For most of this season, the Penn State men’s hockey team has been at its strongest in the third period.
But, the third period Saturday night brought a double loss for the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State scored three unanswered goals in the final period, and Penn State also saw senior center Taylor Holstrom leave with an apparent leg injury in a 5-3 loss to the Buckeyes at Value City Arena.
Holstrom, Casey Bailey and Mike Williamson netted the goals for the Nittany Lions (16-12-4, 8-7-1-0 Big Ten), who were swept in a weekend conference road series for the second straight trip.
Matthew Skoff made 39 saves in the loss, while counterpart Christian Frey stopped 24 shots.
Ohio State (11-17-2, 6-10), which won back-to-back games for the first time this season got a goal and two assists from Tanner Fritz and the other scores from Justin DaSilva, Sam Jardine, Nick Schilkey and Nicholas Jones.
The third period was miserable for the Nittany Lions, who were outshot 16-5 in the frame.
With Penn State holding a 3-2 lead, Holstrom collided with Jones near the side of the Penn State net and crumpled to the ice holding his right leg. The team training staff helped him from the ice and he did not return to the game. David Glen and Dylan Richard pulled double shifts to make up for the lost ice time on the prolific scoring line with Bailey and David Goodwin.
Holstrom left the game with seven goals and a team-leading 25 assists for the season.
The game further unraveled just after the 10-minute mark when Schilkey sent the puck over Skoff’s shoulder with a wrist shot to tie the game 3-3.
Just 1:01 later, Josh Healey’s shot from the left side sailed past the net and banged hard off the boards to Fritz on the right side, and the senior captain had an open net for an easy rebound and the game-winner.
Jones added the insurance tally just over three minutes later with some nifty skating through the slot before a low shot snuck just inside the post.
“I thought after Taylor Holstrom left the ice, we fell apart,” coach Guy Gadowsky said of the senior center’s injury. “Obviously, we have to be a little tougher than that and we weren’t. We were vulnerable at that time and Ohio State jammed down the gas pedal and outshot us 16-5 and scored 3-0.”
The top-scoring line staked the Nittany Lions to an early two-goal lead. Goodwin fed the puck behind the net to Holstrom and the senior sent it across the crease to Bailey for the game’s opening goal, his team-leading 21st score of the season.
The line struck again, this time with Goodwin feeding it behind the net across to Bailey to set up Holstrom racing at the net.
DaSilva’s blast from the blue line 43 seconds later put the Buckeyes on the board and ended the first-period scoring.
During a 4 on 3 power play, Jardine tied the game 4:23 into the second with a blue-line blast after the Buckeyes won a faceoff in the Penn State end.
The Nittany Lions thought they had the lead again when Holstrom fed the puck to Eric Scheid, but the junior banked the puck in off his skate and the officials waved it off.
Just 24 seconds later, Penn State got a goal that counted when Goodwin’s feed from the corner to Williamson at the point set up the sophomore defenseman’s first goal since March 14, 2014.
Glen also had a key save to help the Penn State defense. Less than a minute before the Holstrom injury, a Schilkey shot from the slot was partially stopped by Skoff, but the puck trickled between his legs. Glen cleared the puck away just before it crossed the goal line.
The lost weekend left the Nittany Lions eight points behind Michigan in the Big Ten standings. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines tangle next weekend at Pegula Ice Arena in the final home series of the season.