Np. 4 Ohio State Stifles No. 13 Penn State 4-1
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa – Two goals from Gustaf Westlund and a dominant defensive effort propelled No. 4 Ohio State (14-5-4, 7-3-3) past No. 13 Penn State (13-8-2, 5-7-1) 4-1 on Friday night whiteout game at the Pegula Ice Arena to take game one of the two-game series. The Big Ten-leading Buckeyes improved to 7-1-4 on the road this season with the victory, while Penn State dropped to 10-5-0 at home.
For the 18th time in 23 games this season, Ohio State’s 12th-ranked defense held its opponent to two goals or less and had no trouble stifling Penn State’s No. 1 nationally ranked scoring offense. The Nittany Lions came into Friday night averaging an NCAA leading 40 shots per game but were held to a meager 23 shots in game one against the Buckeyes.
“For us it’s always about team defense,” Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said. “You always got to play a 200-foot game and be responsible for all five guys especially against a team like (Penn State).”
Ohio State goaltender Sean Romeo stopped 24 of Penn State’s 25 shots on goal and helped the Buckeyes kill five of six Penn State power plays. The Buckeyes also netted two power play goals on six Penn State penalties while limiting the Nittany Lions to just one power play goal on six opportunities.
“They’re an excellent team,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I think we are too, but only one of them showed up tonight. We have had way too many turnovers lately and I think that’s a big reason why our shot total was so low.”
Westlund had found the back of the net just twice coming into Friday night but his third goal of the season got the Buckeyes on the board seven minutes into the game coming seconds after a Kevin Kerr penalty. Matt Miller and Tanner Laczynski were credited with the assist, which gave Laczynski his 100th career point.
Laczynski later collected his 101st point three minutes into the second period on a slap shot power-play goal from the point.
“He’s a big-time player for us,” Rohlik said. “I love practice habits, the way he prepares and what he does Monday through Thursday is why he has success on the weekends. When you see stuff like that, that’s culture, and every guy on your team watches that every day. That’s what you want in your culture.”
The lone goal for the Nittany Lions came in the final two minutes of the first period when Ludvig Larsson delivered a power play goal off a slap shot from the left point.
One of Penn State’s top forwards, Brandon Biro, was out with an upper body injury, and the Nittany Lions looked out of rhythm offensively all night without him.
“We and probably any other team in the nation would love to have Brandon Biro in the lineup, but that shouldn’t change how we play,” Gadowsky said.
For Penn State game two may only be an even more difficult task with Ohio State’s top goaltender, Tommy Nappier, likely getting the start in game two. Ohio State is 8-1-2 with a 1.58 goals-against average when Nappier is in net this season.
Penn State goaltender, Peyton Jones, on the other hand continued to struggle, saving just .879 percent of Ohio State’s shots on goal. When Gadowsky was asked if he will consider a change in net for game two, he was noncommittal.
“We’ll discuss it, but I am not ready to make that decision yet,” Gadowsky said.
While Jones is not the entire problem, he will need to improve for Penn State to get back on track, and the Nittany Lions will have to figure out their overall defensive woes if they expect to get back in the win column for game two on Saturday.
Will Desautelle is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.