Penn State extends winning streak
UNIVERSITY PARK — Before No. 5 Ohio State’s six-game win streak started, its last loss was a 4-0 home loss to Penn State. On Friday night, the Nittany Lions got the best of the Buckeyes once again winning 5-2, snapping the Buckeyes’ win streak while extending their unbeaten streak to 11.
In what seems to be a continuing theme in 2018, the Nittany Lions got off to a quick start, leading the Buckeyes 2-0 at the end of the first period.
Denis Smirnov was the center of attack for Penn State as he rebounded Trevor Hamilton’s blue line shot into the back of the net for his 10th goal of the season just more than five minutes into the first period. Smirnov made up his missed opportunity moments before as Brandon Biro found him crashing the net.
Goaltender Peyton Jones sprung into action to preserve the lead as he denied Ohio State’s Ronnie Hein just as the puck almost slid past the line. Jones was a critical player for the Lions as he made 45 total saves on the night with Ohio State’s coach Steve Rohlik calling Jones ‘the best player on the ice.’ Guy Gadowsky was extremely impressed with Jones’ performance.
“Peyton Jones was awesome,” Gadowsky said. “This is a really big win for us, it doesn’t happen without Peyton. He made ridiculous saves and he made a lot of them. I can’t say enough about him.”
Sam Sternschein almost doubled the lead as Nikita Pavlychev prevented the puck from crossing the blue line and found Sternschein wide open in front of the net. However Buckeye goaltender Sean Romeo stood his ground and denied Sternschein to keep the game at 1-0. Romeo had to step up once again as he denied Andrew Sturtz on a wrap around.
The Buckeyes squandered a few great chances, but Jones was sharp to keep the puck out of the net.
With just more than three minutes to go in the first, Smirnov and Sucese found themselves on a two-on-one breakaway, with Smirnov finding Sucese who scored his 11th of the season, giving Penn State a 2-0 lead heading into the second.
The Lions played a sloppy second period, allowing the Buckeyes to get back into the game.
Evan Barratt was guilty of tripping, giving Ohio State a power play a bit more than two minutes into the second. The Buckeyes capitalized on the man advantage as their captain Mason Jobst went top corner off the rebound, cutting the lead in half.
Barratt would later redeem himself with a power-play rebound goal of his own. Cole Hults fired a shot that bounced off the boards and Chase Berger tried to put it away, but Evan Barratt was able to beat Romeo to restore the Lions’ two-goal lead.
However, a penalty would once again cost Penn State as Mason Jobst faked out James Robinson and then beat Jones’ shoulder going top corner following Derian Hamilton’s holding penalty. It was Jobst’s second power play goal of the night and put the Buckeyes back within one at 3-2 in favor of the Lions going into the final period.
The start of the third period was relatively quiet, with neither team having a great chance.
With more than six minutes left, Jobst raced up the ice and found Hein to his right who almost got the best of Jones, who was caught out of position. But as the puck was sliding toward the open net Chase Berger made a clutch goal line clearance to keep the game at 3-2.
“I thanked (Chase) a lot, he saved my butt there,” Jones joked.
Minutes later, Brandon Biro blocked a shot and Smirnov was on the break. Smirnov passed it back to Sucese who was denied by Romeo. Sucese caught Ohio State on a line change moments later, but Ohio State’s Wyatt Ege hooked him, giving Penn State a power play with about four minutes left in regulation.
The Lions took advantage of the power play as Andrew Sturtz danced around the ice and the Ohio State defense as his wrist shot got through Romeo and rolled into the back of the net with three and half minutes remaining. Penn State wasn’t finished yet as Evan Barratt got his second goal of the night on an open net sealing the a crucial conference win for Penn State, as it passed Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten standings. With Penn State earning all three points it now has 23 Big Ten points for the season, with Ohio State right behind with 22.
The two teams will finish their two-game series Saturday night with sole possession of second place in the Big Ten on the line.