Game Preview: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Ohio State
After nearly a week-and-a-half of hibernation, No. 6 Penn State will return to the ice for a two-game series against No. 17 Ohio State.
The Nittany Lions were last seen skating against Alaska Fairbanks when they rebounded for two victories on short rest following a split versus then-ranked No. 17 Michigan State.
Both wins over the Nanooks were by one goal, but head coach Guy Gadowksy was impressed with his team’s ability to win while running on fumes.
“We certainly did not play well, but really proud of the guys for getting the win,” Gadowsky said. “What was failing us in the past was really good. Our special teams were excellent. We had great goaltending. And that's what allowed us to win, not our overall team play.”
Following a 1-for-27 stretch, the man-advantage, which is part of the special teams Gadowsky mentioned, has converted five of its last 16 opportunities.
One of those powerplay goals came from Ryan Kirwan, who went eight games without a tally and was benched for game two against Michigan State before scoring twice against Alaska.
“The team had a great response to our loss against Michigan State, but Ryan certainly had a great individual response,” Gadowksy said. “He did score twice, which are huge goals for us, certainly in two really tight one-goal games. Bhe did a lot of other things…There’s things that don’t show up on the scoreboard that he did really well.”
Despite the recent success of Kirwan and the powerplay unit, Penn State has converted on just 9-of-51 man-advantages this season.
The Buckeyes are a tough task for the Nittany Lions, while being the third most penalized team in the conference and 11th most nationally, Ohio State has stopped opponents on 58-of-63 opportunities, a 92.1% clip that ranks second in the country.
Whether it's even strength, short-handed or a man-advantage, two players will be on the ice no matter what: Liam Souliere and Jakub Dobes.
Souliere faltered in the second game against Michigan State, getting pulled after allowing three goals on six shots.
The 5-foot-11-inch goaltender rebounded by allowing three goals and making 58 saves against the Nanooks. The Brampton, Ontario native owns a Big Ten best 2.06 goals against average and second best save percentage of .924.
Souliere believes that maintaining the same mentality from last year, when he split playing time, has led to his success.
“It’s just like always having that chip on your shoulder, not giving it up because that’s what got me here,” Souliere said. “So just making sure that's still there and itching me to work hard every day, show up and do my work and just trying to be successful for the team.”
Dobes is also towards the top of the Big Ten with a 2.31 goals against average and .913 save percentage. Even though Ohio State has lost five of its last seven contests, the 2022 Big Ten Goaltender and co-Freshman of the Year is not to blame.
Over those last seven games, the sophomore has made 160 saves while allowing 18 goals, keeping Ohio State close.
The Montrael Canadians’ fifth-round pick in 2020 was in net for all three games between Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals a season ago. Dobes did all he could to give the Buckeyes a chance, allowing eight goals while making 125 saves, but the Nittany Lions came away with the road upset.
Dobes will be facing a Nittany Lion team that ranks fifth in the nation scoring 3.75 goals per game, despite averaging 2.88 goals over their last eight appearances.
Kevin Wall leads the team with seven goals, while Ture Linden, who has just three points over the last 11 games, leads the team with 13 points.
Christian Sarlo is one of few who has found success lately. The junior forward has scored nine points over the last eight games, and believes his success and the team’s relies on playing Penn State hockey.
“Just kind of sticking to the process of just putting in the work, hoping the results will come,” Sarlo said. “Kind of buying into what coach wants the team to do, it kind of sets a good groundwork for our team identity and culture, and just really buying into that.”
Penn State will not be the only team inside of Pegula Ice Arena looking to play to their identity as Ohio State will look to do the same.
Despite returning three of their top four scorers in Mason Lohrei, Jake Wise and Cam Thiesing, the Buckeyes’ offense is struggling, averaging 2.57 goals per game over their last seven contests.
Wise and Thiesing are two of four-six goal scorers, and Lohrei has zero goals and 11 assists. Yet, that offense can be blamed for many losses including the most recent one to LIU, the first ranked victory in the Sharks’ program history.
Puck drop between these two teams is set for 7 p.m. on Friday with the two teams returning to action on Saturday for 5:30 p.m. for the Teddy Bear Toss.
“I think it's just a great cause,” Gadowsky said. “It's a great hockey tradition… It's really nice that our fans here at Pegula Ice Arena and the community here support it as well.”
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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