It just wasn’t a good night for the Penn State men’s hockey team.
The Nittany Lions racked up the penalties, twice had two of their own players collide on ice to knock each other down and despite winning the shot count could not muster many high-quality chances Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
Led by the Big Ten’s leading scorer Ryan Dzingel, who had two goals and an assist, Ohio State rolled to a 4-2 win to open the final weekend of hockey on campus.
“I’m definitely not happy, but at the same time I think you really have to give them some credit,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Ryan Dzingel was fantastic tonight.”
Nick Oddo and Nick Schilkey also scored for the Buckeyes (16-12-5, 6-8-5-4) while Mike Williamson and Jonathan Milley hit the net for the Nittany Lions (6-25-2, 2-16-1).
Christian Fry made 40 saves for the Buckeyes while P.J. Musico stopped 26 shots at the other end of the ice.
“We weren’t really sharp in our positioning,” Gadowsky said. “We did leave (Musico) out to dry a little bit.”
The teams close the regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday before heading to the Big Ten Tournament next weekend.
The Nittany Lions will be looking to forget all that went wrong Friday night.
“We weren’t connecting on passes very well,” Gadowsky said. “It seemed like we were getting a little frustrated, but I don’t know why.”
The team had been cutting down on penalties in recent weeks, ranking 28th in the nation in penalties after once sitting second in Division I, but regressed with six in fractions for 15 minutes, including a five-minute major and a 5-on-3 situation.
“I don’t think we were very smart, penalty-wise,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not that we were undisciplined or out of control, but we didn’t play a good enough, smart enough game. We put ourselves in positions to take penalties.”
Down 2-0. Williamson put Penn State on the board 5:14 into the second period on a power play, ripping a blast from the point that caromed off a Buckeye, flew high into the air over Fry’s shoulder and trickled into the net.
But the swing in momentum was short lived.
Oddo and Schilkey scored 35 seconds apart less than two minutes after the Nittany Lions’ goal to quiet the crowd.
“You work very hard to cut it to one and you start to get momentum,” Gadowsky said. “A goal like that I’m sure is one that P.J. would want back.”
It wasn’t even midway through the second period, but the game was all but decided.
“It was huge,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “They got the momentum there on the power play, kind of a fluke, kind of kicked went up in the air, but this place is loud. I know it’s spring break but you can tell how loud this place can be.”
Milley broke through with 1:55 left and Musico pulled for an extra attacker, hammering home the puck in heavy traffic in front of the net for his first score of the season, but it wasn’t enough.
“It definitely feels good to score, but we’ve been playing well as a line lately,” Milley said. “I knew the chances were there, the opportunity would come.”
On the game’s first power play, and the Buckeyes’ first shot with a man advantage, Dzingel was left alone in the right circle, took a cross-ice feed and beat Musico, banking his shot off two posts and across the goal line for a 1-0 lead.
“It’s important to get the first goal, especially against this team in this arena,” Dzingel said. “They get a lot of momentum and a lot of energy, so that was really big.”
Dzingel scored again 3:08 into the second, alone on the doorstep with a wide open net for his 20th goal of the season to go with 23 assists.
The game also marked the return of Penn State junior defenseman Nate Jensen, who was in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 8 when he suffered a concussion.
“It felt really good to be out there with the guys,” Jensen said. “First two periods I felt a little rusty, the game was a little quick for me. But in the third I felt like I was catching up and moving my feet more.”
In three games, Ohio State has outscored Penn State 14-5 this season.
“I don’t think we have played three consistent periods against them yet, by far,” Gadowsky said. “That would be something that would be nice to see from us. I don’t know the reason for it. There isn’t any excuse for it.”