No. 7 Ohio State and No. 9 Penn State seemed destined for overtime, tied 3-3 with just under three minutes left in regulation. Yet, a game-winning goal shortly after by Penn State senior forward Kevin Wall stunned the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes (16-10-1, 9-8-0 Big Ten) played catch up for large portions of the game and ultimately fell short as Penn State (19-9-1, 9-9-1 Big Ten) came away with the 4-3 victory thanks to dual goal efforts by Wall and senior forward Connor MacEachern.
Fifth-year forward Jake Wise scored at the 7:59 mark in the third period to equalize Ohio State for the first time since the opening puck drop. The tie game, however, was short-lived as Wall scored at the 2:20 mark and sealed the win for the Nittany Lions.
“He just came through neutral ice,” head coach Steve Rohlik said. “We had numbers, and, you know what, the kid got inside and got a goal. He’s a goal scorer, and anytime you put a puck on the net, you have a chance.”
Penn State got off to a hot start, getting goals by Wall and MacEachern in the opening period to take a 2-0 lead. MacEachern tacked on his second at the 8:00 mark in the second period to make it 3-1 after a goal by Buckeye senior forward Tate Singleton.
Freshman forward Davis Burnside scored at the 6:54 mark of the second period to cut the Buckeye deficit to 3-2 before the eventful final period decided the contest.
“I think we just need to improve on playing a full 60-minute game,” Singleton said. “You know, I think we came out a little slow, and they got the lead pretty quick there, and [we] just tried to battle back all game.”
The bright spots for the Buckeyes were once again headlined by the special team unit, which killed all three Nittany Lion power play opportunities and went 1-of-2 on conversions themselves.
Ohio State also did an excellent job limiting opportunities for the Big Ten top-ranked shot on-goal Nittany Lions, outshooting them 35-26.
Freshman forward Stephen Halliday added to his team-leading point total for the Buckeyes by adding three more assists on the night.
Sophomore goalie Jakub Dobeš had a rough night in front of the net, surrendering the four goals and being out-saved by counterpart freshman Noah Grannan for Penn State 32-22. Rohlik said he believes the goals resulted from giving up too many breakaway opportunities.
“I think we did OK defensively,” Rohlik said. “We just had [instances] where when you break down and give up two on one’s, that’s giving the other team, you know, some serious opportunity.”
There were five combined penalties on the night, with Penn State accounting for three and Ohio State committing only two.
Even with the loss, Singleton said he believes the team can take positives to Saturday’s game.
“I think we played like a team,” Singleton said. You know, no one stopped playing and stopped believing in each other. I think that’s always a positive, and you’ve got to have a championship mindset.”
Ohio State returns to action against Penn State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the series finale. Big Ten Network will televise.
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