No. 12 Ohio State got off to a strong start to the playoffs, beating Penn State 4-3 Friday at Schottenstein Center.

The Buckeyes (22-11-2) never trailed in the contest and are now one win away from advancing to the Big Ten semifinals and keeping their season alive. Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said the Buckeyes went a full game in the win.

“A win is a win – we’ll take it,” Rohlik said. “You have to play bell to bell. It’s a good hockey team and they never get out of it, so I give our guys credit tonight. We did our job and hung on to the end.

The first period saw no goals after 20 minutes of play, but a lot of exchanges between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions (15-19-1).

“I think both teams were playing pretty solid hockey. You don’t want to be the team that makes the mistake,” Rohlik said. “We just wanted to keep things like that with our structure and score the first goal and that’s what happened tonight.”

Ohio State scored the first three goals of the game, including one from freshman forward Georgii Merkulov. Merkulov entered the series with the most goals in the Big Ten and his two scoreboard contributions during the game pushed him to 20 on the year.

Penn State tied the game to less than a point after scoring two second-period goals from sophomore forwards Tyler Paquette and junior Connor McMenamin at 7:53 and 9:56, respectively.

The Buckeyes again pulled away with a second goal from Merkulov at 16:52 in the third period, but Penn State replied at 17:10 to put the game at 4-3 Buckeyes.

The Nittany Lions goal came off the stick of junior defenseman Kenny Johnson.

Pushing and shoving followed what seemed like every stoppage in play, but senior forward Quinn Preston said it was just the atmosphere of post-season hockey.

“I just think it’s the playoffs,” Preston said. “Everyone wants to play harder and win every battle. It’s just playoff hockey.

With a victory on Saturday, Ohio State can earn its ticket to the Big Ten semifinals, while Penn State can force a deciding game on Sunday. The puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will air on Big Ten Network Plus.