After a 13-day hiatus and four-game road trip, the No. 7 Ohio State men’s hockey team returns to home ice for the first time since Jan. 7 against No. 9 Penn State at the Schottenstein Center.
The Buckeyes (16-9-1, 9-7-0 Big Ten) last won 2-0 against Wisconsin on Jan. 21, while the Nittany Lions (18-9-1, 8-9-1 Big Ten) were swept over the weekend by No. 6 Michigan. Ohio State is 7-2 in its last nine games. Penn State has only one win in their previous six.
The series will be Ohio State’s first home series and student crowd of the spring semester. Its last series played in Columbus was Jan. 6-7 against Michigan State, and it will only be the Buckeyes’ fourth and fifth home games since November 2022.
“It’s going to be nice to be at home,” fifth-year forward Jake Wise said. “We’re really excited to be back playing here. It’s always great.”
The Buckeyes last met the Nittany Lions on Dec. 2-3, 2022, splitting the series with a 2-1 loss in the first game and rebounding to win the finale 4-3.
Offensively, Penn State is led by a quartet of senior forwards scoring 20 or more points, including Kevin Wall, Ture Linden, Connor MacEachern and Connor McMenamin.
Wall is the only player in double-digit goals for the Nittany Lions with 12, while Ohio State forwards junior Joe Dunlap, freshman Davis Burnside and sophomore Cam Thiesing have all cracked the mark for the Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lions’ offensive style is highlighted by aggression, leading the Big Ten in shot-on-goal attempts, averaging 41 per contest. Sophomore forward Ryan Kirwan leads all players in the Big Ten in the same category with 4.25 shots a game.
Head coach Steve Rohlik said he recognizes that Penn State will get its opportunities on goal, and the key is to limit its conversions.
“They’re going to get those shots,” Rohlik said. “We’ve just got to limit the second chances around our goalie and in the house. But we’ve just got to understand [our] plan, and we’ve got to do the best we can to limit some of that stuff by our structure.”
Only scoring four goals in the past three games, Ohio State will look to get its offense back on track by showcasing its top-ranked special teams unit. Penn State, on the other hand, ranks last in the Big Ten in power-play conversion rate and second to last in penalty-killing percentage.
“Sometimes [offense] goes in streaks,” Rohlik said. “A lot has to do with special teams. Your power plays have got to come through. And a lot of these teams are so close five-on-five that, like I said earlier, special teams become a huge thing. And then it’s about the volume on the net. We got to get more pucks to the net.”
Coming off the long layoff, senior defenseman Scooter Brickey said the team is ready to return to game speed and isn’t concerned about a sluggish start.
“We had a good week last week,” Brickey said. “We had some good rest time, too, which was definitely needed. We’ve had a great week of practice this week, working really hard getting back into it, so I think we’re ready for it.”
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday and will stream on BTN+, while Saturday is a 6:30 p.m. start on Big Ten Network.
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