Penn State Men’s Hockey Series Grades: 2022 Big Ten Quarterfinals

Story posted March 8, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Joshua Bartosik

The Penn State Nittany Lions made history this past weekend going up against the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes.

They became the first road team to win a quarterfinal series in the Big Ten tournament since its creation nine years ago.

Game 1 was a back-and-forth affair that saw the Buckeyes come out on top 4-3 behind two goals from freshman sensation Georgii Merkulov.

Games 2 and 3 required late-game heroics from the Nittany Lions, scraping by with a 3-2 and 2-1 win.

Here are the series grades from a historic quarterfinal series.

Offense: C+

Although the Nittany Lions came up with a series win against Ohio State, the offense was not a beneficial factor up until the late stages of each game.

Penn State could not crack Jakub Dobeš in the opening game until halfway through the third period with a goal from Tyler Paquette. By the game's end, the Nittany Lions were only able to score three goals on 52 shots in a game that saw Kenny Johnson net his first-career goal.

Overall, the blue and white only scored 8 times while putting up a monstrous 133 shots through the three-game series, repeating the same theme of low scoring that has been prevalent all season long.

It was the Ryan Kirwan and Dylan Lugris show this weekend. Kirwan had two goals and an assist against the Buckeyes, including the game-winning goal late in the third period in Game 2.

Lugris, who joined the team in December, had two goals as well, none bigger than the series clincher with around seven minutes left in the third period.

Playoff hockey is all about the hot hand, and these two certainly have it.

Defense: B+

The back end had a rocky start to the series on Friday but got better and better as the weekend went on.

Goals from Georgii Merkulov and Quinn Preston in Game One both came off of stretch passes through the middle of the ice that caught the Nittany Lions flat-footed and asleep.

Games Two and Three were incredibly sound from Penn State, however, as the only major defensive lapse was on Ohio State’s only goal in Game Three.

The main concern for the blue and white squad is something that has been plaguing them all season long: the transition game. The Nittany Lions continued to struggle to get the puck out of their end, causing several turnovers.

Although very little harm was done from said turnovers, Penn State must be on the top of its game going into its next matchup against the top-seeded Golden Gophers.

Goaltending: A-

For one of the few times this season, one goalie played the entire series.

With that being said, it looked like Guy Gadowsky had made the wrong decision with his Game One starter, as Liam Souliere struggled to track the puck and make the easy saves to keep the Nittany Lions in the game.

However, Souliere was without a doubt one of the major factors in Penn State’s Game Two and Game Three wins. Saving 56 out of 59 shots in the last two games, Souliere stood on his head on several occasions and was the sole reason Penn State found themselves tied or within one for the majority of Saturday’s and Sunday’s contest.

It is safe to say that Souliere has certainly earned the right for another shot against Minnesota next weekend, but it’s anyone's guess when it comes to Guy Gadowsky.

Coaching: C

We thought this day would never come. Guy Gadowsky has finally picked a goalie and stuck with them for an entire series.

While this does call for celebration, the special teams' play continues to be a party pooper.

Although the penalty kill went six-for-seven this weekend, the power play continued to sputter out, going without a goal on eight attempts and never looking lethal in the process.

Gadowsky still has not found the answer for a team that has scored one power-play goal in their last eleven contests, and he needs to find one fast if the Nittany Lions want even a sliver of a chance to advance to the championship matchup when they face off against the Golden Gophers next Saturday.

Joshua Bartosik is a first-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email