With head coach Guy Gadowsky passing out boxes of pizza in the student section before the game, the No. 13 Penn State men’s hockey team was hungry for a bite out of the Buckeyes.
Evan Barratt had two goals and an assist as the Nittany Lions took care of No. 6 Ohio State 5-2 Friday night in front of the 69th consecutive sold-out crowd at Pegula Ice Arena.
The 50th win in their raucous arena moved the Nittany Lions (13-7-3, 6-4-3-2) ahead of the Buckeyes (14-5-4, 7-5-1) for second place in the Big Ten standings, trailing leader Notre Dame. Penn State also extended its unbeaten streak to 11 games and ended Ohio State’s six-game win streak.
“The more games we play, the more confidence we get as a group,” Barratt said. “We’re 11 unbeaten, and any time you can go on a roll like that, we’re starting to go off at a great time.”
Denis Smirnov and Andrew Sturtz had a goal and an assist each, and Nate Sucese also scored. Those scores kept Sturtz and Sucese tied for the team scoring lead with 11 goals each.
The Buckeyes outshot the Lions 47-36, just the third time this season Penn State gave up 40-plus shots and the third time it was outshot.
“Good, gutsy win,” Gadowsky said. “We didn’t have our best stuff, but it also, I think, says a lot about how good Ohio State is.”
Player of the Game
Peyton Jones allowed two power-play goals to Mason Jobst, and was under fire all night, but made the win possible by stopping 45 shots.
“He made ridiculous saves,” Gadowsky said, “and he made a lot of them.”
It marked the sophomore goalie’s highest save total since stopping 51 against Wisconsin in double overtime at last season’s Big Ten championship game.
“Every day I prepare the same way and just go out and do everything I can to stop the puck,” Jones said.
Smirnov stoked the arena fires early with his goal 5:18 into play, knocking in a rebound behind goalie Sean Romeo after Trevor Hamilton’s blast from the blue line sailed wide and hard off the boards to the sophomore forward. Smirnov set up Sucese for the seconds score later in the first, working a give-and-go on a 2-on-1 break.
Jobst finally solved Jones with a rebound as the Buckeyes peppered the net with shots on a power play. Barratt put the lead back to two with his own power-play rebound score as the Lions kept hammering at the puck in the crease. Jobst scored again on a power play, firing from the high slot midway through the second.
Sturtz scored his power play goal by circling around a defender and firing a shot from the slot that trickled between Romano’s legs and just over the line. Barratt added his second tally with just over a minute left, hitting an empty net from center ice after Alex Limoges forced a turnover.
Save of the game
Jones got help in preserving the win. With a 3-2 lead, just over six minutes left and the Buckeyes peppering Jones, the puck slid behind the goalie and danced toward the goal line. Inches before it crossed, and just before Buckeye John Wiitala could get there, Chase Berger cleared the puck away to preserve the lead.
“I thanked him a lot,” Jones said. “That was big. Saved my butt there.”
The teams complete the weekend series with a rematch at 7 p.m. Saturday before the Nittany Lions play four straight on the road.