PITTSBURGH — The Penn State men’s ice hockey team scored its biggest win of its inaugural Division I season so far, and also made its first Big Ten statement.
The Nittany Lions turned a big early lead into a 5-4 victory over Ohio State on Saturday evening in the consolation game of the Three Rivers Classic at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
It was Penn State’s first game against a future Big Ten foe. The conference will begin skating in ice hockey next season, when the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are joined by Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“Coming into Penn State, you know that rivalry’s already there with the football team and many other organizations at the school,” said Casey Bailey, who scored two goals to tie David Glen for the team lead, and assisted on two more. “To start that up with hockey is huge for us.”
It marked an impressive turnaround for the Lions, who were blanked 6-0 the night before by Robert Morris in the first round of the tournament.
“After the loss we kind of pulled ourselves together, knew we had to come back and we didn’t want to disappoint the fans,” said Taylor Holstrom, who also netted two goals. “It was a big rivalry, the first Big Ten game, and we pulled together, played the way we know we can play.”
One of Bailey’s goals came during a 5-on-3 power play for Penn State. Curtis Loik scored the other goal for the Nittany Lions (8-9), who built a 5-2 lead in the third period before holding off the Buckeyes (7-8-5). Holstrom’s second goal of the game 21 seconds into the third period gave Penn State the 5-2 advantage.
Ryan Dzingel had a hat trick and Alex Szczechura found the net for the other goal for Ohio State, which outshot Penn State 40-37 for the game and 13-7 in the third period as the Buckeyes tried to rally. Matthew Skoff made 36 saves for Penn State.
Max Gardiner helped on three scores, giving him a team-high 10 assists for the season, while Luke Juha helped on two goals and Connor Varley also picked up an assist.
Collin Olson made 32 saves for Ohio State, which entered the weekend ranked sixth in the nation in goals allowed, giving up just 1.89 per game, and gave up five goals for the just the second time this season and first since its season opener.
The Nittany Lions begin the new year at Connecticut, visiting the Huskies on Friday and Saturday.