Michigan State hockey (1-0) opened up its season with the first of a two-game set against Northern Michigan (0-1) in front of a noisy crowd Friday evening at Munn Ice Arena. The Spartans downed the Wildcats 4-2 thanks to some last-minute offense from the first line.
“The crowd was outstanding,” coach Danton Cole said after the game. “The student section, really, that’s the most crowded I’ve seen it other than maybe a Michigan game. So, they did a great job.”
The Spartans applied pressure early on, getting three shots off in the first five minutes of the game and controlled the puck for much of the first period. It wouldn’t take much longer for the Spartans to score, as a shot by senior defenseman Zach Osburn just after the eight minute mark found the back of the net to give MSU an early lead. Junior defenseman Jerad Rosburg and junior forward Sam Saliba both picked up assists on the play.
The Wildcats were able to strike back three minutes later, as a shot by forward Joseph Nardi got past Spartan goaltender John Lethemon to draw the score even at one goal a piece. However, nothing would be brewing for either team for the remainder of the first period, sending the two teams into intermission tied up at 1-1. MSU would end the first period with 11 shots on goal compared to the Wildcats’ five.
The Spartans would start the second period fast as well, getting eight shots off in the first five minutes. They would convert on their ninth shot of the period, as junior forward Logan Lambdin set up senior forward Brennan Sanford who worked one past the Northern Michigan goaltender to give MSU the lead once again with over 14 minutes left in the period.
The score drew back to even once again as Wildcat's forward Darien Craighead’s shot found the net with just under 10 minutes left in the second period.
An interference penalty called against Northern Michigan defenseman Robert Fosdick would result in a Spartan power play with the clock winding down in the period. However, the Spartans were unable to capitalize on the opportunity as the score would remain tied at 2-2 at the end of the second period.
The game slowed down a bit in the third period as both teams struggled to convert on their shots, however, the tie would eventually be broken. With just over a minute left in the game, sophomore forward Mitchell Lewandowski found the back of the net to give the Spartans a 3-2 lead late in the third period. Sophomore defenseman Tommy Miller and junior forward Taro Hirose both picked up assists on the play.
“I just saw it kind of enter the zone,” Lewandowski said. “You know, late games like that, the end goal seems to be kind of a garbage goal. Go to the net, go to the crease and find it. So, you know, he (Tommy Miller) threw it to the center and (it) trickled in.”
The Spartans added some insurance to their lead, as Hirose was able to score on an open net with two seconds left in regulation, bringing the score to 4-2 and securing the Spartan victory.
“You go into the third period, 2-2, I mean, you win twenty minutes and you win the game,” Lewandowski said. “So, just kind of keeping that momentum into tomorrow. And you know, obviously, if you win Friday, you set yourself up with an opportunity to sweep on Saturday. So that’s what we did and we’re walking away from here tonight happy.”
Michigan State will return to action Saturday night for a rematch against Northern Michigan. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Munn Ice Arena.