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Michigan State bounces back against No. 11 Penn State

January 13, 2019
Junior goaltender John Lethemon (31) reacts to letting in a goal during the game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Jan. 5, 2019. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes, 6-0.
Junior goaltender John Lethemon (31) reacts to letting in a goal during the game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Jan. 5, 2019. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes, 6-0. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Michigan State hockey (7-12-3) completed a split with No. 11 Penn State (13-7-2) in the second of two away games at University Park. The Spartans’ performance mirrored that of Penn State’s Friday, as MSU struck first and never trailed throughout the contest.

Junior goaltender John Lehtemon got the start in net, stopping 40 shots as the Spartans have adopted a goaltender-by-committee approach as of late.  Junior forward Mitchell Lewandowski scored the game winner for MSU.

Junior forward Logan Lambdin’s goal set the tone for the Spartans. Senior forward Cody Milan recorded the assist as MSU took a 1-0 lead just over seven minutes into regulation.

With under five minutes left in the first, Penn State dumped the puck into MSU’s zone, setting up Alec Marsh to nod the score at one.

The Spartans would showcase their explosiveness in the final minute, however. Senior forward Brennan Sanford assisted sophomore forward Tommy Apap with 51 seconds in the opening period. The KHL line would retain the pressure until the horn sounded, as Lewandowski gained the zone, connecting with junior forward Taro Hirose who gave MSU a 3-1 lead with 5 seconds left in the period.

Lethemon would be tested early and often in the second period. The veteran goaltender made a sprawling save to rob Derian Hamilton. Penn State’s offensive pressure was unrelenting, with Denis Smirnov rattling the post.

The Nittany Lions would break through by way of Chase Berger’s rebound goal in traffic that pulled Penn State within a goal. Within the first five minutes of the second, Penn State outshot MSU 7-1 amidst multiple quality opportunities.

After an uncharacteristic Hirose penalty, Berger would strike again as he wristed a shot from the right circle through heavy traffic. The period would end tied 3-3, as the Spartans penalty kill allowed a goal for the 13th consecutive game. Penn State held a 16-8 shot advantage in the second period.

Less than two minutes into the final period, Sanford would net a goal of his own on an odd man rush with Lambdin.

As junior forward Patrick Khodorenko drew a penalty, Milan’s wraparound connected with Lewandowski for the game-deciding goal.

The 5-3 advantage would hold until seven minutes remained in the contest. Nate Sucese would make give Penn State a sign of life, converting another power play goal for the Nittany Lions.

MSU’s skaters combined for 17 blocked shots on the night. Their efforts proved crucial in a hard-earned victory for Lethemon. Penn State’s futile effort with an extra attacker was iced by Sanford, giving MSU a 6-4 victory.

MSU will look to record another win in Big Ten play on Jan. 19 with a 5:30 p.m. puck drop begins a home stand against Minnesota at Munn Ice Arena.

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