Penn State finished their first season in Pegula Ice Arena the same way they started the season back in October five months ago, with a win. The Penn State Nittany Lions (7-25-2, 3-16-1-0 BIG) triumphed over the Ohio State Buckeyes (16-13-5, 6-9-5-4 BIG) 4-2 Saturday afternoon in front of 5,892 fans that saw Penn State avenge the previous night’s 4-2 loss with a win of their own.
It was Senior Night for the team, as Penn State recognized its lone senior, Michael McDonagh, for his contributions with the team reaching back to its club origins before the squad went to Division I.
McDonagh totaled no points in the game, but multiple Penn Staters did. Nate Jensen tallied three points in Saturday afternoon’s win, a goal – his third of the season – and two assists, while captain Tommy Olczyk added his fifth of the season with a late first period goal. Teammates Curtis Loik and Taylor Holstrom also potted goals for the Nittany Lions in the win.
In net for Penn State, sophomore Matt Skoff started his final game of the 2013-14 regular season and helped pull the Nittany Lions to a 4-2 victory.
Jensen’s third of the season came just 2:51 into the game on an early Nittany Lion power play. With Buckeye Darik Angeli in the box for hooking, it took 12 seconds for Penn State to capitalize on the extra man advantage as Jensen came in from the point and wristed the puck past Ohio State goaltender Matt Tomkins’ blocker for a 1-0 Nittany Lion lead on the team’s second shot of the night.
The Nittany Lions took a 2-0 lead four minutes later after an Ohio State turnover in their own zone cost the Buckeyes. At the right side of the cage, Loik stole the puck, swung in front of Tomkins and batted the puck in five-hole for the unassisted tally with 6:59 gone in the first period.
Ohio State was not deterred; however, and battled back to score on a power play just under the halfway point of the first frame. Zach Saar and Buckeye Nick Oddo sat in the box on coincidenal minors but Penn State’s David Goodwin took a tripping call with 49 seconds left on the minors to put Ohio State on a four-on-three power play.
Curtis Gedig tallied his second goal of the season for the Buckeyes on a one-timed point shot on a pass from teammate Tanner Fritz through traffic past Skoff to cut Penn State’s lead to 2-1.
Captain Olczyk restored Penn State’s two goal lead with under two minutes to play in the first frame. Olczyk’s right point shot made its way to the net where it hit the top corner of the post and deflected downwards behind Tomkins, who had no chance on the play with traffic in front, at 18:43 of the first to put the Nittany Lions up 3-1 heading into the first intermission.
Buckeye Anthony Greco notched his fourth goal of the year at 3:25 of the second period to add to the Ohio State lead. After Skoff gave up a rebound in front on Max McCormick’s shot, Greco found his teammate’s chance lying in front of the crease in a scramble and stashed it into the net while Skoff was out of position. The middle frame tally put Ohio State within one goal again, with a 3-2 Penn State lead going into the final period.
Holstrom put the game out of reach for the Buckeyes in the middle stage of the third period with Penn State’s second power play goal of the game. With 13:05 to go in the game, Jensen took a one-timed shot from the point on a Casey Bailey pass that Holstorm redirected in close on Tomkins that deflected under the blocker of the Ohio State goaltender and through for the 4-2 Nittany Lion lead.
Extracurriculars mounted near the end of the game that sent Nittany Lions Mike Williamson and Jonathan Milley and Buckeyes Drew Brevig and Tanner Fritz to the box for boarding with 16 seconds remaining in the game after a large scrum in Penn State’s defensive zone. The penalties made no difference; however, as Penn State skated away with the 4-2 victory.
“It’s a fitting ending because of how far we’ve come, we really have improved in a lot of areas,” said Coach Guy Gadowsky after the game. “It’s very fitting for Mike McDonagh, a great guy who’s meant so much to this program. I’m really happy for him.”
McDonagh did not show up on the score sheet for the Nittany Lions this season, he has one career goal with six assists in 36 games played for the team, but is the team’s resident stand up comedian and admitted there may have been tears shed during the last faceoff.
“It’s an incredible experience,” said McDonagh of the senior dedication ceremony before the game where he was recognized by the players and fans on the ice with his family. “I’ll never forget that.”
Penn State closed down Ohio State late in the game as guys focused on “playing the game a little smarter”, according to Gadowsky.
“There was a sense of not giving up critical errors,” said Gadowsky. “They did have some chances and obviously Skoffer had to play great.”
Skoff saved 27 of 29 Ohio State shots through the three periods of play Saturday afternoon and is Penn State’s only goaltender this season to have a win. The Nittany Lions outshot the Buckeyes 32-29 in their final meeting of the season.
Penn State also had success on the power play as well, going 2-5 on the extra man advantage to Ohio State’s 1-3.
“We didn’t play a full 60 minutes, but we played a lot more than we did yesterday. We all aim for that perfect game and i’m not so sure it happens very often, if at all,” said Gadowsky. “We’re still trying to improve every day, we have three more practices to improve and go to the Big Ten.”
Penn State plays Michigan in the first round quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament starting Thursday in the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn. The Nittany Lions have a 2-2 record against the Wolverines this season and will either matchup at 3 p.m. ET or 8 p.m. ET to be determined later in the week.