Michigan State hockey (12-15-5, 8-10-4 Big Ten) defeated Penn State (16-12-2, 8-11-1 Big Ten) 5-3 in a fast-paced, back-and-forth battle Friday night at Munn Ice arena.
The Spartans secured a vital three points to keep themselves in contention for home ice in the Big Ten tournament. Junior goaltender John Lethemon started in goal, facing 47 shots and saving 44, marking a career high for the Spartans’ net minder.
The infamous KHL line would record its only points of the night on the first man advantage. Junior forward Taro Hirose gained the zone and stopped on a dime just inside the blue line on an obvious set play, feeding senior forward Cody Milan who was able to find an open junior forward Patrick Khodorenko to take the early lead.
Penn State would counter the Spartans’ opportunities as they did so many times in the opening period, capitalizing on a freshman forward Brody Stevens penalty. Nikita Pavlychev tied the score at 1 for PSU.
Sophomore forward Austin Kamer would make his presence felt with just over five minutes left in the period, banking his shot off the left post unassisted to regain the lead at 2-1.
“It was good forechecking by (Tommy) Apap and (Brennan) Sanford,” Kamer said. “They were in the corner. They were putting some pressure on them and then the puck just kind of squirts out. Mistakes happen all over the ice, so it was good that I got to take advantage of one.”
MSU would record the game-winner just two minutes into the second, as sophomore defenseman Tommy Miller sent a wrist shot through to take the 3-1 advantage. Freshman forward Adam Goodsir capitalized on a rebound opportunity to stretch the lead to 4-1. Senior forward Brennan Sandford would join the scoring just over a minute later, netting an unassisted goal caused by Stevens’ continued pressure on the forecheck.
“I thought on the back side of the puck we did a pretty good job and that's a hard way to play against these guys,” MSU coach Danton Cole said. “And I thought for periods in the second we did a better job of being simple, being fast, getting pucks out of our own end and attacking and all of the sudden it was five to one.”
Penn State would bring pressure to the Spartans in the latter half of the period, netting a pair of goals by Ludvig Larsson and Sam Sternschein to narrow MSU’s comfortable lead. This was to no avail, however, as the Spartans shut Penn State’s offense down in the third.
“Obviously the game was getting a little closer, but again, that's a testament to our team and how far we've come,” Kamer said. “We didn't hit the panic button. We really just kept playing our game, playing hard and we were able to close out, which is very important for us.”
MSU will look to further advance in the conference standings as they rematch with Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Munn Ice Arena.