Series Grades: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Ohio State
After a much-needed rest, No. 6 Penn State returned to the ice against No. 17 Ohio State for a two-game series.
The Nittany Lions eked out a 2-1 victory to open the series, but when the two teams returned to the ice for the annual Teddy Bear Toss Game on Saturday, the Buckeyes pulled off a 4-3 upset win.
Here’s a look at how each of the blue and white positional groups fared.
It has been a tough go of things as of late for this forward group. After starting the season off fast, many players have seen their early season production fall off, and that continued against Ohio State.
Kevin Wall and Connor MacEachern, who are both among the team leaders in goals, both found the back of the net. While those two have been consistent pieces in this group, the inconsistencies around them have hurt the team.
Two players who haven’t seen much success lately may have found the sparks they needed. Danny Dzhaniyev scored the second goal of his sophomore campaign, while Ture Linden broke an eight-game scoreless streak with his tally.
Linden also played a big factor in the forwards’ strongest aspect of the series: faceoffs.
The Nittany Lions won 98-of-153 faceoffs, including holding 55-of-77 in the opener. Linden won 19-of-21 from the dot in game one, while MacEachern led the team in the victory with 20 victories in his 29 opportunities.
It was only a matter of time before the young defensive group looked like a young defensive group.
On multiple occasions, the Buckeyes got past the defense and onto the doorstep of Liam Souliere. Even though on the scoresheet every shot looks the same, many of the Buckeyes’ shots were high-quality opportunities.
The blue and white did put themselves in the way of many shots, combining for 28 blocked shots over the weekend. Chrisitan Berger led the way with nine of those, helping to prevent further damage outside of the 60 shots Penn State yielded.
The defensive unit was very active on the offensive side of the ice. It takes strong two-way players to help the team run on all cylinders, and Jimmy Dowd Jr. was that and more this weekend.
Dowd blocked two shots in the two games while recording two points on the offensive side in game one. The junior was credited with the assist on MacEachern’s goal and finished his two-point night with the game-winning goal late in the third period.
Without Liam Souliere, the Nittany Lions likely lose both of these games. The junior netminder was left on an island on several occasions throughout the weekend but avoided trouble on most of them.
After saving 35-of-36 shots in the opener, Souliere would face fewer shots but would allow more to get through en route to allowing four goals on 24 shots in the finale.
Souliere’s ability to rebound after allowing three first period goals, played a significant factor in keeping Penn State in game two until the very end.
For the fourth time in conference play, the Nittany Lions had the opportunity to sweep but didn’t.
While Guy Gadowsky and company have yet to pinpoint the difference between game one to game two, they have mixed the lines up multiple times. There have been flashes of success, but no combination has consistently worked thus far.
Similar to the offense, the power play, which entered this series five for its last 16, could not keep things going, converting on just one-of-nine occasions.
The other special teams unit, the penalty kill, is working for the Nittany Lions right now. That unit killed all five Buckeye power plays over the two-game series and is now killing off penalties at an 80.9% clip.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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