Men’s hockey splits weekend series with Ohio State
It had been 70 days since Penn State (10-7-2, 4-2-0-0 B1G) last played at Pegula Ice Arena. Since Halloween, the Nittany Lions competed in nine games away from their home barn.
That all changed this past weekend though, as the Blue and White faced off twice against Big Ten foe Ohio State (7-10-2, 2-3-0-0 B1G) on Friday and Saturday.
After Friday night’s stinging 5-4 overtime loss, Penn State returned to Pegula Saturday afternoon to defeat the Scarlet and Gray, 4-1.
“They’re playing with a lot more confidence,” said Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik. “Obviously they’re well coached. They play the right way. They’re more experienced…. We can’t say they’re a young team anymore. I like the way they play. They go to the hard areas. They put pucks to the net. They give themselves a chance every night. This team is going to keep getting better because of it.”
In Friday night’s contest, Penn State trailed the Buckeyes, 4-0, with 17:15 remaining in regulation. The 5,829 Blue and White fans in attendance looked to have lost all faith.
When the Buckeyes went up 3-0, junior goaltender Matthew Skoff was pulled for the second straight game. As a result, senior PJ Musico was given the nod for the remainder of the game.
Feeling at fault for Skoff’s exit, the Nittany Lions responded with high intensity play that aided in their first four-goal comeback in program history.
Belief was restored when junior winger Casey Bailey netted two straight goals to cut the lead in half with about eight minutes to play.
At the 14:07 mark in the third, David Goodwin buried the biscuit to cut Penn State’s deficit to just one.
Then, with Musico pulled to give the Nittany Lions an extra attacker, Bailey tied the game with 22 ticks left on the clock to force overtime.
In the extra five-minute period, a tough no-call provided the Buckeyes with the 5-4 win.
After an apparent Tanner Fritz hook of freshman defenseman Erik Autio went uncalled, Ohio State junior winger Anthony Greco picked up the loose neutral zone puck, skated towards the left circle and fired a wrist shot top shelf over the glove of Musico to give the Buckeyes the victory with just 46 seconds left in the overtime frame.
"It was unfortunate that the game ended on a controversial play," said Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky. "But the refs didn't lose the game for us. Honestly, in my mind we lost the game in the second period. We were complacent. We didn't have the fight. I think we were looking for a soft game, not a tough game. I thought we were looking to do it the easy way.”
Eric Scheid, who made his return to the lineup after being out six weeks with a concussion, echoed the words of his head coach.
“I didn’t really get a good look at it, but it sounded like it was questionable, but at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter," said Scheid. "That’s not the reason we lost… We shot ourselves in the foot early, and we can only blame ourselves.”
A new chapter was written in Saturday’s battle, as the Nittany Lions ended their three-game losing streak, topping the Buckeyes in commanding fashion, 4-1.
“We needed a bounce back, and we showed a lot of character today,” said goalie Eamon McAdam.
The sophomore net minder was brilliant, stopping 35 shots to push Penn State to victory.
“We not only had very good, solid goaltending, but really timely goaltending,” said Gadowsky. “Possibly the play of the game was Eamon stopping the shorthanded breakaway with seven minutes left. That could’ve greatly changed the momentum and complex of the game. [McAdam] deserves a ton of credit for that.”
In fact, one big save after the next helped McAdam tally his very first win at Pegula. His teammates in front of him made that first home triumph appear effortless.
Just 42 seconds into the first period, Scheid curved around a duo of Ohio State defensemen, skated in front near the left post, and centered a pristine pass to Curtis Loik who buried it to give Penn State a power play score and a one-goal advantage.
Ohio State tied the game up 4:45 into the second period thanks to a Matthew Weis power play goal. But that was all the offense Ohio State would be able to generate.
Then, at the 12:09 mark in the second frame, senior center Taylor Holstrom skated down the slot through two defenders, kept his feet moving, poked the puck away from Ohio State keeper Christian Frey, and centered a pass for David Goodwin, who banged it home to give the Nittany Lions the lead, 2-1.
Just 50 seconds later, the Blue and White took a 3-1 advantage when a neutral zone turnover created a two-on-zero breakaway for Scott Conway and Scheid. Conway fed a perfect touch pass to Scheid who quickly found the back of the net.
Scheid later scored an empty net goal at the 18:17 mark in the third period to seal the win for Penn State.
“After missing six weeks…I was a little nervous going into the game because you don’t want to take another hit like that and see yourself out for the rest of the season…. But I took a couple hard hits and felt fine so that opened my eyes that I’m back and ready to go,” said Scheid.
Penn State’s six-game home stand continues next Friday and Saturday, Jan. 16-17, when the Nittany Lions faceoff against Big Ten opponent Michigan State.
Tyler Feldman is a junior dual majoring in broadcast journalism and marketing. To contact him, email him email@example.com.