The stay at the top will be a short one for the Penn State men’s hockey team.
Two goals in the first two minutes of the third period, and a stout Ohio State defense, spoiled the weekend.
The No. 1 Nittany Lions stumbled 6-3 against the No. 11 Buckeyes on Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
“I thought we were trying to make the perfect play and not just do what we do and playing together,” coach Guy Gadowsky said of the frustrating night.
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“For some reason, it just felt like we were going for the home run play all night,” he later added. “… We wanted to do something special instead of playing like we play.”
Earning the top ranking in both major national polls for the first time in program history, Penn State will likely be knocked down several rungs Monday.
David Thompson, Kris Myllari and Andrew Sturtz had goals for the Nittany Lions (16-3-2, 5-2-1 Big Ten) while Peyton Jones made 22 saves in his worst outing of his freshman season.
John Wiitala, Mason Jobst, Dakota Joshua, Matthew Weis, Luke Stork and Christian Lampasso had the Buckeye goals and Christian Frey stopped 41 shots.
In four meetings in the span of 16 days, and Frey played big in each of them as Ohio State (12-4-6, 3-2-1-1) earned two regulation wins and another by shootout. Frey also got a big assist from his defense, which blocked 34 shots while Penn State had just 12.
“Our defensemen have been doing it quite a bit but our forwards started to buy in,” Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. “They still scored two point shots, which was disappointing, but you can’t count on Christian to go out there and make every save. The guys have got to sacrifice themselves.”
Penn State trailed 3-1 early in the second period, but a rally capped by Sturtz had fans stoked. The sophomore netted his 15th goal of the season when he found an opening from a tight angle along the goal line wide of the net to tie the game with 24.3 left in the period.
“I saw an opening short side,” Sturtz said. “I think this week at practice, crack of dawn, around 7 a.m., me and Blake Gober were out practicing shots from that angle.”
But Weis and Stork scored about a minute apart in the first 1:41 of the third and all momentum and excitement was gone.
“You never want to start a third period like that,” Sturtz said.
Thompson was first to light the lamp 2:38 into the game, but a Penn State turnover led to Wiitala’s breakaway.
Ohio State scored twice in the span of less than two minutes of game time, first on a power play from Jobst late in the first and then Joshua 18 seconds into the second on a breakaway.
Myllari brought some life back, scoring right after stepping onto the ice on a shift change in the second, and Sturtz added his for a 3-3 tie through two. But the third belonged to the Buckeyes and Lampasso finished the scoring with 2:50 left.
Between breakaways, turnovers and Nittany Lions running into each other on the ice, it was a less-than-stellar showing all around.
“I thought the effort was there,” Gadowsky said. “But not the attention to playing together.”
Notes: The game drew 6,167 fans. … Penn State next faces Princeton on Saturday at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center. … Penn State failed to cash in on a 5-minute major on Ohio State’s Kevin Miller after he delivered a shot to the head of Denis Smirnov in the second period. … The Buckeyes again played without top scorers Nick Schilkey and Tanner Laczynsky.