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Freshman goalie Lethemon gets first career win as MSU battled U-M

February 12, 2017
Junior defender Carson Gatt (18), right, consults freshman goaltender John Lethemon (31), left, during the third period of the men’s hockey game against the University of Michigan on Feb. 10, 2017 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines in an overtime shootout, 5-4.
Junior defender Carson Gatt (18), right, consults freshman goaltender John Lethemon (31), left, during the third period of the men’s hockey game against the University of Michigan on Feb. 10, 2017 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines in an overtime shootout, 5-4. —
Photo by Chloe Grigsby | and Chloe Grigsby The State News

MSU (6-17-3, 2-8-2 in Big Ten) took on the University of Michigan (9-14-3, 2-8-2-2 in Big Ten) this weekend in a two-game series and came away with a 4-4 tie Friday night at Joe Louis Arena, and a 4-1 win Saturday night.

It was the first time since 1989-1990 MSU won both games at Yost Ice Arena during the regular season.

MSU started off both nights taking the lead, scoring two goals within the first seven minutes Friday night and started off strong Saturday night, as the Spartans scored three goals in the second period.

“I thought we were really slow last night and I thought we were a little hesitant in some of our systems,” head coach Tom Anastos said Saturday night after his team's 4-4 tie. “I thought they were able to take advantage of that and that put us on our heels.”

However, on Saturday night, MSU was the one to put the Wolverines on their heels.

“We did a better job adjusting and executing our game plan tonight, which allowed us to build some momentum,” Anastos said. “We were solid defensively, we really made them earn space.”

Anastos said unlike Friday night, the Spartans had contributions across the board Saturday night in the terms of scoring.

"When you get goals from different places, goals from defensemen, short handed goals, our penalty kill is real good all night so we got contribution up and down,” Anastos said. “Even though the game takes your lines out of rhythm when there’s all that special teams play, I thought we got contributions from all four lines and all six D.”

Sophomore forward Mason Appleton said in the second half of the first period in Detroit, they got away from their game plan but didn’t “deviate” from it the following night.

“I liked our game all night long, I thought we came out hungry from the start,” Appleton said. “We played a good Michigan State 60 minutes, good road game ... I like the way we’re playing right now.”

Appleton said freshman goaltender John Lethemon played “one hell of a game” Saturday night, as he had 23 saves and only allowed one goal, which came within 10 seconds left in the game.

“I thought I played pretty solid all night,” Lethemon said. “I thought I was just confident the last two weekends … I think it shows on the ice.”

Lethemon said being able to continue his play from Friday night, where he had 22 saves while allowing two goals, was key to his success Saturday night.

“I knew that Michigan was gonna have their push back,” Lethemon said. “I think we stood up to the test real well.”

Sophomore defenseman Zach Osburn praised the freshman for his play, especially in the environment of a rivalry game.

“He’s one of those guys who had to step up, a lot of pressure on him with obviously the rivalry, first time playing against these guys,” Osburn said. “I’m really happy for Johnny, I thought he played amazing.”

Anastos said Lethemon looked “real confident in the net” Saturday night and performed well in a “relief role” Friday night.

“This is a tough building to play in, and I thought he was very poised all night,” Anastos said. “That should be a good confidence booster for him.”

Anastos said he was happy for Lethemon to get his first career win, especially against in-state rival U-M.

“I’m grinding a little bit at the end that we gave up the shutout at the end,” Anastos said. “I’m so happy for him.”

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MSU next takes on Ohio State University (14-8-6, 5-6-1 Big Ten) in a weekend home series on Feb. 17-18.

Appleton said to prepare for next week the team is going to have to rest and do the “little things” and watch film, especially since this is their first look at the Buckeyes.

“We’re gonna have to neutralize their speed, play a physical strong game,” Appleton said. “From the goal out, we got to be solid if we want to win those games.”

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