One game removed from his first career victory in goal, freshman goaltender John Lethemon earned his seventh start of the season Friday night as the Spartans took on the No. 14 Ohio State Buckeyes.
The freshman netminder from Northville, Mich. recorded 23 saves as the Spartans were defeated by the Buckeyes, 3-2.
Despite the loss, the Spartans outshot the Buckeyes, 35-26.
The Buckeyes entered Friday’s game No. 1 in the nation on the power play. The Spartans, who extinguished 29 of 35 penalties over the last eight games, continued their success Friday on the penalty kill as they prevented the Buckeyes from scoring a goal on the man-advantage.
The game started full of excellent scoring opportunities, but the game was scoreless until 10:08 into the opening frame.
The Buckeyes’ Dakota Joshua picked up a rebound after a save by Lethemon, but his wrist shot was also saved by the freshman netminder.
Joshua secured the rebound from behind the net and attempted to sneak the puck in the side of the net. As several Buckeyes celebrated the goal, the officials initially ruled it not a goal.
Upon review, the officials overturned the call on the ice, which gave the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans responded just under two minutes later.
After a shot from the right circle by senior Thomas Ebbing was blocked by OSU’s Christian Frey, sophomore forward Brennan Sanford picked up the rebound and his one-timer wrist shot in the slot gave tied the game at one.
Sanford’s goal was his third of the season and eighth in his career. The forward recorded a goal and an assist in the loss.
The Buckeyes proceeded to take the lead again with 4:33 left in the first period.
OSU defenseman Gordi Myer skated past MSU’s blue line and skated to the right circle, where his wrist shot would get by Lethemon — giving the Buckeyes a 2-1 lead.
1:49 remaining in the opening frame, the Spartans were on their first man-advantage of the night as OSU’s John Wiitala was called for tripping.
With 21 seconds left in the period, redshirt-freshman defenseman Jerad Rosburg, near the left point, fed senior forward Villiam Haag. Haag skated with the puck for a few seconds before a wrist shot from the top of the left circle snuck by Frey — tying the game at two.
The game remained at 2-2 as the Spartans closed out the first period leading in shots, 16-14.
After both teams combined for four goals in the first period, the second frame was highlighted by an inability to score as neither team managed to find the back of the net in the second period.
3:47 left in the second period, a brawl ensued between the teams after a save by Lethemon, which drew a stoppage of play.
After the officials ended the skirmish, MSU’s sophomore forward Mason Appleton and OSU’s Tanner Laczynski were both sent to the penalty box for roughing.
Neither team scored on the 4-on-4 opportunity as the Spartans closed out the second frame tied with the Buckeyes, 2-2.
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After being unable to score in the second period, the Buckeyes found the back of the net just 1:44 into the final period.
Three seconds after the Spartans got back to full strength after killing off a penalty, a wrist shot from the left circle by Laczynski was deflected in front of the net by Wiitala. The deflection sent the puck by Lethemon — giving the Buckeyes a 3-2 lead.
With 4:47 left in the game, the Spartans appeared to tie the game at three, but the goal was called off on the ice due to a high stick. After reviewing the play, the call stood as the Buckeyes held a 3-2 advantage in the closing minutes of the game.
The Spartans had an opportunity at the man-advantage with 1:46 left in regulation as Joshua was called for interference. After pulling Lethemon — giving the Spartans a 6-on-4 advantage, the Spartans failed to record a goal as they fell 3-2 in the first game of the series.
The Spartans will wrap up the two-game series with the Buckeyes at home Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. The game can be viewed on BTN Plus.
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