MSU hockey faced No. 11 Penn State on Friday as the Nittany Lions were vying to improve their resume for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
They did just that as the Spartans fell to the Nittany Lions 4-2.
The Spartans never led until a fifth-year senior defenseman Rhett Holland goal in the third period, but the Nittany Lions tied the game just 13 seconds after the Spartan goal.
In the opening period, the Spartans struggled to create shots on goal. The Nittany Lions managed to record a goal and five shots on net before the Spartans were able to register a shot in the opening period of Friday’s contest.
Just over halfway into the first frame, the Spartans recorded their first shot on goal after a shot from sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn was saved by Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones.
The Spartans finished the game trailing in shots, 31-26.
Freshman goaltender John Lethemon got the start for MSU in goal on Friday after junior Ed Minney started in MSU’s 4-3 loss to Ohio State last Saturday.
The freshman from Northville, Mich. recorded a career-high 35 saves in the loss, breaking his previous high he set in MSU’s 5-4 overtime loss to the University of Michigan Dec. 30.
The Nittany Lions, who entered Friday No. 1 in the nation in shots on goal and goals per game, struck first 3:14 into the opening period.
A behind the net backhand feed from Penn State's Andrew Sturtz found the stick of forward Alec Marsh, who then capitalized on the pass by sneaking one past Lethemon.
The Spartans, on a power play opportunity later in the first period, still struggled to get shots on goal. MSU was only able to generate a shot that was blocked by Penn State and a shot that was saved by Jones on the man-advantage.
The Spartans recorded just two shots on goal at the conclusion of the first period, while the Nittany Lions had nine.
18 seconds into the second period, the Spartans got their first goal of the night.
After senior forward Joe Cox picked up the puck in the neutral zone, the captain from Chelsea, Mich. skated into the slot, where his wrist shot rocketed by Jones for an unassisted goal and tied the game at one.
Despite the Nittany Lions getting two consecutive power play opportunities over the span of 4:29 in the second period, the Spartans killed both penalties as both teams failed to take a lead after 40 minutes.
After documenting just two shots on goal in the first period, the Spartans recorded 13 shots in the second period as the Nittany Lions logged 14.
The Spartans took their first lead of the game with 8:23 left in regulation.
Senior forward Thomas Ebbing was fed the puck in the neutral zone and after skating into the Nittany Lions’ zone, the senior forward made a pass to freshman forward Taro Hirose as he fell to the ice. Hirose proceeded to set up Holland for a shot in the slot. Holland took advantage of the pass and gave MSU a 2-1 lead.
Eight seconds later, the Nittany Lions tied the game at two.
A shot from Vince Pedrie at the left point was blocked by freshman defenseman Damian Chrcek, but Penn State regained control of the puck as it led to a goal by sophomore forward Chase Berger.
The Nittany Lions regained the lead 3:42 later after a power-play goal by senior forward Dylan Richard got by Lethemon.
Down 3-2, the Spartans had two separate man-advantage opportunities late in the contest.
Unable to score on the first opportunity, the Spartans pulled Lethemon 1:40 left in the game as MSU was on a power play giving the Spartans the 6-on-4 advantage.
The Spartans still couldn’t find the back of the net as David Goodwin put any hopes of a comeback away with an empty net goal.
The Spartans will conclude the final home series of the season at 7:05 p.m. Saturday. MSU’s departing seniors — Cox, Ebbing, Holland, Villiam Haag, Chris Knudson, Justin Selep, JT Stenglein and Connor Wood — will be honored after the conclusion of the game.