves in a bounceback performance in Columbus.
Injuries have plagued the Nittany Lions as of late with Jarod Crespo joining Ryan Kirwan, Connor McMenamin and Ben Schoen on the shelf during this weekend’s series.
Due to Crespo’s absence in the finale, Kenny Johnson dressed as the extra skater, leaving the Nittany Lions with just two healthy scratches in third-string goalie Doug Dorr and forward Carson Dyck.
With lineup shuffle after lineup shuffle, Guy Gadowsky and company did everything they could and more to lead Penn State to the road split against a top-10 opponent.
Injuries are not the only thing plaguing the Nittany Lions, as the season-long power play struggles continued against Ohio State. Penn State went 0-for-5 on the power play, albeit against the top penalty killing unit in the nation.
Gadowsky has two weeks to get his team right both in terms of health and mentality before returning to home ice to face No. 1 Minnesota.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors