The tight race in the Big Ten means the Penn State men’s hockey team needs every win it can get.
The Nittany Lions faltered in that conference chase Friday night at Value City Arena.
Matthew Weis scored twice, and two Ohio State goals less than a minute apart in the third period doomed the Nittany Lions 5-3.
Tommy Olczyk, Dylan Richard and Patrick Koudys scored for Penn State (16-11-4, 8-6-1 Big Ten), which entered the night tied for third in the conference with Michigan State. Second-place Michigan dropped Wisconsin to move five points ahead of the Lions, and Big Ten leader Minnesota was tangling with the Spartans later Friday.
The Nittany Lions outshot the Buckeyes 49-35 but could not get the puck past Christian Frey often enough.
P.J. Musico made 30 saves in the team’s third straight road loss.
“Defensively you have to give (Ohio State) credit,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They scored some very beautiful goals. They were able to cash in on chances and we weren’t. You have to give them a lot of credit. I think what we can do better, I think, we need to be tougher to play against. I thought we did a pretty good job in the offensive zone, but we were easy to play against in our zone.”
There certainly were no complaints about the start for Penn State, with Olczyk scoring just 31 seconds into the game. After David Glen won a draw in the Buckeye end, David Thompson unleashed a shot from the point that was deflected by Glen. Frey made the save but Olczyk was alone on the doorstep with an open net for his seventh goal of the season.
It was the fastest goal scored this season. Casey Bailey has the fastest goal in team history, netting a tally 13 seconds into a game at Connecticut in 2013.
Weis put Ohio State (10-17-2, 5-10) on the board with 5:34 left in the first. The Buckeyes added two more scores in the second period with Anthony Greco sending a diagonal feed to Tanner Fritz next to the post to put them in the lead, and Weis scored his second with a nifty move to beat Musico.
The margin was cut back to one 56 seconds later when Scott Conway picked off a Buckeye pass in the neutral zone and raced in on Frey. His shot was partially stopped but trickled behind Frey and Richard pounced on the rebound for his seventh tally of the season.
In the third, Tyler Lundey circled behind the net and fed the puck out to Josh Healey at the point for a rifle shot past Musico. Just 57 seconds later, Nick Oddo picked off an attempted clearing pass and got the puck to Luke Stork, who broke in to beat Musico with 11:01 left in the game.
Koudys took a cross-ice feed from David Goodwin and ripped a shot from the circle that was barely under the crossbar to cut the margin to two goals with 5:15 left, but the Lions would claw no closer.
Penn State pulled Musico for an extra attacker with three minutes left and put plenty of pressure on Frey. Glen redirected a shot from in front that clanged off the post on one try, and Conway raced from behind the net unchecked to the front for a point-blank try on Frey but couldn’t beat the sophomore goalie. Ohio State even was whistled for a penalty for a 6 on 4 advantage for the Lions for the final two minutes but with no success.
The teams tangle again at 7 p.m. Saturday.