Buckeyes come from behind for second straight game, sweep away No.16 Penn State
Despite falling behind for the second time in as many nights, Ohio State fought back and extended their Big Ten winning streak to three.
For the second night in a row, the Ohio State men’s hockey team (6-2-0, 3-1-0 Big Ten) came from behind to defeat Penn State (6-3-0, 0 -2-0 Big Ten). The Buckeyes’ 4-1 win saw them beat the No.16 Nittany Lions.
Head coach Steve Rohlik made sure to recognize that sweeping a quality Penn State team is no small feat. However, he reiterated that his team haven’t quite reached the level they want to be.
“Anytime you can sweep a team in this league you’ve done something pretty good, especially against a really good hockey team,” Rohlik said. “My guys have worked really hard and we’re a long way from a finished product. We have to keep working to get there.
Rohlik admitted his team struggled to find that first goal in a lot of their games, but when they get that initial score opponents need to be careful.
“We just have to keep doing what we’re doing. It’s kind of the same story here lately, ”Rohlik said. “We just have to hang in there and once we have that one, all of a sudden the second and third come up. Once we scored that first goal there was a lot of life on that bench. “
Penn State came in first on the board, as junior forward Connor MacEachern continued his first attempt at a shot, rounded first-year goaltender Jakub Dobeš and slipped the puck into an empty net at 3:50 of the first period.
The goal was MacEachern’s sixth of the season and tied him for the team lead in points with junior forward Kevin Wall. Senior defenseman Clayton Phillips, who was named the Big Ten’s First Star of the Week after his performance against North Dakota on October 30, collected his fourth assist of the year on goal.
Falling behind is nothing new for the Ohio State team, having conceded the first goal in five of their eight games this season.
Ohio State got their first power play opportunity of the night at 8:29 of the first period, but failed to convert.
The power play unit returned to the ice just seven seconds after the first penalty was killed, when Penn State was called for too many men on the ice. Once again, the Buckeyes failed to take advantage of the mistakes of the Nittany Lions.
For the second game in a row, Penn State held a 1-0 advantage after the first period. Both teams racked up 10 shots in the first 20 minutes.
Senior defenseman Grant Gabriele gave the Penn State power play unit their first chance of the night at 2:47 of the second period. The Nittany Lions nearly extended their power play lead when senior forward Ben Copeland hit the crossbar just six seconds into the power play.
The rest of the second period was played at a breakneck pace, but neither team managed to find the back of the net.
After 40 minutes, Penn State had a 21-16 advantage in the shooting department, while both teams were 0-2 on the power play.
At 4:30 in the third period, senior forward Jake Wise skated inside the right and fired a shot that was saved by senior Penn State goaltender Oskar Autio. However, first-year defenseman Mason Lohrei recovered the rebound and drove the puck into the back of the net, tying the score at one.
Lohrei’s goal was his second of the campaign and brought his points total to six, tying junior forwards Tate Singleton and Mark Cheremeta, who notched the No. 4 assist of the year on the game, for the lead of the team.
Forty-two seconds later, another Buckeyes defenseman lit the lamp for the second time. On this occasion, it was the junior Dominc Vidoli. Just like that, the Buckeyes held a 2-1 lead.
A few first-year forwards have combined to set up Vidoli. Georgii Merkulov and Cam Thiesing each recorded their fourth career assist on goal, each giving them an assist in both games against the Nittany Lions.
At this point, Game 2 was eerily similar to Game 1 of the series, where Kamil Sadlocha scored two goals 3:32 apart to give Ohio State a 2-1 advantage at the end of the second period.
Singleton committed a crosscheck penalty with 9:43 left, giving Penn State a great opportunity to tie things up. The Buckeyes were able to eliminate the crosscheck and dug to see the remaining 7:26.
This is exactly what they did.
With 6:50 left in the final period, second-year forward Joe Dunlap rushed to the net and beat Autio for his first goal of the season and his second as a Buckeye. Wise and Lohrei each got their second assist of the game on Dunlap’s goal. Lohrei clinched his sixth place at the top of the team, while Wise clinched the No.5.
Dunlap, who didn’t see the ice in Game 1 of the series, only got the start for the third time in eight games. He said he understands the importance of building on the trust placed in him by the coaching staff.
“It’s just a great opportunity and I’m glad I took it,” said Dunlap. “It really gives me a lot of confidence. Glad to be back in training on Monday, working until Thursday and just hope my name gets called out on Friday.
Vidoli and Dunlap have each been healthy scratches in a few games this season, something that says more about Ohio State’s depth than anything else in the eyes of their head coach.
“We have a lot of good players and I’ve said it from the start it’s going to be someone different every night,” said Rohlik. “These guys do the job Monday through Thursday, so whoever is in that lineup I know we can trust them.”
The game ended 4-1 after Cheremeta added a goal into an empty net with 2:07 left in the final period. Cheremeta’s goal was his third of the season and tied him with Lohrei for the team lead with seven points.
Cheremeta scored both a goal and an assist on the evening, extending his points streak to four games.
Dobeš continued his excellence between the posts, saving 29 of 30 shots the Nittany Lions sent him. The Ostrava, Czech Republic native is now 6-1 in his debut season.
Dobeš, who was named the Hockey Stewards Association Men’s Rookie of the Month on Wednesday, saved 62 of the 65 shots he faced this weekend, bringing his save percentage to .960, the nation’s No. 1 among the goalies who have seen the action in more than one contest.
Penn State, who came into play this weekend averaging 4.29 goals per game, could only light the lamp three times in 120 minutes against the Buckeyes. Rohlik praised his team’s cohesion without the puck after tonight’s win.
“Again, I’m going back to Penn State, they’re as dangerous as any team you’re going to play all year,” Rohlik said. “Anytime you can hold this team like we did for two nights, it’s all to the credit of these guys, it’s all to the credit of our squad of five on the ice and obviously of our goalie. “
The crowd inside Value City Arena was heckling for the series finale, which Dunlap certainly enjoyed.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” said Dunlap. “It’s a lot of fun to play and it’s a lot of fun to introduce yourself. It’s very entertaining and it helps us win games.
The 4-1 win ends a six-game homestand that saw Ohio State go 5-1. The Buckeyes will be back on the ice next weekend for a two-game streak against Minnesota’s No.5 in Minneapolis
“It’s a good start,” said Rohlik. “It was a good home stand and now we’re going to hit the road this week and head to Minnesota.”