Hockey Preview: Ohio State
Eric Ohlson, George Stockburger and Brian McLaughlin take a look at this weekend's series between No. 1 Penn State the visiting Buckeyes. You can hear both games on CommRadio.
The Penn State men’s hockey team achieved a remarkable milestone in just their fifth year as a division-one program earlier in the week. On Monday, Penn State earned the team’s first-ever No. 1 national ranking, receiving 30 first-place votes in the latest USCHO poll.
The Nittany Lions jumped from No. 4 last week to the top spot after sweeping Michigan State, 5-2 and 5-3, last weekend. Penn State received 964 points, which were 81 more points than they had last week and 23 points ahead of No. 2 Denver, who dropped a game to No. 13 Western Michigan after being ranked the top team in last week’s poll.
The schedule for the new No. 1 team gets difficult right away though, as this weekend they will play host to No. 11 Ohio State for the second chapter of an exciting Big Ten rivalry. Ohio State will be looking to bounce back after a frustrating ending to their series against Arizona State, where they tied the Sun Devils in overtime.
The two teams split in their previous series just a couple of weeks ago with Ohio State, winning the first game 3-0 and then Penn State bouncing back the next night for 4-2 victory. The former game was the only time all season the Lions have been shutout.
The matchup will feature the two highest scoring teams in all of college hockey, with Penn State averaging 4.58 goals per contest, while Ohio State is just below them at 4.20 scores per game.
Both teams have also proven to be strong defensively. Penn State is much improved in this category from a year ago, only allowing a Big Ten low 2.00 goals per game. Ohio State, on the other hand, is giving up 2.75 goals per game, which is tied with Minnesota for second in the Big Ten.
The primary goaltenders for both teams have been outstanding thus far. Peyton Jones for Penn State and Christian Frey for Ohio State are saving 91.8% and 91.7% of their opponents’ shot attempts respectively. Frey, a senior, has much more experience than Jones, a true freshman, in these types of moments, so it will be interesting to see if Frey’s experience will be an advantage for the Buckeyes. Jones, however, has shown maturity beyond his years, especially in high-pressure situations.
Drew Brevig and Josh Healy anchor the Buckeyes defense. Brevig leads the team with 38 blocks on the season, while Healy is right behind him with 37. Healy is also dangerous offensively, as he is third on the team in assists with 14 on the year. Tommy Perran, Matt Joyuax, and Sasha Larocque round out a deep back line for the Buckeyes.
Penn State has a lot of young talent on defense. Trevor Hamilton and Kevin Kerr have both been superb thus far, compiling 45 and 32 blocks respectively. Hamilton is also third on the team in assists with 16, while Kerr has recorded 10 assists. Freshman Kris Myllari has been solid as well, and Erik Autio is really starting to play well for the Lions. Junior Vince Pedrie is also having another great year with 17 points.
The forwards for both teams have been as good as any unit in the country so far this season. The Buckeyes leading goal scorers are Nick Schilkey and David Gust with 17 and 12 goals a piece. Schilkey is third in the country in goals scored this season and in the top 25 nationally in total points. Mason Jobst and Tanner Laczynski lead the Buckeyes with 17 assists each. Both are also in the top-30 nationally in points scored. Matthew Weis, Dakota Joshua, and John Wiltala are other players to keep an eye on, as all three have recorded at least 11 assists this season.
For Penn State, freshman sensation Denis Smirnov has led the way all year. The Russian native has scored 11 goals and 18 assists this season, which is good for 12th nationally in total points. The Lions have a lot more than just him though. Sophomore Andrew Sturtz is the team’s leading goal scorer with 14, which is second in the Big Ten behind only Schilkey and 10th nationally.
Another player to watch is senior captain David Goodwin. He’s found the back of the net only twice this season, but he’s been a masterful set up man with 17 assists on the year. Sophomore Chase Berger has also been terrific with 10 goals and eight assists.
Then there’s a plethora of other talented freshman who’ve all made an immediate impact up front. Brandon Biro, Nate Sucese, Nikita Pavlychev, and Liam Folkes are all dangerous with the puck. Pavlychev was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL last year. Brett Murray, a freshman who just enrolled, was also drafted by the Buffalo Sabers. Murray recorded his first career assist last weekend and may begin to see a bigger role as he becomes more confortable in Penn State’s system.
Both teams have a lot of talent and depth all over the ice. Both of them have the potential to win the Big Ten and dethrone Minnesota, who has dominated the conference the last several years. It will be difficult for Penn State to maintain their No. 1 ranking for the entire year, especially in the Big Ten. Ohio State will come into Pegula ready to potentially strip them of that immediately. Expect another split this weekend as things in the Big Ten will begin to get very interesting.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.