UNIVERSITY PARK Penn State men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky wanted his team to end the season on a strong note and have some momentum going into the Big Ten championships.
Thanks to a blistering three-goal first period, Gadowsky got his wish.
The Nittany Lions ended the season with a much needed win, snapping a six-game losing skid in the 4-2 Big Ten victory over Ohio State on Saturday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena.
With the win, Penn State ends its regular season with a 7-25-2 record, including a 3-16-1 conference mark. The Buckeyes fell to 16-13-5 overall and 6-9-5 in the Big Ten.
Nate Jensen (1 G, 2 A) opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 2:51 into the game. Jensen scored his third of the season with a hot wrister from the top of the slot. Dylan Richard had the assist.
"Before the game there was just a buzz in the locker room, you know when the guys are just ready to play and we're going to come out flying," Jensen said. "As soon as the puck dropped I knew we were going to win that game."
The Nittany Lions made it 2-0 when Curtis Loik scored his sixth of the season at the 6:59 mark. Loik was a force in front of the crease, tapping the puck past Ohio State keeper Matt Tompkins (6-7-2, 29 Saves) after three different tries.
"Against good hockey teams you just can't fall behind like that," Ohio State coach Steve Rohlik said. "It was a battle. It was a tough game and that's the Big Ten right there. Every goal's huge, they got the lead, they maintained the lead and then they won the special teams battle."
The Buckeyes cut it to 2-1 on a power-play tally by defenseman Curtis Gedig, his second of the season, at 9:44 of the first. Tanner Fritz and Max McCormick had the assists.
Penn State took the momentum back late in the period when Tommy Olczyk fired the puck off the right post and into the back of the net with just 1:54 left in the first period. Richard and Jensen got the assists.
Ohio State stayed in the game with an Anthony Greco goal early in the second period, cutting the deficit to 3-2.
The Buckeyes attacked the net of Nittany Lion keeper Matthew Skoff (7-12-2, 27 Saves) and Greco put a nice juicy rebound past Skoff stick side for the goal. McCormick and Sam Jardine picked up the assists.
Penn State got an insurance goal with 6:55 gone in the third on a power-play tally by Taylor Holstrom, giving the Lions their second power-play goal of the game.
Holstrom scored his seventh of the season when he re-directed a Nate Jensen blast past the glove side of Tompkins. Casey Bailey recorded the second assist.
It was Penn State's first game with two power play conversions since beating Robert Morris on Dec. 27 -the last time Jensen had scored a goal.
"Wow, did he play well," Gadowsky said of Jensen. "It's very tough to be out that long and come back for the first night last night. Boy, tonight he was skating-a tremendous goal and a couple of assists to go with it, but besides that he was skating and making very calm passes right on the tape."
The Penn State defense played its part by keeping Ryan Dzingel, who scored two goals on Friday, off the score sheet. Dzingel, the Big Ten's leading scorer, managed only one shot on goal.
The Nittany Lions out-shot the Buckeyes 33-29. Forward Mike McDonagh was honored before the game as the lone senior on Senior Day.
"It was nice to see the guys really wanted to win for Mac-D [McDonagh's nickname] at the end," Gadowsky said. "Maybe that little extra effort had a little bit to do with him."
With the Ohio State net empty late in the game, McDonagh played one of the longest shifts of his career, spending every last bit of energy trying to get the puck into the net.
"I was dead. I couldn't breathe," McDonagh said. "I wanted to get off but they wouldn't let me. I appreciate how they were trying to get me a goal rather than win the game, but we ended up pulling it out anyways so it was great." McDonagh said.
Sixth-seeded Penn State faces third seed Michigan in the opening round of the Big Ten Championships on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Nittany Lions split the season series with the Wolverines at two wins apiece.